This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Alexandra Engen (Sweden) won the first-ever elite women's eliminator world championship in downtown Saalfelden, Austria on Sunday afternoon. U23 cross country world champion Jolanda Neff (Switzerland) finished in second place ahead of Alexandra Dawidowicz (Poland) in third.
The beaming Swede said after the race that her victory had not yet sunk in. "It's been an awesome day. I'm always really nervous before the qualifying because you never know if you have the legs," she said. "After qualifying, I knew I had good legs. My German team Ghost was here helping me, and I could totally focus on the race."
Engen qualified fastest earlier in the afternoon and seemed to move easily through each of her rounds. However, she met her toughest match upon reaching the finals with Neff. Engen led out the two-lap finale, but Neff was glued to her back wheel. At the sharp corner just after one lap to go, Neff jumped around Engen to the wild cheers of the crowd.
But it wasn't over. On the last lap, Engen came back around Neff and seemed like she might take it for good this time. However, the unrelenting Neff put on the gas and got around Engen again. Then Engen turned on the afterburners and put it in drag race mode to power around Neff just in time for the finish.
Alexandra Engen in action before her victory
Men's elite competition
Shortly after, Ralph Naef (Switzerland) powered to the first elite men's eliminator world championship. Naef defeated top qualifier Miha Halzer (Slovenia) and home crowd favorite Daniel Federspiel (Austria) in the men's big final. It was a beautiful sunny day, and huge crowds came out to watch and cheer.
"I'm happy to be the first world champion in the sprint eliminator," said Naef.
As the fastest qualifier, Halzer always got to pick his starting gate, and he consistently chose the favorite lane 2. He marched steadily through the heats, often winning by a huge gap over those he faced.
From the start of the men's final, the Slovenian set out as he usually did - blasting to the front. He was chased first by Federspiel and then by U23 rider Christian Pfäffle (Germany). Naef was a bit off the back in fourth place, but he'd come from behind in some of his earlier heats, too.
"My plan was to go in second position after the start," said Naef. "The guys were just faster. I had to go with plan B. I knew I had to pass them on the straights. I knew I had to do this just before the last corner."
Halzer's initial burst of speed looked like it might be good enough for the win, but after lap one, Naef moved up into second place and jumped onto Halzer's wheel. Maybe the Slovenian could be beaten after all?
It wasn't until the final sprinting stretch that Naef burst around Halzar, who quickly realized he was blown and would be beaten.
"They went really fast in the start. This is not my strength. So I had to follow," said Naef. "Miha had a big gap. I knew if I could catch him and go with him, maybe I could sprint him. I'm a cross country racer and am used to the long distances. It was hard to close the gap to him."
To the delight of fans enjoying the tight race, Naef took the victory. It was a victory he said was especially difficult the day after having done the cross country race, but his endurance paid off.
|1||Alexandra Engen (Sweden)|
|2||Jolanda Neff* (Switzerland)|
|3||Aleksandra Dawidowicz (Poland)|
|4||Ramona Forchini° (Switzerland)|
|5||Kathrin Stirnemann (Switzerland)|
|6||Eva Lechner (Italy)|
|7||Cécile Ravanel (France)|
|8||Anna Oberparleiter* (Italy)|
|9||Lea Davison (United States Of America)|
|10||Linda Indergand* (Switzerland)|
|11||Laura Turpijn (Netherlands)|
|12||Elisabeth Brandau (Germany)|
|13||Anneke Beerten (Netherlands)|
|14||Anne Terpstra* (Netherlands)|
|15||Serena Calvetti* (Italy)|
|16||Michelle Hediger* (Switzerland)|
|17||Katrin Leumann (Switzerland)|
|18||Maaris Meier (Estonia)|
|19||Kajsa Snihs* (Sweden)|
|20||Ingrid Sofie Jacobsen* (Norway)|
|21||Ana Zupan (Slovenia)|
|22||Rosara Joseph (New-Zealand)|
|23||Barbara Benko* (Hungary)|
|24||Rowena Fry (Australia)|
|25||Andrea Waldis° (Switzerland)|
|26||Mary Mcconneloug (United States Of America)|
|27||Alessia Bulleri* (Italy)|
|28||Georgia Gould (United States Of America)|
|29||Pavla Havlikova (Czech Republic)|
|30||Heidi Rosasen Sandsto (Norway)|
|31||Noelia Rodriguez (Argentina)|
|DNF||Jenny Rissveds° (Sweden)|
Rankings by nation
|5||United States Of America||36|
|1||Ralph Naef (Switzerland)|
|2||Miha Halzer (Slovenia)|
|3||Daniel Federspiel (Austria)|
|4||Christian Pfäffle* (Germany)|
|5||Manuel Fumic (Germany)|
|6||Fabrice Mels* (Belgium)|
|7||Simon Gegenheimer (Germany)|
|8||Paul Van Der Ploeg (Australia)|
|9||Mirco Widmer* (Switzerland)|
|10||Geoff Kabush (Canada)|
|11||Simon Stiebjahn* (Germany)|
|12||Jan Nesvadba* (Czech Republic)|
|13||Kenta Gallagher* (Great Britain)|
|14||Martin Gluth* (Germany)|
|15||Andy Eyring (Germany)|
|16||Daniel Mcconnell (Australia)|
|17||Martino Fruet (Italy)|
|18||Heiko Gutmann (Germany)|
|19||Chris Jongewaard (Australia)|
|20||Gregor Raggl* (Austria)|
|21||Urban Ferencak* (Slovenia)|
|22||Henrique Avancini (Brazil)|
|23||Tim Lemmers (Netherlands)|
|24||Matthias Stirnemann* (Switzerland)|
|25||Luiz Cocuzzi* (Brazil)|
|26||Julian Schelb* (Germany)|
|27||Emil Lindgren (Sweden)|
|28||Fabien Canal (France)|
|29||Anton Cooper° (New-Zealand)|
|30||Michal Lami (Slovakia)|
|31||José Antonio Hermida Ramos (Spain)|
|DNF||Rok Korosec* (Slovenia)|
Rankings by nation