UCI Mountain Bike Eliminator World Championships: double celebration for France

Isaure Medde and Titouan Perrin-Ganier are the 2020 UCI World Champions for mountain bike Eliminator (XCE).

In a thrilling edition of the UCI Mountain Bike Eliminator World Championships in Leuven (Belgium) on Sunday, the two French athletes claimed victory: Isaure Medde for the first time in her career, and Perrin-Ganier for the fourth consecutive year.

After her fifth place (winner of the small final) at the European Championships mid-October, Isaure Medde wrote on Facebook: “the watts were there, but unfortunately, and I know it, I lack experience on this type of course.”

Just over a week later, the 20-year-old, who was runner-up last year and also races cross-country Olympic (XCO), has won the UCI Mountain Bike Eliminator World Championships, ousting defending UCI World Champion Italy’s Gaia Tormena. Although just 18 years old, Tormenahas dominated the specialty over the last two years: she was crowned European Champion on 16 October and won the only round of the UCI Mountain Bike Eliminator World Cup held this year, in Waregem (Belgium).

After qualifying through the quarter-finals and semi-finals, Medde and Tormena lined up in the final against two Dutch athletes Didi de Vries and Fem van Empel. Medde had a strong start and immediately took the lead with Tormena close on her heels. The Italian overtook on the inside during an early turn and led for the rest of the two-lap race. But in the straight to the finish, Medde launched a blistering sprint and the pair threw their bikes across the line together. They waited arm in arm for some long minutes as the officials studied the photo finish.

Medde could hardly believe her ears when finally declared UCI World Champion: “I really gave it my all today,” she said. “After my season of XCO, I hesitated about whether to come. But I enjoyed it. In the last straight I felt wings growing!”

Van Empel and De Vries finished respectively third and fourth, while Margaux Borrelly (France) won the small final for fifth place, the best result of her career.

The men’s competiton was marked by the early elimination of one of the favourites, Dutchman Jeroen van Eck, second at the recent European Championships and winner of the UCI World Cup in Waregem. Meanwhile 2019 overall UCI World Cup winner Hugo Briatta (FRA) was absent due to injury.

After the quarter-finals and semi-finals, the four-rider final was disputed by defending UCI World Champion Perrin-Ganier (also UCI World Champion in 2017 and 2018), fellow Frenchman and fastest qualifier Lorenzo Serres, three-time medalist (bronze in 2015 and silver in 2016 and 2017) Simon Gegenheimer (GER), and Sweden’s Anton Olstam.

Gegenheimer made the most of a bad start from the reigning UCI World Champion to take an early lead. While believing that the long-awaited World title might finally be his, he saw Perrin-Ganier overtake and was unable to haul him back.

“I have never been this close to the World title,” said the disappointed silver-medalist. “I’m happy with a medal but when you are in the final and you lead for half of the race, you want to win,” said Gegenheimer.

Meanwhile Perrin-Ganier, victorious once again, explained: “I messed up my start because my back wheel slipped. I didn’t want to make an effort (to overtake) too early but when I saw Simon checking to the left, I overtook on the right.

“I am happy to win in front of a big champion like Simon.”

The emotional UCI World Champion stressed the importance of his family in his life, citing the support of his parents, his wife and his baby girl.

Third place went to Olstam, and Serres finished fourth. Another Frenchman, Mathis Azzaro, won the small final to take fifth place.

Full results