The 2014 UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships in Hafjell, Norway, opened on Tuesday with the first titles awarded in the Eliminator. Kathrin Stirnemann gave Switzerland their first title of the championships in the women’s competition, while Fabrice Mels of Belgium took the men’s gold medal.
The event was held in the unique historic village of Maihaugen, on the outskirts of Lillehammer, which offers examples of Norwegian architecture going back hundreds of years. The 840 metre course has everything from gravel road, to rocks and roots, drops and banked turns.
Stirnemann, who won the World Cup overall title a week earlier, qualified third, and made her way into the final round by winning her first two heats and then finishing second to countrywoman Linda Indergand in the semi-final, with both going to the final. The two Swiss riders were joined by Jenny Rissveds (Sweden) and Ingrid Boe Jacobsen of host Norway.
Stirnemann and Indergand quickly dropped the other two, and sprinted down the final stretch for the gold medal, with Stirnemann winning by a bike length. Boe Jacobsen took a very popular bronze medal, after she and Rissveds tangled in the final corner, and the Norwegian was the first to get back on her bike.
“It’s unbelievable,” commented Stirnemann. “I tried to save as much energy as I could in the heats before so I could give it everything I can in the final. I just can’t believe it, it is a dream coming true.”
“I took the lead after the first climb and held it until the final. It is so cool to have Linda (Indergand) in second, a Swiss double victory. I can’t believe it, I have no words. I won everything I could this year and this is the best day, I think. It is a good day for Switzerland and I hope we can win some more medals in the cross-country. The Swiss team is on fire.”
The men’s competition saw numerous crashes and some top riders go out of contention early. Defending world champion Paul van der Ploeg (Australia) went out in the first round, while Simon Gegenheimer (Germany) did not even qualify for the 32 finalists.
Mels qualified fastest and won his first two races, before finishing second to Kevin Miquel (France) in the semi-final that put both riders into the medal race. They were joined by Emil Lindgren (Sweden) and Daniel Federspiel (Austria) for the final.
Federspiel got off to a fast start, but then his rear wheel broke and he crashed into Miquel, holding up the rest of the riders. Miquel was the first to get going and opened a sizable gap before Lindgren began to close in the second half of the race. In the final sharp left turn, Lindgren attempted to cut inside of Miquel, catching his pedal in the French rider’s wheel and giving Mels a clear path to victory. Lindgren took second ahead of a very disappointed Miquel.
“I had a very bad start,” explained Mels, “and I was trying to keep up the pace and to pass Emil (Lindgren) because he had a quite big gap to Kevin (Miquel). Then, at the end, Lindgren came on the inside of Kevin and they crashed, so I had the way open to the finish line.”
“It’s crazy. I was waiting for the sprint because I had not a very good start, so with this … yeah, it is beyond my imagination at the moment. I am really happy.”
“This is way above winning the World Cup; way, WAY above it. You have the Rainbow Jersey, and you can wear it all the year, and that makes it so nice. You work so hard for it the whole year, and then getting this … all the hard work pays off.”
The action continues on Wednesday, and you can catch all the action on www.redbull.tv