Fabrice Mels (Belgium) celebrated a victory in the elite men's eliminator on the opening evening of the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike Championships in Hafjell. It was a crash-filled big final that first claimed Daniel Federspiel (Austria) and later Kevin Miquel (France). Emil Lindgren (Sweden) earned the silver medal ahead of Miquel with the bronze.
2014 Eliminator World Cup winner Mels was the fastest qualifier and while he seemed to move easily through his heats, the final was a difficult one for him.
"It was a close one! I personally had a bad start and was chasing from the beginning," said Mels.
In the big final, Daniel Federspiel (Austria), one of the favorites, took the lead from the gun after consistently starting fast all day. However, in the first corner, going into a climb, he crashed himself out of medal contention.
"I had a good start and was in front on the first corner, but I broke my back wheel. I hit the French guy and went down," said Federspiel to Cyclingnews. "Fourth place at the Worlds is ok, but my goal was to be world champion. Next time."
Miquel made it through the contact without going down and saw his opportunity, giving it 100 percent to take advantage of the gap that resulted from Federspiel's crash.
"I took a good chance after Daniel was out," said Miquel. "I was in the lead."
Behind Miquel, Lindgren chased with Mels glued to his wheel. "I'm normally a cross country rider, but I've done some eliminators this year. When the format changed from on pavement in the city to an off-road format, it was perfect and suited me. Then when Miquel went clear, I was sure I could catch him at the end."
Mels said, "I saw that Kevin got quite a big gap, and I was trying to keep Emil's wheel in front of me and outsprint him at the end."
It appeared as if Miquel had the race won, but as his rivals chased him going into the final corner, Miquel took the outside line and went down, colliding with Lindgren. The Swede did not fall, but dabbed, and Mels seized the opportunity to go for the gold with 100m to go.
"I saw those two getting into each other on the last corner, and then it was like an open field for me to take the win at the end," said Mels. "I'm quite lucky. I thought it would be hard for me to win from third position, but it worked out quite well."
Lindgren said, "I went for the win, but I'm happy with the silver medal. Racing is racing. This is almost like winning at home - it's the closest Worlds I'll ever race."
Federspiel got back on his bike and rode to a fourth place finish while Martin Gluth won the small final ahead of Catriel Andres Soto (Argentina).
- The eliminator was held at the Maihaugen museeum in Lillehammer, a unique venue containing sample houses from throughout Norway's history. The race course wound through the forested grounds and around a peaceful lake on a chilly September evening.
- Defending eliminator world champion Paul van der Ploeg (Australia) qualifed in 17th place and was eliminated in the first round.
- Marcel Wildhaber (Switzerland) was the only top four qualifier not to make the big final. He finished in eighth after a surprise but spectacular crash in the small final.
- Raphael Gagne (Canada) was leading his first round when he took a spectacular endo in front of TV cameras which cost him any chance at advancing.
- Italian Andrea Tiberi looked on good form, but rolled a tire at the beginning of his second heat, forcing him to run the remainder of the lap.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team|
|1||Fabrice Mels* (Belgium)|
|2||Emil Lindgren (Sweden)|
|3||Kevin Miquel (France)|
|4||Daniel Federspiel (Austria)|
|5||Martin Gluth (Germany)|
|6||Catriel Andres Soto (Argentina)|
|7||Emil Linde* (Sweden)|
|8||Marcel Wildhaber (Switzerland)|
|9||Ralph Naef (Switzerland)|
|10||Simon Stiebjahn (Germany)|
|11||Axel Lindh* (Sweden)|
|12||Krystof Bogar* (Czech Republic)|
|13||Thomas Litscher (Switzerland)|
|14||Andrea Tiberi (Italy)|
|15||Patrick Lüthi* (Switzerland)|
|16||Luiz Cocuzzi* (Brazil)|
|17||Matthias Wengelin (Sweden)|
|18||Martin Setterberg° (Sweden)|
|19||Jeroen Van Eck* (Netherlands)|
|20||Sepp Freiburghaus (Switzerland)|
|21||Gregor Raggl* (Austria)|
|22||Robin Thyrstedt° (Sweden)|
|23||Matiss Preimanis (Latvia)|
|24||Sebastian Kartfjord (Norway)|
|25||Philip Buys (South Africa)|
|26||Paul Van Der Ploeg (Australia)|
|27||Miha Halzer (Slovenia)|
|28||Max Wiklund-Hellstadius° (Sweden)|
|29||Martin Fanger (Switzerland)|
|30||Raphael Gagne (Canada)|
|31||Kevin Berginc* (Slovenia)|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews. She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.
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