Czech Michal Prokop raced to a four cross world championship win in front of a large crowd in Champery, Switzerland, on Friday night. Prokop collected what was his third-ever rainbow jersey ahead of silver medallist Roger Rinderknecht (Switzerland) and Joost Wichman (Netherlands).
"I'm happy, of course," said Prokop. "My season was all right, I made some podiums. I missed my last World Cup due to Olympic BMX qualification in London but I tried to prepare for this race, and I was in good condition."
All four finalists had fairly straightforward marches toward the last round, but defending world champion Tomas Slavik (Czech) was eliminated in the quarter finals in a battle with Johannes Fischbach (Germany), who went on to crash in the semi-final.
The big final looked more like a bowling match than a bike race as all four contenders went down. It started with Wichmann, and Rinderknecht and Prokop were caught up in it near the top and crashed, too. Graves ran into them and had to dab. He seemed to very narrowly avoid going completely down and emerged first from the carnage with what seemed like a clear shot to the line. However, a few meters later, his tire went flat, a side effect of having clipped someone's equipment in the aforementioned crash. His chances were over.
"I had a feeling that crash might happen which is why I took the outside line," said Graves. "Then I rode over Roger and I clipped something and next thing you know, my tire was flat."
Prokop was the first man back up and at full speed and rode on to final success. Rinderknecht was next followed by Wichmann.
"I had a good qualifier, and that was important because the first straight was too short," said Prokop. "We had a crazy night and a crazy final and somehow I managed to win."
Rinderknect was all smiles after the finish. "You can't beat winning a silver medal in front of your home crowd," he said. "My goal was to do one solid run after another and get to the final. It was a slippery, demanding course. There were parts where you had to take your chances. In the final, everything is possible. At the end of the day, I am happy."
Wichman was not so happy. "In the final run, I thought I had to come straight out of the gate, but I think I hit the berm with too much speed, and I went down. I was disappointed at the finish because I thought I had it, but I didn't have it."
"If you had told me I'd gotten third before the contest, I'd have taken it, but now I'm not happy for it. If you are in the final going for gold and you get third, it sucks."
The men's take on the course
Although the female four cross medalists were happy with the unique course, which was more mountain bike oriented and had fewer BMX type features, the men were of a more mixed opinion.
Despite winning gold, Prokop was displeased with the course. "I didn't like the course at all because the first straight was too short and in the rock garden there were just two lines," said Prokop. "After the rock garden, there was just one line to the finish line."
"It was hard to pass on this course. If somebody crashed, it was all right, but it was hard to do regular moves on this course. It was challenging and something different. We'll see what will happen next year - maybe we will see more of these courses although I'm not a big fan of them."
However, Rinderknecht liked it. "In some courses, you have more space for choosing a line, but I liked that they tried to bring something new into the course, and it made it an exciting race for me."
Wichman agreed, "I think it's a step in the right direction. The track was good except for the first corner. I liked the downhill features. It's a step away from BMX and will help four cross forward."
All the men chose to ride a hardtail four cross bike. They said the start was so important that they couldn't afford to ride a full suspension bike unlike the women's silver medalist.
"I thought about taking my freeride bike in qualification but I didn't," said Wichman. "You needed the hardtail for the gate."
"The track wasn't that rough. We are used to riding hardtails 90 percent of the time, and I was not going to switch just before the world championships," said Rinderknecht, who has his sights set on BMX at the 2012 Olympic Games.
This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.