By Sue George, Cyclingnews.com
Czech's Tomas Slavik defeated last year's World Champion Jared Graves (Australia) for the gold medal in the men's four cross race on Friday night under lights at the mountain bike World Championships in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, Canada. Another Czech, Michal Prokop, finished third ahead of Roger Rinderknecht (Switzerland) in fourth.
Sixth place qualifier Slavik made a bold pass near the end of the final run to overtake Graves. It was an upset for the defending world champion and 2010 World Cup overall winner from Australia.
Slavik took the wide line and caught Graves by surprise just before the line. Graves hadn't realized there were any opportunities left for him to get passed though Slavik had used a similar trick in an earlier round with success.
"I feel like I"m in a dream and I'm trying to wake up. You don't get many chances in your life to be the winner of the worlds," said Slavik. "I saw him go to the inside and I saw him do the same. I did the same in the semis and got passed when Michal passed me. So I saw that as an opportunity."
"Of course, I regret that line choice. It's one of those things," said Graves. "That's what racing is all about. You have to be smart about things. I hadn't seen any passing going on, maybe I should have paid more attention. As we saw tonight, four cross isn't always about the start. Hopefully, I won't make that mistake again."
"It's very disappointing to lose it in the last corner," said Graves. "I trained so hard for this race, and my whole year was based around this race. Tomas rode a great race."
Slavik said he took each round one at a time. "My first goal was to get to the finals. In four cross, anything can happen. The most important thing was not to have a flat tire. My qualification wasn't so good, but this win makes it the best season ever."
Prokop knew something about flats. "I used my downhill tubes so I wouldn't get flats," said the bronze medallist. "I qualified 31st because I flatted both wheels."
Rinderknecht said after his fourth place that all had been going well until the finals, but then he had a slow start out of the gate. "The guys got away and I tried to catch up, but with these top guys in the final of the worlds, it's hard to pull a pass. I heard Slavik pulled it off though."
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