Lopes, Kintner Win World Champs

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In a replay of the 2005 world championships, Oakley’s Brian Lopes (San Clemente, Calif./GT) and Jill Kintner (Seattle, Wash./GT) illustrated the strength of American gravity racing as they each collected their third-career world 4-Cross title on Friday at the 2007 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships. Their performances, along with a third-place effort from Melissa Buhl (Chandler, Ariz./KHS), brought the U.S. medal count to four.

After qualifying third on Thursday, Lopes, the world 4-Cross champion in 2002 and 2005, as well as the Dual world champion in 2001, rode a flawless final against top-seeded Romain Saladini (FRA), Roger Rinderknecht (SUI) and Jurg Meijer (NED) to earn the title.

As the only American to advance past the 1/8 finals of the men’s event, Lopes was nearly eliminated in the semifinals after a bad start but recovered to place second in the heat and advance to the final four. In the final, Lopes was the fastest out of the gate before Rinderknecht and Meijer tangled and crashed, effectively making it a two-man race against Saladini for the title.

Throughout the first two rounds, Lopes was clearly one of the strongest riders in the field before his close call.

“Leading up to the semifinals I had pretty good gates and led pretty much from start to finish in each round,” Lopes explained. “Unfortunately in my semi I came out of my pedal on the second stroke straightaway, and when that happens you pretty much fall off the pace real quick. I was pretty bummed out as soon as it happened, but I got my foot back in, grabbed a gear and just started pedaling. Thank God they added a little bit of length to the course because if it was a 20-second course it wouldn’t have played out too well for me."

With defending champion and second-seeded Michal Prokop (CZE) eliminated after a crash in the 1/8 finals, only the top-seeded Saladini remained a credible threat to Lopes in the final compared to the seventh-seeded Rinderknecht and the 20th-seeded Meijer.

“As soon as you hear something like that, it definitely makes your bracket a little bit easier,” said Lopes of the defending gold medalist’s early exit. "At some point, maybe in the semis, I would have met up with Michal and not having him in there makes it a little bit easier, for sure.”

Kintner, the world champion in 2005 and 2006, defeated Anneke Beerten (NED), Buhl and Jana Horakova (CZE) to earn her third consecutive rainbow jersey.

With just 16 women qualified through from Thursday’s time trial, the top-four seeds all advanced to the final. Like Lopes in the men’s contest, Kintner looked unbeatable all evening and jumped out to an early lead once the gate dropped. Almost immediately after the start, Buhl and the top-seeded Horakova crashed, leaving Kintner to hold off only Beerten for the win. Of the two downed riders, Buhl was the quickest to recover before descending down the course to claim the bronze medal.

Results:

Elite Men’s 4-Cross

  1. Brian Lopes (OAKLEY)
  2. Romaine Saladini
  3. Jurg Meijer

Elite Women’s 4-Cross

  1. Jill Kintner (OAKLEY)
  2. Anneke Beerten (OAKLEY)
  3. Melissa Buhl