Many riders are making the lengthy trip to the island of Borneo for the Mountain Bike Eliminator World Championships. Amongst the competitors are multiple national champions, former continental champions and former world champions.
As much as the fellow competitors are your rivals, so is the heat, with temperatures of up to 40 degrees centigrade in the sun predicted. Now imagine racing with a two-minute all-out effort and your only respite once you’ve finished racing, is to get on the rollers and do active recovery. Endurance and the ability to sustain the multiple efforts will be just as vital as out-and-out speed.
The course which will be raced over two laps, features two “wall rides” from the beginning, which saw many crashes last year, with racers looking for any line they could take to get the advantage over their competitors. Then it’s on to a section involving jumps and what can be best described as “lumpy-bumpy” bits of extreme cobblestones, logs and rocks. Not the hardest of obstacles but at speed these could cause issues to anyone. Then it’s a tight hairpin before the last 50 metres to the line.
Now on to the competitors. The current women's world champion is Gaia Tormena (Italy), who is also the European champion and won the World Cup. She’s definitely the favourite, however she didn’t race this course last year and at Sakarya in the World Cup round, when the racers were in close quarters, she did come a cropper. Scroll down to the bottom of this article for her thoughts ahead of the race.
Her main rival this year has been Marion Fromberger (Germany), who unlike Tormena did race in Indonesia last year. She won there despite strong opposition from Asian riders, who don’t do many races in the Euro-centric World Cup rounds.
Also very much in contention will be Annemoon van Dienst (Netherlands), Marcela Lima Matos (Brazil) and Didi de Vries (Netherlands) - who has had to contend with an unfortunate injury earlier in the year. Hear more about her preparation in this interview:
Furthermore, and rather unusually for the women, because there are 31 entrants, the racers will have to contend with an extra round. Organisers have opted to hold the extra round rather than eliminating nearly half the field from the time trial. It will be interesting to see who copes best with the extra race in their legs by the end of the competition.
In the men’s field, as always it’s completely stacked and you could put any four names from the start-sheet into the Big Final and it would be just as realistic as whatever the race eventually decides.
Titouan Perrin-Ganier (France), however, has been on a tear this year, regularly making finals in what is a difficult sport to remain consistent in. He has also completed all there is to complete in XCE: in his career, he has won Worlds, European and French championships, as well as the French Cup, and this year he’s ticked off World Cup from his to-do list of achievements. He has nothing left to prove, but that could be freeing and allow him to race unburdened by pressure.
His teammates Simon Gegenheimer (Germany) and Dan Noyola (Mexico) have been strong this year, but so has Sondre Rokke (Norway) who has made a sudden emergence into the scene. On continental weekend, Ede Molnar (Romania) won the Euros and is clearly very strong. Equally, Bin Lukman (Singapore) was third in the Asian championships and has been racing strongly. Furthermore, he won’t have travelled as far to reach Borneo and could theoretically be better equipped to cope with the heat.
If you want a refresher on what Eliminator is all about, head to my previous article.
If this has whet your appetite for the World Championships, you can watch them live on YouTube on Sunday morning at 9am GMT.
Check out the YouTube channel for more interviews, including this one with Hungarian rider Attila Gerely.
And finally, the thoughts of reigning World Champion Gaia Tormena...
How has the season been?
It has been a very long and hard season. I started racing on the road back in February and I’ll end the season with the XCE World Championship on Sunday. I’ve had to face many obstacles during the spring but then in July I found myself again and I rebuilt my self confidence. It wasn’t my best season ever but we learn from bad times as well and I think that now that I faced them I’m a better athlete and a better person.
How did you find XCE as a sport?
I did my first XCE race in 2015. I was already racing XCO for a long time but never an Eliminator. It was my first year as an U15. It was the Italian championship and it was in Courmayeur (Aosta Valley, Italy) quite close to where I live. My sport director registered me almost without telling me anything, I accepted and I finished fourth racing with the U17 girls.
What skills are important for an XCE rider?
The strength, the power, the technical skills and the endurance as well because the heats are quite short but one of the main secret of eliminator racing is the recovery between the races.
What are your ambitions for Worlds?
My main goal is to reach the final and come back home with a medal. I’ll give my all as always to reach the best possible result for me, my family, my teams and all my sponsors.
What is one fact about you that you wish other people knew?
When I was a child I tried tens of different sports but the mountain bike has always been there. After the school day I just wanted to go out riding and doing wheelies. I was always on the ground and I was always laughing instead of crying. That’s how I realized that it was my biggest passion and I couldn’t live without it.