Posted by Editoress on 05/11/12
The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup saw new faces on the top step of the podium of the Eliminator at Nove Mesto na Morave in the Czech Republic. Alexandra Engen (Ghost Factory) dominated the women's competition, while a brillant mid-race attack by Sepp Freiburghaus (Thoemus Racing) caught all of his rivals off guard, allowing the Swiss rider to take the win.
The second round of the Eliminator was completely different from round one in Houffalize, Belgium. Where the Belgian race had short, steep climbs, technical descents and narrow singletrack, Nove Mesto was wide open, with pavement and dirt forest roads. This led to multiple sprints and some photo finish results in the heats.
Engen qualified first for the women and won both of her preliminary heats to move into the final. She was joined there by 2011 cross-country World Cup champion Julie Bresset (BH-SR Suntour-Peisey Vallandry), Eva Lechner (Colnago Sudtirol), Australia's Rowena Fry, Laura Turpijn (MPL Specialized) and Cecile Ravanel (GT Skoda Chamonix). Missing from the final were former world champions Tracy Moseley and Anneke Beerten (Milka-Superior).
Alexandra Engen (Ghost Factory) wins the Final scroll to bottom of page for link to all photos
Turpijn took the early lead, but the group stayed together for the entire 1100 metre circuit, with Engen hitting the front 150 metres from the line and easily outdistancing her rivals. Engen had enough of a lead to coast across the line with her arms in the air, while Bresset nipped countrywoman Ravanel at the line for second.
After and early season filled with injury and illness, this is the first time Engen has felt fully healthy. "This is a really positive result for me, after the spring. In the quarter finals I realized that I had my full fitness, and that I was able to do well. I like this kind of wide courses where it is possible to pass and use my sprint."
Australian Paul van der Ploeg (Felt Oetztal X-Bionic) was considered the favourite for the men, after qualifying first and finishing second here last year. His powerful sprint afforded him the ability to come from behind on the long finishing straight.
In the final, Freiburghaus and van der Ploeg were joined by Mirco Widmer (Giant Swiss SR Suntour), Germany's Martin Gluth, Marcel Wildhaber (Scott-Swisspower) and Marek Konwa (Milka-Superior). Significantly, round one winner Brian Lopes and cross-country stars Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida), Manuel Fumic (Cannondale) and Marco Fontana (Cannondale) did not make the final.
Sepp Freiburghaus (Thoemus Racing) well out in front crossing the line for the win scroll to bottom of page for link to all photos
In the final, at the far side of the course on the only climb, Freiburghaus attacked, immediately gaining ten metres on his rivals, who all looked at each other, with none willing to take the initiative and lead the chase. Coming into the final straightaway, Freiburghaus was still well in front and cruised across the line while van der Ploeg led the rest of the group in, shaking his head. Widmer took third.
"It was pretty tactical in the climb," explained Freiburghaus, "and so I changed my tactic for the final. I tried with an attack on the climb, and then got a gap. On this Eliminator it was very important to have a good tactic. If you are in the lead for the whole round you have a problem, when you come with four or five guys on this straight finish. I am very happy to bring it to the line."
"It was a brilliant move by Sepp [Freiburghaus]," commented van der Ploeg. "I was thinking 'oh damn' when he attacked, but that was it, that was the move. I would have liked to have won, of course, but I'm happy to be on the podium again."