Belgium's Fabrice Mels ended up world champion after an exciting crash-marred final round of the elite men's eliminator race at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Lillehammer, Norway on Tuesday evening.
"I had a bad start and found myself in third place early in the heat thinking that I had messed up," said Mels to Cyclingnews. "Now that I've won, it still hasn't sunk in. I think it might tomorrow after I get home. Then I will realize that I am the world champion."
The 22-year-old Mels managed not to go down when Austrian Daniel Federspiel had a rear wheel mechanical and crashed soon after the start. Later, he took advantage of an open inside line to take over the lead as then leader Kevin Miquel (France) tangled with Emil Lindgren (Sweden) on the outside line of the final corner.
"There was no room in the last corner - it was slippery. I'm happy I stayed on my bike and didn't crash," he said.
Mels is fresh off winning the elite men's eliminator World Cup overall two weekends ago in Meribel, France. On Tuesday evening, he raced with a black band around his arm in memory of eliminator racer Annefleur Kalvenhaar, who was killed in an accident at the final World Cup round in Meribel.
"Winning the World Cup overall was my other big goal of the season, and now I'm so happy to also have won Worlds," said Mels.
"I worked hard all year with my trainer, taking as much as I could push every day, and it worked out."
Mels is part of the new breed of eliminator specialists. He will not race the cross country on Saturday.
"That's really not for me. I'm too big for racing cross country and I'm not good at the uphills, especially the long ones, so I'm going home tomorrow and will get a nice party going in my hometown."
Mels previously told Cyclingnews after the Windham World Cup in August that he was thinking of switching to road racing given the discontinuation of the eliminator mountain bike World Cup, effective in 2015.