Engen repeats as eliminator world champion

Alexandra Engen (Sweden) defended her world championship title in the elite women's eliminator on Sunday at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Engen fought off a powerful challenge from Jolanda Neff (Switzerland), who ended up second. Linda Indergand (Switzerland) and Nadine Rieder (Germany) finished third and fourth, respectively, in the Big Final.

Engen had done her homework in the lead-up to the eliminator. She was spotted walking the track several times during the week.

"When you're doing your eliminator, there are such small margins. You have to be prepared for all different solutions," said Engen. "If someone is going right, where do I go? If someone is jumping, should I jump?"

"I'm a bit of a control freak, but having control helps me prepare. I studied all my option, and it was good."

The top four women from qualifying made it through to the Big Final. Emily Batty (Canada) and Mary McConneloug (United States) did not start the qualifying while two other riders crashed in the qualifying: Georgia Gould (United States) and Yolande Speedy (South Africa).

Engen and Neff easily marched through their heats toward the final - each one dominating along the way and setting up for a face-off between the two favorites.

In the semi-finals, Neff and Reider won their heat 1 while Kathrin Stirnemann (Switzerland) was heartbroken after a broken chain cost her a spot in the finals. In heat 2, Engen and Indergand went one-two, with both riders dabbing at times, but not in a way that affected the results.

The big final was set up to be a battle between U23 cross country champion Neff, who had qualified fastest, and defending world champion Engen. Both riders had easily won their heats and were clearly the strongest, winning from the front.

Engen led up the first climb and into the first singletrack, but Neff applied pressure and closed the initial gap opened by the Swede.

Just as she did in the semi-final, Engen dabbed in the rocks, but Neff could not capitalize on the mistake.

"First, I thought she would go in the middle, so I slowed a bit down," said Neff. "Maybe if I had come full speed into there, I could have overtaken her. In the end, I didn't and she was faster. Congrats to her."

The Swedish rider held off Neff for the second half of the race and put in a strong sprint to take the title. Neft was second while Indergand and Reider rolled in for the remaining spots.

"It would have been nice to take the gold, but I guess silver isn't too bad," said Neff.

Engen said she was not tired after racing the elite women's cross country and that it had probably helped her.

"It's a mental thing, when I get on my eliminator bike, I just want to go for it. I think the cross country race made me good. I need a real punch to ride fast. If I hadn't been doing the race yesterday, I would have done hard training yesterday anyway."

"I usually feel better the day after a hard race. When you are used to training a lot, you are able to recover quite fast. I had a quite strict schedule for eating and massage two days before. I don't think yesterday's race made me an slower."

Neff also commented that she thought it was good that the eliminator was after the cross country, not before the cross country like at the World Cups.

Indergand's ride was impressive considering she was not at 100 percent. "The rock garden was concerning because I had crashed twice there in the cross country race. They were hard crashes and were painful to my shoulder and elbow. I didn't decide until today whether I could start the eliminator. Fortunately, during qualifying, I didn't have as much pain. If you ride against others, it helps you forget the pain and just ride."

Stirnemann won the small final. With her work done, she burst into tears as her coaches comforted her about the chain she'd broken in the earlier round.

Race note

The South African heartbreak came when Mariska Strauss was in second place in her quarter-final heading into the final 200 metres and she hit the final jump with a bit too much speed and lost control taking a nasty tumble that ruled her out for what would have been a well deserved semi-final.

Full Results

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Big Final
#Rider Name (Country) Team
1Alexandra Engen (Sweden)
2Jolanda Neff* (Switzerland)
3Linda Indergand* (Switzerland)
4Nadine Rieder (Germany)
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Small Final
#Rider Name (Country) Team
5Kathrin Stirnemann (Switzerland)
6Lena Putz* (Germany)
7Helen Grobert* (Germany)
8Ingrid Sofie Jacobsen* (Norway)
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1/4 Finals
#Rider Name (Country) Team
9Eva Lechner (Italy)
10Andrea Waldis* (Switzerland)
11Nathalie Schneitter (Switzerland)
12Katarzyna Solus-Miskowicz (Poland)
13Anna Oberparleiter (Italy)
14Alessandra Keller° (Switzerland)
15Rebecca Henderson* (Australia)
16Mariske Strauss* (South Africa)
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1/8 Finals
#Rider Name (Country) Team
17Andréanne Pichette (Canada)
18Anne Terpstra* (Netherlands)
19Julie Bresset (France)
20Lisa Mitterbauer* (Austria)
21Laura Bietola* (Canada)
22Pauline Ferrand Prevot* (France)
23Oksana Rybakova (Russian Federation)
24Rachel Pageau° (Canada)
25Cécile Ravanel (France)
26Katerina Nash (Czech Republic)
27Maja Wloszczowska (Poland)
28Alice Barnes° (Great Britain)
29Lea Davison (United States Of America)
30Elisabeth Osl (Austria)
31Shayna Powless* (United States Of America)
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Not Classified
#Rider Name (Country) Team
DNFKatrin Leumann (Switzerland)


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