By Luke Webber
Saturday, May 10, 2008 6.50pm
New names up top in Maribor
Spaniard Rafael Alvarez and Dutchwoman Anneke Beerten took the top honours in the men's and women's four cross in the first round of the mountain bike world cup in Maribor, Slovenia.
The Maribor track was very dry made up of dust and rocks producing a very difficult surface to race on. With a lot of braking points the track became cut up and looser as competition went on and for many bad luck dictated an early exit from the competition.
From the gate the track went into a series of jumps, a left turn and then a right. It was this last opening turn that ended the hopes for many riders as everyone accelerated franticly to have any chance of making the triple that followed. In practice, fastest qualifier Dan Atherton looked fast as he dialled the outside line on one bend with immense speed. However in heat one he had to come from dead last to squeak through into round two. Unfortunately there would be no rerun in this heat and a bad first third of the race made any comeback impossible.
It was left to Cedric Gracia, Romain Saladini and Guido Tschugg in the two semi finals to hold the old guard strong, but only Tschugg could advance to the final leaving Gracia to claim the small event.
Just as in every heat that came before, Rafael Alvarez dominated the finals to take a convincing win ahead of Tschugg. Johannes Fischback was third and Tomas Slavik fourth.
Anneke Beerten won the women's final
The women’s races were less of a new-names affair with three of the top four qualifiers making it to the final, but there was the notable absence of Jill Kintner. She is concentrating on the Olympic BMX, which left the door wide open for Anneke Beerten to squeeze through. In the past three years Beerten has always been competitive – even beating Kintner on occasions, but it was consistency at the very top level that defied her. Today however she looked like the new winning face of four cross.
Second place was something of a surprise – Anita Molcik put in three solid rides and in the process confirmed second step on the box ahead of the far more experienced Ffion Griffiths and Melissa Buhl.
Tomorrow is the first World Cup Downhill race and everyone’s eyes are on Sam Hill.
For full results, see Cyclingnews.com.