On a hot day in southern Germany, well over 200 mountain bikers lined up for the 2017 XCM World Championships in Singen. With two jerseys to race for, the stacked fields in Singen would mean a lot of competition. Add in a blisteringly fast course – and it would be close too.
Marathon strong man Alban Lakata took his third career title after an exciting sprint finish against title defender Tiago Ferreira (Por) and Daniel Geismayr (Aut). There was also sprint for thewomen’s rainbow jersey: Annika Langvad owns two World titles after winning the spring, while behind her Sabine Spitz and Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa took their eightth marathon worlds medal, both with silver and bronze.
How it all played out in Singen
As expected, it came up to a tactical race. Until km 60 of 98 there was nine men in the leading group with most of the favourites. But when title defender Ferreira and Lakata pushed hard on a short climb, as they did more or less the whole race, the group split.
It was Mathieu van der Poel and also Daniel Geismayr, who could follow.
But for Mathieu van der Poel the game started to become difficult at the longest climb.
He lost contact and two kilometres before the finish he was caught by Kulhavy and Rohrbach.
The trio sprinted for fourth position. The front group had already been in for 2:42 minutes at the finish, celebrating their medals.
“We were surprised to loose Mathieu, even never showed himself at the front. When we were three, we did not attack anymore. We were working together, pushing hard, but were careful in the downhills”, Lakata explained.
So it came up to a sprint finish. Geismayr calls himself “no sprinter” and had no really chance, even he stayed very close. Lakata took the lead some hundred metres before the finish and took it from the front.
To celebrate both, his third world champions title and his 38th birthday. “Three times world champion, that’s a dream. Today I will celebrate hard, that’s for sure. I knew, when I am racing completely focused, I can take it”, said Lakata.
Tiago Ferreira was not unhappy to be beaten by only one second. “My plan was to go fast, because that’s the better for me. So I was trying to go full gaz and it payed off, because the group splitted”, the Portuguese told. “I am very happy about the silver medal.”
Daniel Geismayr: “Of course you think about the jersey, when it’s so close. I am not good sprinter, I knew, it will difficult to beat them in a sprint finish. But I have a medal and that was always a dream, I am happy.”
Langvad crashes and comes back in Singen
The story of the women’s race was a bit the same as the one of the men. Title defender Jolanda Neff (Sui), Annika Langvad, Sabine Spitz and Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa showed the strongest performance in the climbs and finally after 60 of 80 kilometers the quartett was left alone at the front.
When it came to a longer singletrack section, it was Jolanda Neff, who wanted to be the first. Same for Annika Langvad. The Dane slipped through. But 20 metres later she made a mistake and crashed.
So Neff passed, Spitz also and Dahle-Flesjaa was stopped by Langvad, who tried to get back on the course.
“In my opinion this was not really fair”, Dahle-Flesjaa complained. Langvad was able to catch back to Neff and Spitz, but not Dahle-Flesjaa.
At the last climb short climb, with 6 kilometer to go, Langvad and Spitz put some seconds between themselves and Neff with Dahle-Flesjaa 20 seconds behind.
Neff tried to come back, but was not able to.
It came to a sprint finish between Spitz and Langvad. “500 metres to go, Annika accelerated. I catched her back wheel, but I was not able to pass anymore”, Sabine Spitz described the decisive situation.
“I am really happy with my performance. I couldn’t have done better. Two years ago at the Europeans, I won the sprint finish, now I lost it. That’s racing”, Spitz told.
Annika Langvad: “I knew, it would be a tactical race and after my crash I had to push really hard to get back. I am really happy with this win. It’s a huge bonus after I finished my studies a short time ago. I enjoy everything so much, it’s unbelievable.”
For the bronze medal it was Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa, who surprised Jolanda Neff a few hundred metres before the finish. The Swiss had no eyes on the Norwegian, who showed a big moral.
“Annika blocked me, that was not fair. Jolanda and Sabine were gone”, Dahle-Flesjaa complained about the situation, which took her the chance to fight for the jersey.
“I have to be happy about the bronze medal, but normally we would have came in with four.”
About the fight for bronze she commented: “I saw Jolanda very stiff and knew about my chance. A medal is a medal at the worlds, so I am happy.”