The 2013 season of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup opened on Friday, in Albstadt, Germany, with the brand new eliminator discipline. Austrian Daniel Federspiel (Otztal Scott Racing) became the first man to don the men's World Cup leader's jersey, exclaiming, "I am absolutely an eliminator rider first from now on."
The eliminator begins with a time trial around a short urban course filled with obstacles. The top 32 riders qualify for competition and then race in heats of four, with the top two in each heat moving on to the next round. Eventually, the top four riders race for the World Cup title.
The Albstadt course featured lots of sharp corners, a set of stairs and three ramps in the long straightaway before the final 180-degree turn and false flat sprint to the finish line. At 700 metres, it was one of the longer courses the riders face, and a qualifying lap followed by up to four heats took a lot out of the legs.
The men's competition had one favourite make an early departure, when world champion Ralph Näf (BMC) didn't make it past the first heat, after barely qualifying in 31st place. Näf is still recovering from a hand injury that makes it difficult to hold onto the handlebars, and was clearly struggling with gear shifts out of the many corners.
Ferderspiel, the bronze medalist at the world championships last fall, qualified second behind Slovenia's Miha Halzer, and the top two qualifiers were joined in the final by Thomas Litscher (Multivan Merida) and Raphaël Gagné (Canadian National Team). While the first three were among the favourites, Gagné proved to stronger than many expected, winning two of his three heats on the way to the final.
In the final, Federspiel hung back in second until the long straight before the final corner, when he accelerated into the lead. It was a good move, because Litscher and Halzer almost crashed in the corner, slowing Gagné as well. Litscher cut sharply to the inside ahead of Gagné, forcing the Canadian to brake, and then overtook Halzer in a drag race on the final 50 metres for second. Gagné rolled in fourth, for his first elite World Cup podium.
"Before the race I felt very good," said Halzer, "and it showed with my qualification ride. This track is not normally my favourite kind; this one was very long and I usually prefer more technical courses with climbs. But I rode the final as a tactical race, and saved myself for the final straight, when I passed Miha [Halzer]. After winning the bronze medal last year, this is my first World Cup victory, and the first cross country World Cup for an Austrian man, so it is a highlight of my career."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team|
|1||Daniel Federspiel (Aut) Ötztal Scott Racing Team|
|2||Thomas Litscher (Swi) Multivan Merida Biking Team|
|3||Miha Halzer (Slo)|
|4||Raphael Gagne (Can)|
|5||Christian Pfäffle* (Ger)|
|6||Marcel Wildhaber (Swi) Scott Swisspower MTB Racing Team|
|7||Mirco Widmer (Swi) Giant Dealerteams|
|8||Simon Gegenheimer (Ger)|
|9||Lehvi Braam° (Ned)|
|10||Andy Eyring (Ger)|
|11||Thibault Geneste* (Fra) Newcycling|
|12||Titouan Perrin Ganier* (Fra) Focus/Rotor/Coaching-System.Fr|
|13||Heiko Gutmann (Ger)|
|14||Fabrice Mels* (Bel) Salcano Alanya|
|15||Stefan Peter* (Swi) Strübi MTB Kader|
|16||Fabien Canal (Fra) Asptt Definitive Tec|
|17||Jan Fojtik (Cze)|
|18||Rens De Bruijn* (Ned) SBJ Bike Team|
|19||Adam Morka (Can)|
|20||Jeroen Van Eck* (Ned) MPL Specialized MTB Team|
|21||Leandre Bouchard* (Can)|
|22||Sepp Freiburghaus (Swi)|
|23||Jürg Graf (Swi) BSK Graf-Rollmat-Koba MTB Team|
|24||Urban Ferencak* (Slo) Calcit Bike Team|
|25||Kenta Gallagher* (GBr) Superior Brentjens Mountainbike Racing Team|
|26||Kevin Miquel* (Fra) Veloroc Lapierre|
|27||Severin Saegesser* (Swi)|
|28||Patrick Lüthi* (Swi)|
|29||Vitus Wagenbauer (Ger)|
|30||Davy Huygens (Bel)|
|31||Tomas Podrazil (Cze)|
|32||Ralph Naef (Swi) BMC Mountainbike Racing Team|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Daniel Federspiel (Aut) Ötztal Scott Racing Team||60||pts|
|2||Thomas Litscher (Swi) Multivan Merida Biking Team||40|
|3||Miha Halzer (Slo)||30|
|4||Raphael Gagne (Can)||25|
|5||Christian Pfäffle* (Ger)||20|
|6||Marcel Wildhaber (Swi) Scott Swisspower MTB Racing Team||18|
|7||Mirco Widmer (Swi) Giant Dealerteams||16|
|8||Simon Gegenheimer (Ger)||14|
|9||Lehvi Braam° (Ned)||12|
|10||Andy Eyring (Ger)||10|
|11||Thibault Geneste* (Fra) Newcycling||8|
|12||Titouan Perrin Ganier* (Fra) Focus/Rotor/Coaching-System.Fr||6|
|13||Heiko Gutmann (Ger)||4|
|14||Fabrice Mels* (Bel) Salcano Alanya||3|
|15||Stefan Peter* (Swi) Strübi MTB Kader||2|
|16||Fabien Canal (Fra) Asptt Definitive Tec||1|
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