Race Report & Photo Gallery: 4X ProTour - Round 4 - Jablonec, Czech Republic
Catch up on all the goings on from the 4th round of the 4X ProTour...
Well what a night we have just experienced here in Jablonec at JBC Bikepark in Czech Republic. Thousands of spectators turned up to watch an awesome display by the worlds top 4X riders as they raced on Tomas Slavik's brand new track. It still astonishes us what see what these riders are able to do on hardtail mountain bikes. Although having said that, a few DH riders turned up on DH bikes to try and beat the hardtails.
For weeks now, this track has been promoted as the 4X track that will show the world how modern day 4X looks. With live web coverage for both qualifying and the race, the stage was set for an amazing weekend of racing that will go down in history.
Riders arrived on Thursday to take their first look at the track. Everyone was in awe of what Tomas Slavik had built. Huge start ramp, massive pro line doubles, a wooded section with huge roots and tree stumps, rhythm sections, rock gardens and a wall ride. Berms, off cambers, whoop sections and road gaps. This track had it all. Only the best would win.
Practice started and understandably riders were taking it easy, learning the track and finding their feet. With speeds up to 50 mph in places and jumps of 52 feet, this track demanded respect as the riders worked it out.
On Friday there was a second practice session before qualifying. It was fantastic to see most of the men jumping the pro line. It was huge and pretty damn scary stuff, but everyone was stepping up to the plate. Qualifying started and as with all ProTour races the women went before the men and all riders went in reverse order from ProTour rankings.
In the women's, it looked like a straight up battle between Celine Gros and Katy Curd. Celine had a perfect run, probably her best of the year so far and took the hot seat. Katy came down but could not do enough to beat her. Celine took qualifying by 0.5 seconds.
In the men's, Jakub Riha set the early pace at 45 seconds. This time held for most of the qualifying session until the big guns came down. First Felix Beckeman and then Quentin Derbier were able to go faster. Scott Beaumont was on a flyer until the penultimate turn where he slid out and almost did a 360 through the whoops. It was just down to Tomas Slavik. The crowds were going wild. He nailed a perfect lap and took the fastest time - 1.5 seconds quicker than anyone.
Onto race day. The crowds turned up in their thousands. At an estimate there were 7,000 passionate Czech 4X fans all with air horns, flags and whistles. There was a true party atmosphere and this was going to be a fantastic night of action.
The first 2 rounds saw plenty of drama and some great passes. None could compare to Michal Marossi though. In the move of the night, whilst in third, Marossi passed both riders in front of him by going around the top of both of them on the wall ride. It was crazy, insane, calculated and brave - all at the same time! If you haven't already seen the video footage of the move then you can catch it here.
In the quarter finals the drama began to unfold. Scott Beaumont, who is sat third in the overall standings was first to be knocked out. With an outside gate choice after his qualifying crash, he got squeezed in the first turn and did not qualify to the semi finals. Quentin Derbier who is fourth in the overall, crashed out in the whoops whilst Marossi, Mysik, Michael Mechura and Stefan Dolfin also went out.
In semi final 1, it was Slavik, Hynek Strouha - riding a DH bike!, Jakub Rhia and Lucas Mechura. Slavik got the snap and checked out. The crowd were going wild for the action in second though. All three riders had a shot, but in an amazing move, Strouha snatched second place and a spot in the final!! This track was showing that 4X hardtails and DH bikes could compete on the same track in the right circumstances.
In semi final 2, Felix Beckeman, Joost Wichman, Simon Waldberger and Jiri Penc lined up. Beckeman got the snap and was closely followed by Wichman. It was awesome to see Waldberger and Penc in the semi finals but on this occasion, they were knocked out and did not make the finals.
In the women's, Sarah Gerlach rode awesome all day and did enough to win the small final to give her fifth positioning, the final spot on the podium. In the main final, Gros took lane one, Curd in two, Fruhwirth in three and Borschig in four. The gate dropped and it was a drag race between Curd and Gros to turn one. Curd got the edge and took the lead. All four riders were close down the second straight, but the downhill histories of the leaders showed as Curd and Gros pulled away. Across the finish line and Curd took her fourth win from four in the 2013 season head of Gros and Fruhwirth. This win was enough for Katy Curd to take the overall series win with a race to spare! Congratulations Katy from all at 4X Protour. You have been the queen of 4X in 2013 and thoroughly deserve the crown.
In the men's, Lucas Mechura just about did enough to take the win in the small final and claim fifth for the day and the final podium spot. Next up, it was the main final. Would Slavik win, could a DH bike win? The gate dropped and it was Slavik. Beckeman was in second, closely followed by Wichman. Strouha was really going for it but found himself in fourth for the whole run. Wichman was really close to Beckeman but across the line it was Slavik from Beckeman and Wichman. Like in the women's, this win was enough for Slavik to be crowned 2013 4X ProTour champion. If Katy is the queen, then Tomas has very much been the king of 4X this year.
After huge podium celebrations, the masters of dirt guys took control and the after party began. With Fuel Girls blowing fire, dj's and thousands of happy Czech fans, this race was the perfect showcase for 4X ProTour, the sport of 4X and all the riders.
Thanks to the worlds mtb media who supported this event and the live webcasts, the fans in Jablonec, the riders, the sponsors for this race and most of all Tomas Slavik and his crew for working tirelessly on this project and helping to show the world that 4X is amazing.
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