By Luke Webber in Schladming Under heavy rains and in the most bizarre circumstances, the four cross...
By Luke Webber in Schladming
Under heavy rains and in the most bizarre circumstances, the four cross World Cup Finals will not be remembered for close racing or a battle to the final, but rather for Roger Rinderknecht's protests.
In the semi-finals, Rinderknecht claimed Romain Saladini (Team Sunn) cut a flag and was not penalised - dumping the Swiss rider from the finals. What followed was an official protest and then an unofficial one, which consisted of Rinderknecht walking up the start straight and refusing to let the final start.
After 15 minutes, the decision was finally taken that the original result would stand and Rinderknecht was to ride in the small final only - a race he ran away with, crossing the line with his hands over his eyes, still clearly angry about a decision which cost him a shot at the win.
More controversially, it was Saladini who went on to win the final in a thrilling race. Within the first 50 meters Jakub Hindak and Joost Wichman (Cannondale Factory Racing) collided, leaving Dan Atherton (Animcal Commencal) to pass Saladini on the first corner. The Frenchman Saladini, however, had in mind Atherton's weakness - a longer sweeping bend halfway down the track, on which Atherton had been struggling all night. Saladini made his move here and despite a desperate attempt on the lower reaches of the course, Atherton could not overtake him for the win.
The battle for the overall World Cup series was decided earlier in the evening. World Champion Rafa Alvarez exited the rounds in the quarter finals, but he still captured the World Cup series title.
In the women's race, Czech's Romana Loubounkova rode safely to secure the win ahead of favorite Anneke Beerten (MS Intense Factory Racing), but it was Dutchwoman Beerten who claimed the overall World Cup title, ending her season on a high note. Beerten's achievement capped off a a season-long campaign of wearing the leader's jersey, which she assumed in the very first round in Maribor.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the elite men's and elite women's World Cup downhill race, including final standings.
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