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UCI Mountain Bike World Championships 2012

Date range:
August 31 - September 9, 2012

September 09, Elite men eliminator:

Naef wins men's eliminator world championship

By:
Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor
Published:
September 09, 2012, 18:00 BST,
Updated:
September 13, 2012, 18:52 BST

Swiss rider sprints past fastest qualifier Halzer in the finale

Ralph Naf (Switzerland) wins the first men's eliminator world title

Ralph Naf (Switzerland) wins the first men's eliminator world title

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Ralph Naef (Switzerland) powered to the first elite men's eliminator world championship in Saalfelden, Austria, on Sunday afternoon. Naef defeated top qualifier Miha Halzer (Slovenia) and home crowd favorite Daniel Federspiel (Austria) in the men's big final. It was a beautiful sunny day, and huge crowds came out to watch and cheer.

"I'm happy to be the first world champion in the sprint eliminator," said Naef.

As the fastest qualifier, Halzer always got to pick his starting gate, and he consistently chose the favorite lane 2. He marched steadily through the heats, often winning by a huge gap over those he faced.

From the start of the men's final, the Slovenian set out as he usually did - blasting to the front. He was chased first by Federspiel and then by U23 rider Christian Pfäffle (Germany). Naef was a bit off the back in fourth place, but he'd come from behind in some of his earlier heats, too.

"My plan was to go in second position after the start," said Naef. "The guys were just faster. I had to go with plan B. I knew I had to pass them on the straights. I knew I had to do this just before the last corner."

Halzer's initial burst of speed looked like it might be good enough for the win, but after lap one, Naef moved up into second place and jumped onto Halzer's wheel. Maybe the Slovenian could be beaten after all?

It wasn't until the final sprinting stretch that Naef burst around Halzar, who quickly realized he was blown and would be beaten.

"They went really fast in the start. This is not my strength. So I had to follow," said Naef. "Miha had a big gap. I knew if I could catch him and go with him, maybe I could sprint him. I'm a cross country racer and am used to the long distances. It was hard to close the gap to him."

To the delight of fans enjoying the tight race, Naef took the victory. It was a victory he said was especially difficult the day after having done the cross country race, but his endurance paid off.

"It was great for me that this race was a little longer than normal," said Naef of the two-lap format used at this first Worlds. "If it was one lap, I'd have had no chance against Miha. You need a lot of luck in the final - like four cross. I knew I'd need all the luck and all the power I had to even get a medal."

Halzer said, "It was my plan to lead the races and try to go hard in the technical sections. And then I knew it would be hard until the end. Daniel started very strong in the final. So I needed to go all out to pass him, and in the end, my legs weren't so good and Ralph was super strong."

Naef commented on being the first-ever world champion in the young and still evolving mountain bike discipline.

"Yes, it's important for me. In the past, I was always a short race rider," he said. "I always wanted a world championship out of the shorter race. I thought maybe I'm too old for this and the young guys might be too much for me."

Behind the two top finishers was another battle that had fans excited. Federspiel was in fourth place going into the last lap, but dug deep to come around Pfäffle and take the final medal on offer - a bronze.

For Federspiel, who was racing in front of a boisterous home Austrian crowd, it was a dream come true. The cheering was always louder for the heats in which he was participating.

"It was so loud and the fans were so amazing. It was the greatest feeling in my life," said Federspiel. "Last year, when I heard the first eliminator Worlds would be here, I focused the whole year on eliminators. They are my favorite. It's my my first world championship medal and a first for Austria."

"I was really nervous before the start. In the small final I had a sprint finish with Paul van der Ploeg, so luck was on my side. In the final, I was just empty. I just finished. I started the second lap in fourth and used everything in my body to sprint and get the bronze medal."

Full Results

Big Final
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Ralph Naef (Switzerland)    
2 Miha Halzer (Slovenia)    
3 Daniel Federspiel (Austria)    
4 Christian Pfäffle* (Germany)    
Small Final
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
5 Manuel Fumic (Germany)    
6 Fabrice Mels* (Belgium)    
7 Simon Gegenheimer (Germany)    
8 Paul Van Der Ploeg (Australia)    
1/4 Finals
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
9 Mirco Widmer* (Switzerland)    
10 Geoff Kabush (Canada)    
11 Simon Stiebjahn* (Germany)    
12 Jan Nesvadba* (Czech Republic)    
13 Kenta Gallagher* (Great Britain)    
14 Martin Gluth* (Germany)    
15 Andy Eyring (Germany)    
16 Daniel Mcconnell (Australia)    
1/8 Finals
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
17 Martino Fruet (Italy)    
18 Heiko Gutmann (Germany)    
19 Chris Jongewaard (Australia)    
20 Gregor Raggl* (Austria)    
21 Urban Ferencak* (Slovenia)    
22 Henrique Avancini (Brazil)    
23 Tim Lemmers (Netherlands)    
24 Matthias Stirnemann* (Switzerland)    
25 Luiz Cocuzzi* (Brazil)    
26 Julian Schelb* (Germany)    
27 Emil Lindgren (Sweden)    
28 Fabien Canal (France)    
29 Anton Cooper° (New-Zealand)    
30 Michal Lami (Slovakia)    
31 José Antonio Hermida Ramos (Spain)    
DNF Rok Korosec* (Slovenia)    
Rankings by nation
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Germany 83  pts
2 Switzerland 65  
3 Australia 56  
4 Slovenia 44  
5 Austria 43  
6 Belgium 27  
7 Canada 23  
8 Czech Republic 21  
9 Great Britain 20  
10 Brazil 19  
11 Italy 16  
12 Netherlands 10  
13 Sweden 6  
14 France 5  
15 New-Zealand 4  
16 Slovakia 3  
17 Spain 2