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By Rob Jones
The second round of the 4X World Cup in Andorra was a bit of a slow speed affair, after rain in the morning undid some of the work the organizers had done to repair the ruts and soft spots from earlier in the week.
Despite that, there was some exciting racing on a course that allowed riders to pass multiple times, and saw more than one come from behind win in the qualifying heats.
Dan Atherton (Animal Commencal) learned from his quarterfinal loss to world champion Brian Lopes (Ibis Oakley), and shut the door on the American to take the men’s title, while Anneke Beerten (MS-Intense) showed that she is the leading woman in 4X this year by taking her second consecutive World Cup win, and sweeping all three rides on the way to victory.
“It was a challenging course to race,” commented Beerten “with big ruts that could throw you off your line. It was all about a good snap out of the gate and pedal, pedal, pedal. It worked out very well for me.”
Beerten’s teammate Mio Suemasa took second, with Fionn Griffiths (Norco) third. The top American rider was Melissa Buhl (KHS) in eighth.
None of the four finalists in the men’s race had a clean sweep through to the final. Atherton and Lopes traded wins in the semifinals, while Guido Tschugg (Fusion) was second in both his eighth and quarterfinal. Tschugg’s third in the Final gives him the World Cup series lead.
“In the semis, Brian and I had a battle to the first turn, and he overtook me,” explained Atherton. “So, for the final I was ready and managed to get to that turn in the lead, which made the difference. After that, I tried to relax and just hold my line. I think the biggest difference here is that after having really bad gates in Maribori I spent the past two weeks practicing just that.”
Lopes, who says that Andorra is his final 4X World Cup of the season, agreed with Atherton’s analysis of the final.
“I actually had a pretty good start in the final, but was over in lane 4. Lane 1 [where Atherton was], was the best by far, but it wasn’t just that; Dan was riding good.”
“I got a bit ahead of him before the corner, but I didn’t have the bike length I needed. After that, it wasn’t much of a race, because there weren’t the places to pass, and just one line to jump the jumps. So I just rode smooth and avoided mistakes to take second.”
Cedric Gracia (Commencal Oakley) was clearly the crowd favorite, as the locally-based pro, and took some aggressive chances to make to the final, including the move of the night in the quarterfinals, when he jumped a triple after the third turn to go from last to first in his heat. In the semifinal he tried it again, but it failed, and he was relegated to the consolation round, to eventually finish sixth overall.
1 Dan Atherton (GBr) Animal Commencal
2 Brian Lopes (USA) Ibis/Oakley
3 Guido Tschugg (Ger) Fusion
4 Rastislav Pirman (Svk) 4 Elements Yeti/Hotec/RSP
1 Anneke Beerten (Ned) MS-Intense Factory-Racing
2 Mio Suemasa (Jpn) MS-Intense Factory-Racing
3 Fionn Griffiths (GBr) Norco World Team
4 Anita Molcik (Aut) 4 Elements Yeti/Hotec/RSP