Get ready for the UCI Mountain Bike Eliminator World Championships in Barcelona!
This Sunday, October 2, the City Mountainbike season is ending on a very high note: the 2022 UCI Mountain Bike Eliminator World Championships in Barcelona, Spain. Who will follow in the footsteps of defending UCI World Champions Gaia Tormena and Simon Gegenheimer?
Barcelona is no newcomer in the City Mountainbike scene. The Spanish metropole has been welcoming the UCI World Cup since 2019, offering the eliminator stars an impressive stage setting and spectacular track. Just like the past editions, the race will take place in front of the impressive Montjuïc National Palace, on the flanks of the majestic Montjuïc hill. The race track will be similar to last years’ one, but the spectacular obstacles have been renewed, and an additional corner between the iconic stairs climb and the finish has been added to add even more tension to the action-packed racing!
While the official training on the race track will be starting Sunday from 14:00 CEST, the hunt for the 2022 UCI world titles kicks off with the qualifying time-trials from 14:35. The heats are starting at 15:30. Live streaming on the City Mountainbike YouTube and Facebook channels, and our numerous media partners, starts at 16:00 CEST, from the quarter finals!
Who can beat Gaia Tormena?
In the women’s category, Italian star and defending UCI World Champion Gaia Tormena is the sky-high favorite, after dominating this season’s UCI World Cup. Tormena won the overall and six of the eight UCI World Cup rounds she started in, after crashing in the other two races.
The crashes in Abu Dhabi and the Grande Finale in Winterberg left their marks, however. “After some days off, the injuries weren’t hurting anymore. But mentally, I had some difficult days”, Tormena reveals. “Crashing in Winterberg, so close before the UCI World Championships, was difficult to manage. At first, I was afraid that it would happen again in Barcelona. But in the meantime, my mental state has changed: I have no more stress. I can’t wait to be in Barcelona and race. I have been thinking about this UCI World Championships for a long time.”
Tormena is a two-time UCI World Champion, winning the iconic rainbow stripes in Waregem 2019 and Graz 2021. After coming millimetres short in Leuven 2020, the 20-year-old calls last year’s UCI world title the most beautiful to date: “The second title felt even better than the first one. In 2019, I was still ‘little Gaia’. I didn’t realise what it meant to be a UCI World Champion. Last year in Austria, I was able to realise what it is to wear the rainbow shirt. And I’m able to control the pressure that comes with it – or with any other shirt. Of course, I’d like to prolong my UCI world title. But if it doesn’t work out, I can still be very happy about my season, taking the overall UCI World Cup win.”
With German talent Marion Fromberger, second of the 2022 UCI World Cup overall, out of racing because of some bad injuries, the French squad seems to bring the strongest competition for Tormena to Barcelona: 2020 UCI World Champion Isaure Medde, rising talent Noemie Garnier and Coline Clauzure, the 2019 UCI World Champion. After two difficult seasons, Clauzure proved she’s back on her best level two weeks ago, winning the final UCI World Cup round in Winterberg.
“Winning in Winterberg showed me I’m back to a very good level”, Clauzure says. “After not competing for one season because of injury, it gives me a bit of confidence for the future. I’ve made progression throughout the season. I have been training well, I am back to my pre-injury level and I have regained my self-confidence, so the lights are green to go to this UCI World Championships. We’ll see what the result there will be, may the best rider win. I hope to finish in style, but Gaia really is strong: she has all the necessary qualities to dominate in XCE. She is exceptional.”
Two more contenders to look out for are Marcela Lima and Didi de Vries, the numbers 3 and 4 of the 2022 UCI World Cup. After winning this season’s opening race in Abu Dhabi, Lima is excited to represent Brazil in her first ever UCI World Championships: “It is a big opportunity for me. I’ll love to race in the Brazilian shirt, representing my country.”
“I was excited to be third on the overall podium of the UCI World Cup, after racing my first full eliminator season. It really made me a better athlete, and a person. In the beginning of the year, I came to Europe as a girl. But after Barcelona, I’ll go home as a woman. But first the UCI World Championships: I know it will be hard, but I’ll go for it!”
Another title for Mustache Man?
Also in the men’s category, defending UCI World Champion and 2022 overall UCI World Cup winner Simon Gegenheimer from Germany is the biggest favorite to take the 2022 UCI World Championships’ title home. Being one of the top riders since the birth of eliminator racing, ‘Mustache Man’ managed to deliver his breakthrough season at the age of 33, after conquering his first UCI World Championships’ title in Graz 2021. This year, he won half of the rounds of the 2022 UCI World Cup, often showing a dominant racing style.
“I was so much looking forward to finally race a season in the rainbow stripes. And it turned out to be so special. So awesome”, Gegenheimer looks back. “My big goal was to win at least one UCI World Cup race in this jersey. It made me a bit nervous after some bad luck, but luckily, then I managed to win in Leuven. Since then, everything went well. I wanted to wear the shirt with pride. Honour it. And I think I did. Racing in the UCI World Champion’s shirt always makes you the favorite: it gives more pressure, but it also motivated me and gave me more self-confidence. If you can win the biggest race of the season, you can win them all.”
However, after such a strong season, Gegenheimer is still hungry for more: “To have a perfect season, I’ll also have to go and win the rainbow stripes again. Knowing that I won it before helps me a lot. A hundred people can tell me that I’m able to take the UCI World Championship’s title, but now I also can tell it to myself. It would be hard to lose the rainbow shirt: until today, it almost gives me goose bumps wearing it. It still feels special, every day. But if someone shows to be stronger than me on Sunday, and takes the shirt after a fair race, I will accept it.”
The list of contenders aiming to take the rainbow shirt off Gegenheimer’s strong shoulders seems long. But the most important one – once again – is Titouan Perrin-Ganier from France, four-time UCI World Champion and second-place-finisher in the overall of this year’s UCI World Cup. After what he calls a ‘frustrating season’, Perrin-Ganier aims to add another world title to his rich palmares.
“I have been at a very high level of performance, all season”, ‘Titou’ says. “I have been very regular, but very often I have missed a little something: half a wheel to turn all my second places into a victory. And I don’t train to be second… so it’s frustrating! But for me, THE race of the year is coming up now. You can miss all your races, have a bad season, but if you are the UCI World Champion, your season will be great. I like to put all my energy in one moment, and I have prepared very hard mentally and physically to raise my level on Sunday October 2.”
The battle in the men’s category promises to be very tight: next to Gegenheimer and Perrin-Ganier, there’s quite some dark horses that can dream of gold in Barcelona. Felix Klausmann (GER) and Quentin Schrotzenberger (FRA) have taken their first ever victories in the UCI World Cup this season, while Jakob Klemencic from Slovenia rode to the European title. But don’t forget about Jeroen van Eck, who never lost any race in Barcelona before. After a concussion earlier this season, the Dutchman seems ready to play his role in the 2022 UCI World Championships.
“I hit my head in May, during training”, daddy-to-be Van Eck says. “Because of the concussion I had a lot of troubles, so we handled it very carefully. I’m happy I did, because I have no more complaints now. I have only been training seriously for five weeks now, but I’ll have to do with it. It was nice to get back to racing in Paris and Winterberg, and I’m really glad I can still do a big championship after my injury. I think many people will take me into account for Barcelona, and I also think I have a chance. But I have to be realistic: I have never lost in Barcelona, but that gives me no guarantees at all.”