Former world and Olympic champion Julien Absalon (France) raced to an impressive sixth place finish at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on Saturday afternoon despite having three broken ribs from crashes sustained while training in the few days leading up to the championships.
"I had two crashes," Absalon told Cyclingnews. "One on Tuesday when I broke one rib on one side and then again two days ago, I has another crash, a really big one, and I broke two other ribs on the other side."
He also rolled up one leg of his shorts and showed off a mess of physio tape on his outer thigh - more crash damage.
"My physio did a very good job. I was totally dead two days ago. It was a big challenge to get on my bike - I was happy to be on the start today. It was a challenge to ride, and it was hard during the race."
The pain was excruciating, but Absalon kept going.
"It was really hard to breathe. When I was breathing deeply, it was like someone was sticking a knife in my side. It was my hardest day," he said.
But the determined Frenchman said, "By mid-race, I said, 'Ok, I have big pain, but if I pull out now, I've started for nothing', so I pushed hard and finished sixth which is not a bad race in this condition."