The 2013 season of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano opened on Friday, in Albstadt, Germany, with the brand new Eliminator discipline and two brand new World Cup leaders. The Eliminator World Cup saw Alexandra Engen (Ghost Factory) and Daniel Federspiel (Otztal Scott Racing) awarded the first ever leader's jerseys in this new event.
The Eliminator begins with a time trial around a short urban course filled with obstacles. The top 32 women and top 32 men 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.
Engen, the women's world champion in the Eliminator, showed that she was in Albstadt to win by recording the fastest qualifying time. Her march to the Final was without any bumps, as she won both of her first two heats and took second in the semi-final, conserving her energy for the medal race.
In the final she rode away from Kathrin Stirnemann (Sabine Spitz Haibike) to easily cross the line alone in first, with Stirnemann holding off a challenge by Nadine Rieder (Topeak Ergon) for second.
"I think the course suited me well," commented Engen. "This was a course where a good start had a strong advantage, and I am a fast starter. The Qualifier gave me confidence that I had the speed, and I was in control during my races, so I could do my own thing."
The men's competition had one favourite make an early departure, when world champion Ralph NÃ¤f (BMC) didn't make it past the first heat. However, NÃ¤f is still recovering from a hand injury that makes it difficult to hold onto the handlebars.
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 RaphaÃ«l GagnÃ© (Canadian National Team).
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 GagnÃ© as well. Litscher was the first to recover, taking second ahead of Halzer.
"Before the race I felt very good," explained 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."