Eliminator World Cup leaders Alexandra Engen and Daniel Federspiel dominate at third round.
The third round of the Eliminator series at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano saw the overall leaders for both the men's and women's series taking convincing wins in Val di Sole, Italy, on Thursday. World Champion Alexandra Engen (Ghost Factory) won her second World Cup of the year in the women's category, as did Daniel Federspiel (Otztal Scott) in the men's race.
The Val di Sole course was very different from the preceding two rounds, with a steep climb followed by jumps and banked turns on a 4-Cross circuit, and finally a long grass straightaway to the finish. The winning tactic - for those who were strong enough - was to reach the top of the climb in first place, and then open a gap in the 4-Cross section.
Engen qualified first among the women, and then won each of her heats on the way to the Final. The Swedish rider was joined in the Final by three Swiss riders - Kathrin Stirnemann (Sabine Spitz Haibike), Linda Indergand (Strubi MTB Kader) and Jolanda Neff (Giant Pro XC). Engen got the lead up the climb, but Stirnemann was hot on her wheel, forcing Engen to sprint all the way to the line. Indergand took third, followed by Neff.
"It was really, really tough," commented Engen. "The uphill is really something. I wanted to be at the front on the top because I know then I can hold my lines. I really fought like a maniac so they wouldn't pass me But it was terribly hard."
Engen now leads the overall standings with 150 points, followed by Stirnemann at 120 and Jenny Rissveds (Swedish National) at 80. Rissveds, who won round two, was absent writing school exams.
Federspiel had a slightly harder route to his win, only qualifying seventh. However, while other riders slowed after multiple races up the climb, the Austrian rider seemed to get stronger, winning both his quarter and semi final rounds. In the Final, Federspiel was joined by Slovenian Mika Halzer, Germany's Simon Gegenheimer and Fabrice Mels (Salcano Alanya). Federspiel had a strong start in the Final, opening a gap by the top of the climb and cruising to the win. Halzer had to come from behind to take second, just ahead of Gegenheimer, with Mels finishing fourth.
"That uphill was really tough," agreed Federspiel. "So I ran a little bit of tactic the whole heats, trying to save my power for the upcoming [final] heats, and then on the Final I attacked on the uphill and it was great."
Federspiel now leads the overall men's standings with 140 points after three rounds, followed by Halzer with 95 points and Gegenheimer with 74.
Photo: Alexandra Engen takes a convincing win in the Eliminator at Val di Sole