Val di Sole means three for three for Amaury Pierron and Nino Schurter.
Confidence Inspiring: That’s a term that has been used to describe everything from tires and wheels to brakes, drivetrain components, helmets, eyewear, frames, suspension and even sunscreen and energy drinks. And it’s entirely possible that “confidence inspiring” has been utterly played out from a marketing standpoint.
Fair enough. But there is a magic that happens — the inspirational kind of magic — when a rider finds their groove, or momentum, or whatever you want to call it.
Nino Schurter has been riding an epic wave of inspired confidence for at least a couple of years now. Not that he wasn’t showing signs of being the best XC rider of his generation even before that, but the past two seasons make it hard to argue against him being the best male XC rider of today, and, honestly, it looks like we’re going to eventually call him the greatest of all time — if we aren’t already.
Nino did it again at UCI World Cup #4 in Val di Sole, Italy, dominating the race from shortly after the start, and putting his bold signature on the finishing sprint. It’s what we have come to expect from the SCOTT–SRAM rider. We’ve come to expect it so much so, in fact, that everyone who talks about XC mountain biking is now completely out of metaphors and superfluous adjectives to describe what Nino does. And hyperbole, when it comes to Nino Schurter, actually looks a lot like straight up non-exaggerated fact.
Amaury Pierron, on the other hand, is a slightly different story. The young Frenchman is not quite the known quantity that his fellow three-for-three World Cup cohort Schurter is. So, all of those tried-and-true clichés like “Cinderella Story” and “Dream Season” and “Phenom” work. And the comparisons between Pierron and another [insert World Cup legend here] just beg to be tossed about.
And then there’s the streak. Can he make it four in a row? Five? More?
Most importantly, though — if you’re paying attention and reading between the figurative lines — is what is actually happening to Pierron the athlete. Immediately after his breakthrough win at Fort William, he acted completely surprised, and he gave the almost knee-jerk thanks to Commencal and RockShox.
He likely was surprised — it was his first World Cup win, after all. He also admitted to making some mistakes. And the nod to his sponsors? That nod is always appreciated but, let’s face it, those podium thank-you speeches feel a bit gratuitous sometimes, don’t they?
But watch what has happened to Amaury’s demeanor between that first win and his win in Val di Sole. Surprise has given way to a focused confidence. Ask him now about his chances of winning four in a row and he’ll tell you he’s got it. Not that it “might happen” but rather that it will happen if he does his job correctly. That’s inspired confidence for you.
And the sponsor nods? If you listen to him talk about his sponsors, you’ll hear a different, more confident tone there, too. So, it seems that the RockShox podium hat is a good bit more meaningful than a contractual obligation, real or perceived. When you have a good bike setup, you can go faster, and you can build on the momentum. That is confidence inspiring.
Photos by Sven Martin.