Round five of the 4-Cross Nissan UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Maribor, Slovenia saw some of the most aggressive and exciting racing of the year, under the most adverse conditions. World Cup leader Jared Graves (Yeti Fox Shox) easily held onto his leader's jersey, but his winning streak was broken, with Joost Wichman (ESP) proving that his win in round three was no fluke.
Heavy rain and thunderstorms overnight and in the morning had caused the cancellation of Downhill qualifying (the gondolas had to be shut down), and left the 4-Cross track a muddy, slippery mess. Almost all riders resorted to spiked tires, and there were still crashes in every round of competition.
The men's competition had few surprises in the first two rounds, with all the favourites moving through with the exception of Michael Deldycke, who crashed hard in the first round, and has potentially broken his collarbone.
The action really began to heat up in the quarterfinals, with the first two races as stacked as a Final. Graves, Wichman, Johannes Fischbach (Ghost ATG) and Guido Tschugg (Ghost ATG) were all capable of winning in the first heat, and the action was fast and rough. Graves got off to his patented fast start, only to be passed by Wichman and then run into by a hard charging Tschugg. Tschugg crashed out, while Graves had to fight back to take second and move on to the semifinal round.
In the second heat, it was former world champion Michal Prokop (Red Bull), Dan Atherton (Animal Commencal) and world champion Rafael Alvarez de Lara Lucas (Specialized Factory Racing) fighting to move on. Prokop took the lead, but Atherton and Alvarez fought all the way to the line, with much pushing and shoving in the corners before Atherton finally managed to prevail.
The action continued in the semi final round, with Graves up against Wichman again, joined by Prokop and Atherton. After a fast start by Graves, his right foot slipped off his pedal before the first corner, knocking the series leader back to last while Wichman shot into the lead. Graves put on an incredible display of handling and finesse in the mud by catching first Prokop and then Atherton within 200 metres to move into second and make the Final.
In the other semifinal, Roger Rinderknecht (GT Bicycles) made it look easy with his fourth straight win, while Romain Saladini (Team Sunn) had to come from behind to beat a surprisingly strong Tomas Slavik (Czech Republic) and make the Final. Slavik easily took the men's small final for the fifth podium spot.
In the Final, Graves again got the holeshot out of the gate onto the first straightaway, but Wichman made a gutsy move in the second corner to slip through on the outside, forcing Graves to brake and drop to third behind Saladini. In the fourth corner, Graves managed to get back into second while Rinderknecht moved into third, but Wichman was long gone and celebrating his second win of the season.
"I feel great, to get this win!," exclaimed Wichman right after his run. "I had a bad lane [lane 4], but I was able to get by Roger [Rinderknecht] in the first corner, and then I knew my only chance was to try going high-low for the lead, and it worked."
The win moved Wichman into second in the overall standings, but still 194 points behind Graves' 520 total after five rounds. While the Australia is starting to look unbeatable for the title, the battle for second is very strong, with Rinderknecht only 16 points behind Wichman, and Saladini another 10 points in arrears.
|1||Joost Wichman (Ned)|
|2||Jared Graves (Aus) Yeti Fox Shox Factory Race Team|
|3||Roger Rinderknecht (Sui) GT Bicycles|
|4||Romain Saladini (Fra) Team Sunn|
|5||Tomas Slavik (Cze)|
|6||Dan Atherton (GBr) Animal Commencal|
|7||Matej Vitko (Svk)|
|8||Michal Prokop (Cze)|
|9||Rafael Alvarez De Lara Lucas (Esp) Specialized Factory Racing|
|10||Johannes Fischbach (Ger) Ghost A.T.G. Pro Team|
|11||Filip Polc (Svk) MS Evil Racing|
|12||Brook Macdonald (NZl) Ancillotti Doganaccia Racing Team|
|13||Guido Tschugg (Ger) Ghost A.T.G. Pro Team|
|14||Quentin Derbier (Fra)|
|15||Will Longden (GBr)|
|16||Arne Tschugg (Ger)|
|17||Jurg Meijer (Ned)|
|18||Scott Beaumont (GBr) Rocky Mountain Uk|
|19||Matej Stapic (Slo)|
|20||Michal Marosi (Cze)|
|21||Patrick Campbell-Jenner (GBr)|
|22||LukaLuka Novak (Slo)|
|23||Scott Roberts (GBr)|
|24||Ghislain Ricci (Fra)|
|25||Kamil Tatarkovic (Cze)|
|26||Joey Van Veghel (Ned)|
|27||Marek Pesko (Svk)|
|28||Petrik Brückner (Ger)|
|29||Javier Guijarro Villacieros (Esp) XMS-Devinci World Cup Team|
|30||William Evans (GBr)|
|31||Stefan Scherz (Ger)|
|32||Felix Beckeman (Swe)|
|33||Pascal Seydoux (Sui)|
|34||Tilen Frank (Slo)|
|35||Lewis Lacey (GBr) Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense|
|36||Sascha Meyenborg (Ger)|
|37||Peter Prajczer (Hun)|
|38||Bernard Kerr (GBr)|
|39||Piotr Paradowski (Pol)|
|40||Wyn Masters (NZl) Ancillotti Doganaccia Racing Team|
|41||Adrian Kiener (Sui)|
|42||Ziga Knez (Slo)|
|43||Florian Gottschlich (Ger)|
|44||David Axelsson (Swe)|
|45||Jakub Pytlik (Cze)|
|46||Robert Simecek (Cze)|
|47||Sidney Gerber (Sui)|
|48||Lukas Mechura (Cze) Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense|
|49||Jan Novak (Cze)|
|50||Dominik Gspan (Sui)|
|51||Hannes Slavik (Aut)|
|52||Rastislav Pirman (Svk)|
|53||Radim Kvacek (Cze)|
|54||Tom Dowie (GBr)|
|55||Jakub Hnidak (Cze)|
|56||Adrian Weiss (Sui) Scott 11|
|57||Lukas Jaeger (Sui)|
|58||Andreas Dotzauer (Ger)|
|59||Adam Stasek (Cze) Ghost A.T.G. Pro Team|
|60||Jakub Riha (Cze)|
|61||Daniel Auerswald (Ger)|
|DNF||Mickael Deldycke (Fra)|
|DNF||Kieran Mcavoy (GBr)|
|DSQ||Thomas Krainer (Aut)|