Two-time Olympic champion Julien Absalon will begin racing this season during the second Superprestigio Massi round in Banyoles, Spain, on Sunday. For Absalon, the race will be more like training as he prepares for his season's goals: the World Cup and the World Championships.
"I'm ready. I want this mountain bike season to begin," said Absalon. "But Banyoles isn't one of my goals; it's only training for the first round of the World Cup. I'll race in a few events like this one in March, just to check my form."
The first high priority date on his calendar is the April 25-26 weekend with the World Cup in Offenburg, Germany. "The first three rounds in Offenburg (Germany), Houffalize (Belgium), and Madrid (Spain) are all-important for the rest of the season. I want to be in perfect shape for them."
Absalon describes the Banyoles course as fast with its short climbs and twists. "It's more like a cyclo-cross course. It's tough. There's no way to catch your breath. It's a good way to get ready for bigger challenges."
Absalon's Orbea teammates, Iñaki Lejarreta and Rubén Ruzafa, raced last weekend to third and fifth places at the opening Superprestigio Massi round in Avilés. They will join him again this weekend.
"Iñaki and Rubén are highly motivated this year. They also have the World Cup in mind," said Absalon of his teammates. "They want to be among the top ten cyclists, and I think they'll make it."
Other favorites expected for the men's race on Sunday include Ivan Alvarez Gutierrez, Diego Rosa, José Antonio Hermida, Jean Christophe Peraud and Cédric Ravanel. In the women's race, all eyes will be on Marga Fullana to repeat her win from last weekend's round in Avilés.