By James Costley-White & Cyclingnews
Saturday, June 4, 2011 7.25pm
Nail-biting finale as two big-final riders eat dust
Roger Rinderknecht powered his way to victory in the four-cross at the 2011 Fort William World Cup James Costley-White/BikeRadar
Swiss racer Roger Rinderknecht (BMC) clinched victory in the Fort William four-cross (4X) in a dramatic big-final which saw two of the title contenders eat dust. Joost Wichman (RSP 4 Cross Racing Team) crashed, and his bike then took team-mate Tomas Slavik out, paving the way for David Graf (Gates Nicolai) to take second place. Slavik ended up third while Wichman rolled home fourth.
Earlier in the day, the men's race had looked to be a replay of what we've seen over and over again: Jared Graves (Yeti-Fox Racing Shox) jumping away from his rivals out of the start gate and cruising to the finish line. In the first three rounds, this was exactly how it went, with the Australian riding everyone off his wheel.
In the first two rounds, all of the top riders made it through safely, with the exception of Guido Tschugg (Ghost), who was caught out in the 1/8th-final by the passing skills of young British rider Scott Roberts, and Rafael Alvarez de Lara Lucas, the former world champion returning from injury, who was a victim of the most amazing pass of the evening by Michal Marosi (RSP 4 Cross), who jumped the rock garden to pass him in mid-air.
Marosi, Johannes Fischbach (Ghost) and Kamil Tatarkovic all got knocked out in the quarter-final round, leaving Graves to go up against Rinderknecht, world champion Slavik (RSP 4 Cross) and Romain Saladini in one semi-final, and Graf, Wichman, Michal Prokop and Michael Mechura (Chain Reaction/Nukeproof) in the other.
In a stunning surprise, Graves was beaten to the holeshot for the first corner by Savik, and then dropped to last after taking the second corner wide, allowing Rinderknecht and Saladini by him. Despite fighting back, Graves could only manage to recover to third, putting him into the small final, which he easily won for fifth place overall.
Prokop and Wichman were well in front battling for the lead just before the final corner of their semi, when they crashed into each other, allowing Graf to squeeze through for the first spot in the final. Wichman managed to grab his bike first and scramble to the line ahead of Prokop for the second spot.
The men's final saw further crash action. Wichman took the lead, and appeared to be well in control, ahead of Rinderknecht and Slavik as he entered the rock garden. However, he hit the bottom of the rock garden front wheel first, somersaulting over the bars. Even worse, his bike shot sideways across the course, behind Rinderknecht but in front of his teammate Slavik, taking the world champion out as well.
Rinderknecht easily cruised in for the win, followed by a disbelieving Graf, while the two RSP riders slowly picked themselves up and limped across the line. "It feels amazing, to win here," said Rinderknecht. "My last win, last year in Val di Sole [Italy], was totally different. I won qualifying, and went into the race as one of the favourites.
"This time, I had a bad crash in practice and hurt my foot pretty bad, so I took it easy in qualifying and only qualified sixteenth. I really didn't know what to expect. I tried to black it out, the pain, and not think about it. But it worked out. Joost got a little bit unlucky at the end with a crash when he was leading, but luck was on my side this time. I'm really stoked."
Despite finishing fifth, Graves still leads the men's standings, with 175 points, followed by Rinderknecht and Graf tied at 150, and Prokop a further 10 points back.
This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.