Posted by Editoress on 05/30/14
Round Three of the Eliminator at the Mountain Bike World Cup, in Albstadt, Germany, saw two new faces on the top step of the podium, with Kathrin Stirnemann (Sabine Spitz Haibike) winning the women's event, while Fabrice Mels (Salcano Alanya) took the men's. Australia's Paul van der Ploeg, the world champion, took the overall lead in the men's series after finishing second, while world champion Alexandra Engen (Ghost Factory) retains the lead in the women's series after finishing second. Canadian champion Leandre Bouchard (Team Canada) took the first World Cup podium of his career, finishing fourth in the men's race.
Engen, the winner of the first two rounds, looked to be on her way to a third straight victory after qualifying fastest among the women. The Ghost rider conserved her energy in the first two rounds, before winning her semi-final heat to make the final. Stirnemann, by contrast, won every heat on her way to the final. The pair were joined by Linda Indergand (Struby-Bixs) and Anne Terpstra (Betch.nl Superior Brentjens) for the podium race. The two Canadian women who qualified - Cindy Montambaut and Rachel Pageau - both did not advanced from the first round.
Kathrin Stirnemann wins
Stirnemann easily outdistanced Engen and Indergand, with the World Cup leader barely outkicking her rival at the line for second.
"It is so unbelievable," commented Stirnemann. "I felt good. It is just great. It was important to get the win [over Engen] because she has had two victories and I am still trying to catch her in the overall."
At the halfway point in the series, Engen has 160 points, with Stirnemann only 35 points back. Jenny Rissveds (Scott-Odlo), who did not race in Albstadt, sits third with 60 points.
The men's series was bound to get a new leader, when Daniel Federspiel (Oetztal-Scott), the leader after Round Two, broke his chain in qualifying, and Round One winner Samuel Gaze of New Zealand did not start.
Mels and van der Ploeg were seeded into the same heat from the first round, and took turns finishing first and second on their way through the heats to the final. They were joined in the final by first time podium attendee Leandre Bouchard (Team Canada) and Swiss rider Patrick Luthi. Bouchard was very strong on the latter half of the course, winning all three of his preliminary heats. Three other Canadians qualified for racing - Peter Disera, Andrew L'Esperance and Sebastien Cadieux-Duval - but none advanced past the first round.
Finish line sprint
The race stayed close right to the finish line, with Canadian champion Bouchard leading out the slightly downhill sprint, with van der Ploeg coming by to take the lead, only to be caught and passed in the final metres by Mels, who threw his bike over the line to win the second World Cup of his career. Luthi just passed Bouchard for third.
"It's amazing, really amazing," agreed Mels. "I was feeling strong but there were strong riders today. It was really a long sprint so I was a little bit nervous about it. It is so nice to win a second World Cup. I am really happy."
"I hoped it would come down to a sprint.. I am really good at it. I was trying in the heats not to burn too much energy; just to pass through with a good pace. I knew for the final I would have to be strong. I watched the others sprint and knew how strong they were. I am so relieved that my tactic worked."
"It's crazy that I was able to get into the Final," revealed van der Ploeg, "because I was coming down a bit sick this week, so I wasn't super confident. My tactic was to go out hard and try to control the race from the front. It was all going to plan, but Fabrice was just too strong in the final straight."
"The final was pretty exciting," commented Bouchard. "The guys started fast, but we stayed together, so I made a move at the end to get to the front. The other guys were able to pass me, but I'm really proud to get fourth place."
Canada's mountain bike head coach Dan Proulx praised the efforts and Bouchard's progression: "Today's ride shows, once again, that Léandre is on the right track. He's competitive in cross country and in the Eliminator at the World level. Léandre is the heart of our team. When he does well, it inspires all of us. Everyone is so happy for him!"
van der Ploeg takes the lead in the series with 100 points, followed by Mels only three points in arrears. Federspiel drops to third with 80 points. Bouchard moves into ninth with 25 points.