Posted by Editoress on 08/22/14
The final round of the Eliminator series in the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano saw some of the most exciting racing of the season in Méribel, France. Linda Indergand (Struby-Bixs) took the first World Cup win of her career in the women's race, ahead of World Cup overall winner Kathrin Stirnemann (Sabine Spitz Haibike), while Fabrice Mels (Salcano Alanya) took the men's win to lock up the overall title.
Stirnemann had already mathematically won the women's title going into the final round of the World Cup, but there were still other podium positions to fight for, plus the honour of winning what will be the final Eliminator World Cup, since the event has been dropped from the World Cup series after this year.
Indergand, the fastest qualifier, and Stirnemann, the second fastest, were joined in the women's Final by the other top qualifiers - Jenny Rissveds (Scott-Odlo) and Ingrid Boe Jacobsen (Sepura XC Superior). As she did through every heat, Indergand rocketed off the front in the women's Final to easily win. Stirnemann took second after an early battle with Rissveds, before the Swedish champion suffered a mechanical, dropping her to fourth. Canada's lone entry in the event, Rachel Pageau (Canadian National), finished 21st after not making it through the first round of heats.
"It's unbelievable," stated Indergand after her win. "I knew the course and it was very technical, which is good for me. The crowd was awesome and it is incredible to have my first win."
Stirnemann takes the 2014 World Cup title with 265 points from two wins, three seconds and a fourth place - never missing a Final all season. Rissveds finishes second overall with 185 points and one win, while world champion Alexandra Engen (Ghost Factory) ends up third with 160 points and two wins, despite missing the second half of the series due to illness. The top Canadian in the standings Andreane Lanthier- Nadeau (Rocky Mountain) in eighth place with 55 points.
"For me, tonight was just about enjoying the jersey, enjoying the overall win," said Stirnemann. "Taking second place with a double victory for Switzerland [behind Indergand] was just amazing. I'm so happy. Now I hope for a good battle at the world championships."
The men's series was much tighter than the women's going into Méribel, with four riders still able to upset Mels - world champion van der Ploeg of Australia, defending World Cup champion Daniel Federspiel (Otztal Scott), Round 5 winner Andres Soto (MMR Bikes) and German rider Simon Gegenheimer, the winner of Round 4.
van der Ploeg was the first to drop out of contention for the title after failing to make it through the quarterfinal round, then Federspiel, who didn't make it into the Final. However, Gegenheimer could still take the title if he won the Final and Mels finished fourth. The two contenders were joined in the final by local favourite and fastest qualifier Kevin Miquel of France and Round 5 winner Andres Soto.
The Final started poorly for Mels and an upset looked possible, as Miquel got the holeshot into the first corner with Gegenheimer on his wheel while Mels was fourth. But the Belgian champion and World Cup leader gradually worked his way to third, then second and finally the lead to outsprint Gegenheimer at the line for the title.
"It was a difficult night," commented Mels. "The first heats did not go like I wanted because I did not have good starts and had to sprint at each finish. Only in the Final was I the strongest. I'm so happy that I could take a victory here and the World Cup overall. I knew I had to go flat out all night because Gegenheimer, van der Ploeg, Federspiel and Soto were all so close [in points] that I had to push it all night. It's such a relief that it worked out for me."
Mels wins the title with 217 points and two wins, with Gegenheimer jumping from fourth to second in the standings at 164. Federspiel and van der Ploeg are next, tied at 150 points, but Federspiel gets the nod for third place after winning the small final in Méribel to finish fifth, while van der Ploeg ended up ninth on the night and fourth overall. Canadian national champion Leandre Bouchard (Cyclone d'Alma/Devinci) did not race, but was the top Canadian in the standings in 13th place with 33 points.