September 12/08 6:25 am - Schladming World Cup 4X Final report and photos
Posted by Editoress on 09/12/08
Schladming World Cup Final 4X Austria
The first Mountain Bike World Cup titles of the 2008 season were awarded on Friday to the 4-Cross discipline. World champion Rafael Alvarez de Lara Lucas (Specialized) took his first men's title, while Anneke Beerten (MS Intense) won her second consecutive women's title. Romain Saladini (Team Sunn) took the men's final event, with Czech rider Romana Labounkova winning the women's - her first ever victory.
After a sunny afternoon got everyone's hopes up, the rain which had been threatening moved in, just in time for the 4-Cross Finals. Starting as a drizzle, it turned into a steady downpour for the men's eighth finals and quarter finals for both men and women. It then backed off for the semi finals, before returning with a vengeance for the finals. Adding to the discontent was the drastically reduced length of the course - only one third the length of last year's circuit, due to construction on the ski hill.
The quarter final round proved to be the critical one for the men. Among the riders knocked out of contention were Alvarez, second ranked Guido Tschugg (Fusion) and Cedric Gracia (Commencal-Oakley). With both Alvarez and Tschugg out in the same round, the overall standings were done - Alvarez would win over Tschugg.
Dan Atherton (Animal Commencal) took second behind Saladini in the final run, to jump him into third in the final overall standings, just ahead of Gracia, with Saladini moving ahead of the absent Jared Graves (Yeti) to take the fifth and final podium spot.
The men's final was delayed for nearly twenty minutes, while Roger Rinderknecht (GT) argued in vain with officials that Saladini should be disqualified from the final, after he cut a corner (which showed up on video replay). However, the officials stuck firm with their decision not to disqualify Saladini, which paved the way for his win.
"It's a good result for me," commented Atherton, who is coming back from a broken collarbone suffered at the Worlds. "I got a bit of a bad start, but was able to get around to the front after the second corner. Unfortunately, Saladini just had a little more speed and was able to overtake me again before the finish."
The women's race had two top riders knocked out in the first round - Anita Molcik (4 Elements-Yeti) crashed, and Mio Suemasa (MS Intense) got caught in traffic. Fionn Griffiths (Norco Factory) went out in the semi final, but took the consolation race to claim the fifth spot on the podium. After that, it came down to a race between Labounkova and Beerten, with the Czech rider able to take advantage of the short course and her superior speed out of the gate to win. Jana Horakova (Czech Republic) took third.
Beerten was extremely pleased with her title, especially after losing the world title in June, when she crashed while in the lead. "Not winning the Worlds, when I was so favoured, still upsets me a lot, but it also makes me appreciate each and every win even more."