Thursday Sep 13, 2012

Ralph Naef & Alexandra Engen are the first World Champions in Eliminator XC

Saalfelden Leogang, Austria, September 9th 2012 – The eliminator makes its debut: On the last day of the UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships in Saalfelden Leogang the Cross Country Eliminator competition was held for the first time. Both Switzerland and Sweden can be proud to have the first XCE World Champions: Ralph Naef and Alexandra Engen.

Some of the best Cross Country riders in the world, didn’t want to miss the debut of the Cross Country Eliminator. Fresh from his Cross Country World Champion title, Nino Schurter (SUI), as well as German Manuel Fumic, 4X World Champion Anneke Beerten (NED), third placed XCO rider Georgia Gould and also Ralph Naef all started on the 560m track through the city centre of Saalfelden. In front of 4,500 fascinated spectators, today sprinting- and tactic qualities were required to secure the victory. Among the 32 finalists (in the men’s and women’s competition) Naef was pedaling the fastest, followed by Miha Halzer and Daniel Federspiel, who won the first and only medal for the hosting country Austria. In the women’s competition, Alexandra Engen was crowned the first XCE World Champion, ahead of Jolanda Neff (SUI) and Aleksandra Dawidowicz (POL). Already in the qualifications you could see, that the best XCO riders were not intimidated by the best XCE riders. Some big names, among them Nino Schurter didn’t make it to the top 32 finals. Also Dutch athlete Anneke Beerten, who won last week’s 4X competition in Leogang, was eliminated. From the 1/8 final onwards the real elimination started, with two riders going out after every heat. For the spectators the event was thrilling, featuring extraordinary duels between the riders. The first XCE world champion in the history of the UCI set the example that the Eliminator is more than Cross Country: not only sprinting force is required but also the ability to perform difficult cornering techniques. Naef started as one of the last out of the gates, but with his experience and overwhelming technique he mastered every round. In the big final he competed against German Christian Pfäffle (who finished 4th overall), Daniel Federspiel (AUT) and the Slovenian Miha Halzer (2nd) who was the fastest in qualifying. To make Naef’s task even harder, he started in the last position. It was a sure victory for Halzer but the 32 year-old Swiss fought hard in the second lap going wheel to wheel with Halzer and passed him with an awesome finishing sprint. He commented: “I can’t believe I am the first Eliminator champion in history. My season was ok but no big victories after my disappointing Olympic result. But now I am just happy about  this medal!”

The German Manuel Fumic started as one of the title favorites and presented himself in best shape during his battle for the medal. But unfortunately in the semi final he crashed right out of the gate and only could compete in the small final. On the brighter side Furnic managed to place first, ahead of fellow Austrian Simon Gegenheimer, Paul van der Ploeg (AUS) and Belgian Fabrice Mels. Men's Finals Results: 1. Naef, Ralph (SUI) 2. Halzer, Miha (SLO) 3. Federspiel, Daniel(AUT) 4. Pfäffle, Christian(GER) 5. Fumic, Manuel (GER) 6. Mels, Fabrice (BEL) 7. Gegenheimer, Simon(GER) 8. Van der Ploeg, Paul (AUS)

In the women’s competition, winner Alexandra Engen from Sweden had to ride against Aleksandra Dawidowicz (POL), Jolanda Neff and Romana Forchini (both SUI). Neff and Engen displayed a thrilling final run, changing the leader position corner after corner. Approaching the finish line, Neff was first and on the way to her biggest triumph however, in the last few meters the 24 year-old Swede gave everything she had left and passed Neff to finish first. She later commented: “It was so hard to ride against Jolanda. She passed me twice, I passed her twice and fortunately my maneuver was the last one in the race. Unbelievable, I almost can’t realize it!” Women’s Finals Results: 1. Engen, Alexandra (SWE) 2. Neff, Jolanda (SUI) 3. Dawidowicz, Aleksandra (POL) 4. Forchini, Ramona (SUI) 5. Stirnemann, Kathrin (SUI) 6. Lechner, Eva (ITA) 7. Ravanel, Cécile (FRA) 8. Oberpaleiter, Anna(ITA)

Channels: UCI MTB World Championship 2012 XCO - Leogang, Mountain Bike