When it comes to the Cross Country Eliminator Aussie Paul Van Der Ploeg is a natural. Oh and a World Champion. However with a recent shoulder surgery and not a single XCE race since Pietermartizburg last year, the odds were against him.
The weather was no picnic either, the heavens opened up and the rains poured down. From the start line there was about 3 metres of hard wooden boards and then the real fight for traction began. There simply was not a 100% chance to lay down power bar the finish straight, it was all about picking your chances and staying upright.
It was a Swedish affair in the Elite Womens XCE final with Alexandra Engen giving no quarter leading virtually from start to finish of the race to bring home first. Jenny Rissveds had a solid battle with Jolanda Neff but eventually drew ahead to finish second with Neff third after Stirnemann crashed out early in pursuit. Em Parkes the only Aussie female to make it through into the finals stage finished in 11th.
The ANZAC spirit lived on in the final of the Elite Mens XCE final with Samuel Gaze a relatively unknown Kiwi putting the block on euros Federspiel and Lindgren out of the gate. Gaze putting the meters on Van Der Ploeg in earnest, even throwing in a subtle tweak over a jump in the second straight. By the climb the gap had closed once again but as the descent came Gaze parted ways utilising the drop to create a gap with those behind charging his way to the line. Slamming his fists down in triumph, he took his first XCE World Cup win with Federspiel over taking Van Der Ploeg in dying metres to steal second. Van Der Ploeg cruised over the line for third with Lindgren out of sight in fourth.
Words : Robert Conroy Photos : Tim Bardsley – Smith