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Wichman confirms with messy 4X win

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Men's podium: Romain Saladini, Jared Graves, Joost Wichman, Roger Rinderknecht and Tomas Slavik.

Men's podium: Romain Saladini, Jared Graves, Joost Wichman, Roger Rinderknecht and Tomas Slavik. (Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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Rafael Alvarez de Lara Lucas (Specialized Factory Racing) leads during one of the heats.

Rafael Alvarez de Lara Lucas (Specialized Factory Racing) leads during one of the heats. (Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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Joost Wichman (RSP) on his way to a messy victory.

Joost Wichman (RSP) on his way to a messy victory. (Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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The rain softened up the course ahead of racing.

The rain softened up the course ahead of racing. (Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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Joost Wichman (RSP) looked comfortable on his way to victory.

Joost Wichman (RSP) looked comfortable on his way to victory. (Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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Mickael Deldycke's day came undone, hard, when he crashed.

Mickael Deldycke's day came undone, hard, when he crashed. (Image credit: Tour of Japan)

Round five of the 4-Cross Nissan UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Maribor, Slovenia saw some of the most aggressive and exciting racing of the year, under the most adverse conditions. World Cup leader Jared Graves (Yeti Fox Shox) easily held onto his leader's jersey, but his winning streak was broken, with Joost Wichman (ESP) proving that his win in round three was no fluke.

Heavy rain and thunderstorms overnight and in the morning had caused the cancellation of Downhill qualifying (the gondolas had to be shut down), and left the 4-Cross track a muddy, slippery mess. Almost all riders resorted to spiked tires, and there were still crashes in every round of competition.

The men's competition had few surprises in the first two rounds, with all the favourites moving through with the exception of Michael Deldycke, who crashed hard in the first round, and has potentially broken his collarbone.

The action really began to heat up in the quarterfinals, with the first two races as stacked as a Final. Graves, Wichman, Johannes Fischbach (Ghost ATG) and Guido Tschugg (Ghost ATG) were all capable of winning in the first heat, and the action was fast and rough. Graves got off to his patented fast start, only to be passed by Wichman and then run into by a hard charging Tschugg. Tschugg crashed out, while Graves had to fight back to take second and move on to the semifinal round.

In the second heat, it was former world champion Michal Prokop (Red Bull), Dan Atherton (Animal Commencal) and world champion Rafael Alvarez de Lara Lucas (Specialized Factory Racing) fighting to move on. Prokop took the lead, but Atherton and Alvarez fought all the way to the line, with much pushing and shoving in the corners before Atherton finally managed to prevail.

The action continued in the semi final round, with Graves up against Wichman again, joined by Prokop and Atherton. After a fast start by Graves, his right foot slipped off his pedal before the first corner, knocking the series leader back to last while Wichman shot into the lead. Graves put on an incredible display of handling and finesse in the mud by catching first Prokop and then Atherton within 200 metres to move into second and make the Final.

In the other semifinal, Roger Rinderknecht (GT Bicycles) made it look easy with his fourth straight win, while Romain Saladini (Team Sunn) had to come from behind to beat a surprisingly strong Tomas Slavik (Czech Republic) and make the Final. Slavik easily took the men's small final for the fifth podium spot.

In the Final, Graves again got the holeshot out of the gate onto the first straightaway, but Wichman made a gutsy move in the second corner to slip through on the outside, forcing Graves to brake and drop to third behind Saladini. In the fourth corner, Graves managed to get back into second while Rinderknecht moved into third, but Wichman was long gone and celebrating his second win of the season.

"I feel great, to get this win!," exclaimed Wichman right after his run. "I had a bad lane [lane 4], but I was able to get by Roger [Rinderknecht] in the first corner, and then I knew my only chance was to try going high-low for the lead, and it worked."

The win moved Wichman into second in the overall standings, but still 194 points behind Graves' 520 total after five rounds. While the Australia is starting to look unbeatable for the title, the battle for second is very strong, with Rinderknecht only 16 points behind Wichman, and Saladini another 10 points in arrears.
 

Big Final
1Joost Wichman (Ned)
2Jared Graves (Aus) Yeti Fox Shox Factory Race Team
3Roger Rinderknecht (Sui) GT Bicycles
4Romain Saladini (Fra) Team Sunn

Small Final
5Tomas Slavik (Cze)
6Dan Atherton (GBr) Animal Commencal
7Matej Vitko (Svk)
8Michal Prokop (Cze)

Quarterfinal
9Rafael Alvarez De Lara Lucas (Esp) Specialized Factory Racing
10Johannes Fischbach (Ger) Ghost A.T.G. Pro Team
11Filip Polc (Svk) MS Evil Racing
12Brook Macdonald (NZl) Ancillotti Doganaccia Racing Team
13Guido Tschugg (Ger) Ghost A.T.G. Pro Team
14Quentin Derbier (Fra)
15Will Longden (GBr)
16Arne Tschugg (Ger)

1/8 Final
17Jurg Meijer (Ned)
18Scott Beaumont (GBr) Rocky Mountain Uk
19Matej Stapic (Slo)
20Michal Marosi (Cze)
21Patrick Campbell-Jenner (GBr)
22LukaLuka Novak (Slo)
23Scott Roberts (GBr)
24Ghislain Ricci (Fra)
25Kamil Tatarkovic (Cze)
26Joey Van Veghel (Ned)
27Marek Pesko (Svk)
28Petrik Brückner (Ger)
29Javier Guijarro Villacieros (Esp) XMS-Devinci World Cup Team
30William Evans (GBr)
31Stefan Scherz (Ger)
32Felix Beckeman (Swe)

1/16 Finals
33Pascal Seydoux (Sui)
34Tilen Frank (Slo)
35Lewis Lacey (GBr) Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense
36Sascha Meyenborg (Ger)
37Peter Prajczer (Hun)
38Bernard Kerr (GBr)
39Piotr Paradowski (Pol)
40Wyn Masters (NZl) Ancillotti Doganaccia Racing Team
41Adrian Kiener (Sui)
42Ziga Knez (Slo)
43Florian Gottschlich (Ger)
44David Axelsson (Swe)
45Jakub Pytlik (Cze)
46Robert Simecek (Cze)
47Sidney Gerber (Sui)
48Lukas Mechura (Cze) Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense
49Jan Novak (Cze)
50Dominik Gspan (Sui)
51Hannes Slavik (Aut)
52Rastislav Pirman (Svk)
53Radim Kvacek (Cze)
54Tom Dowie (GBr)
55Jakub Hnidak (Cze)
56Adrian Weiss (Sui) Scott 11
57Lukas Jaeger (Sui)
58Andreas Dotzauer (Ger)
59Adam Stasek (Cze) Ghost A.T.G. Pro Team
60Jakub Riha (Cze)
61Daniel Auerswald (Ger)
DNFMickael Deldycke (Fra)
DNFKieran Mcavoy (GBr)
DSQThomas Krainer (Aut)

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