Fast-paced action at the 2019 UCI Mountain Bike Eliminator World Championships, in Waregem, Belgium, on 15 August, saw the crowning of a new Women’s UCI World Champion from Italy, and a successful defence of his title for last year’s Men’s winner from France.
Rising Italian star Gaia Tormena won her first World title, beating two of the favourite French riders in Thursday evening’s final. Meanwhile, the Men Elite winner was a hugely popular defending UCI World Champion Titouan Perrin-Ganier, who clinched his third consecutive rainbow jersey.
Women: teenagers take top two spots
Gaia Tormena – reigning European Champion, Italian Champion, and leader of the UCI Eliminator World Cup rankings, had qualified with the fourth fastest run behind Sweden’s Ella Holmegård, the Netherlands’ Didi de Vries and France’s Laurie Vezie.
Amongst the other pre-event favourites Germany’s Marion Fromberger qualified fifth, Spain’s Magdalena Duran Garcia sixth, Norwegian Anna Stray Rongve was 10th fastest, Ukraine’s Iryna Popova 11th and Coline Clauzure of France in 12th – putting the 2018 UCI World Champion into Heat 2 with Tormena and Fromberger.
This time it was Fromberger who lost out, with 17-year-old Tormena setting a scorching pace to take the heat from Clauzure, and join the Netherlands’ Larissa Hartog and Germany’s Clara Brehm in semi-final 1. Semi-final 2 saw the Czech Republic’s Barbora Průdková and France’s Léa Houyvet line up against her two compatriots Isaure Medde and Vezie after their progression from Heat 4 that saw heartbreak for Magdalena Duran Garcia.
It was Tormena, Clauzure, Medde and Průdková who earned their places in the Big Final and put on a blisteringly fast show in a very close contest. The Italian won in an incredibly quick time of 2:09.48 but she was pushed every millimetre of the way by another teenage sensation,19-year-old Medde, who took the silver medal. With 1.35sec separating the four riders, it was last year’s gold medalist Clauzure taking bronze with 23-year-old Průdková narrowly missing out this time.
Men: photo finish to decide the winner
Titouan Perrin-Ganier – French and former European Champion – had also qualified fourth fastest, 1.59 seconds behind the Netherlands’ Jeffrey Hoogland, Frenchman Lorenzo Serres, and Swedish Under-23 Champion Joel Burman. Hugo Briatta (FRA), second in last year’s UCI MTB Eliminator World Championship and currently leading the UCI MTB Eliminator World Cup, qualified seventh, with the on-form German Felix Klausmann in 11th.
After successfully navigating the 1/8th finals and quarter-finals, eight men lined up for the two semis. In semi-final 1, 28-year-old Perrin-Ganier and the Netherlands’ Lehvi Braam edged out Hoogland and local favourite Fabrice Mels.
Joining them in the Final were semi-final 2’s winner Briatta and Burman who were separated by one hundredth of a second! With only 0.8sec between all four riders it was tough for both Klausmanm and Serres to accept their places in the Small Final – the 21-year-old Frenchman being denied three consecutive UCI World Championships podiums. The Small Final was another incredibly close and entertaining contest to watch, and the crowd was happy to see Belgium’s Mels taking fifth from Serres by 0.2sec.
The Final served up another superbly close race between highly competitive riders. The photo finish revealed Perrin-Ganier the winner by six hundredths of a second from his countryman Briatta, with the young Swede Burman a close third from the 24-year-old Dutchman Braam.
The quick course in Waregem – mixing man-made and natural surfaces including tarmac, single-track and obstacles – was the perfect venue for the talented riders to put on such an exciting show.