Two first time UCI World Champions were crowned in Val di Sole, Italy, on Friday at the UCI Four-cross World Championships presented by Mercedes-Benz, at first mountain bike world titles awarded for 2018. The Czech Republic and France took the women's and men's titles, respectively. Val di Sole - the Sole Valley - in Trentino, the northeastern region of Italy, played host to the four-cross (4X) Championships for the fourth consecutive year.
The 4X track at Val di Sole is one of only a few permanent tracks in the world, and was created for the 2008 UCI World Championships. At 600 metres, the track is the longest on the 4X Pro Tour circuit, and one of the most challenging courses in the world. Racing took place at night under lights before thousands of fans. After the top eight women and top 32 men qualified for the Championship competition in timed runs on Thursday, they raced in heats of four, with the top two from each heat moving to the next round, until there were only four left to compete for the UCI rainbow jersey.
The women's competition was guaranteed to see a new UCI World Champion crowned, with four-time winner Caroline Buchanan of Australia not racing. The favourite going in was last year's silver medalist, Romana Labounkova of the Czech Republic, who is undefeated this season in Pro Tour competition, and she did not disappoint, qualifying first and easily winning the title. Natasha Bradley of Great Britain, the second fastest qualifier, took silver and Raphaela Richter of Germany bronze.
The men's competition also saw the 2017 silver medalist move up to the top step of the podium, with Quentin Derbier of France winning the title. Tomas Slavik of the Czech Republic, a two time former UCI World Champion [2010, 2014] and the fastest qualifier, took second, with Mikulas Nevrkla of the Czech Republic finishing third.