Switzerland claimed both cross-country mountain biking gold medals as Nico Schurter and Jolanda Neff stormed to comfortable victories here today.
The Swiss were widely-tipped to perform well in the events and they didn’t disappoint as they produced a solid performance, taking home five of the six medals available.
Neff began a day of Swiss dominance as she led for the majority of the women’s race, eventually crossing the line in a time of 1 hour 31min 05sec.
That proved enough to beat compatriot Kathrin Stirnemann, who was just over two minutes behind, while Poland’s Maja Wloszczowska won bronze.
“This is the first medal event and to cross the finish line in first is absolutely amazing for me,” Neff said.
“It was very windy today but I was able to attack and find a gap, and it was great that my team mate could win silver as well.
“I hoped that I could take the win and I rode well today.”
The three-time world under-23 champion was given her medal by Azerbaijan’s Minister for Youth and Sports Azad Rahimov, International Cycling Union (UCI) President Brian Cookson, as well as European Olympic Committees President Patrick Hickey.
Following on from Neff’s triumph, the Swiss men’s trio of Schurter, Lukas Fluckiger and Fabian Giger signalled their intentions from the start and they eventually opened up a comfortable lead over the rest of the pack.
But it was Schurter, who recovered from a puncture early on, that proved to be the strongest of the three Swiss riders as he attacked with two laps to go, taking victory in a time of 1hr 41min 04secs.
Fluckiger held off the challenge of Giger to take silver on what was a fruitful day for the Swiss team.
“It's difficult to compare this medal to others but it is a great achievement and it is special to be the first European Games champion,” the three-time world champion said.
“At the start I was worried no-one was going to lead and so all the work was down to us.
“It’s great to do it alongside all my team mates and we rode a good tactical race.”
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