After finishing second to rival Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo) at the most recent round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Windham, New York, World Cup overall leader Julien Absalon (BMC) has his sights firmly set on the overall World Cup title. One round remains in Meribel, France on August 23-24.
"It will be nice to finish the World Cup season in France," said Absalon to Cyclingnews. "Now I have 170 points for my lead, so I just need to finish a certain place. I don't know exactly which one, but it's never finished because anything can happen."
Absalon has been battling Schurter all season although Schurter did not compete in all of the World Cups because he took a break to do some road races for Orica GreenEdge. Schurter is now number two in the World Cup standings.
Finishing second to Schurter at Windham was ok with Absalon since the French rider is more focused on the overall win than taking any particular World Cup victory. "For sure the World Cup overall was on my mind," said Absalon," so I thought it was better not to take risks. If I had crashed or gotten a flat tire, that would have been a bad situation for the overall. A crash would have been a disaster, and I knew second position would still be good for the overall."
The French national champion was climbing consistently better than Schurter while the Swiss rider was descending faster. Each lap, Absalon would have to make up the gap Schurter had gotten on the descent on the subsequent climb. The difference was due in part to Absalon racing a hardtail mountain bike and in part due to the course and how it suited him.
"It was the way it was because I like this kind of climb, but I don't like this kind of descent," he said.
When asked if he might consider switching to a full suspension so he could go faster on the downhills, more like Schurter, Absalon said, "For sure, next year I will! I have always ridden a hardtail, but after Meribel, I will explore the full suspension. On this track for next year and in Nove Mesto, it's important to have the option to race the full suspension."
It's not uncommon for established successful racers to be reluctant to change their equipment set-up, and Absalon, who has won more mountain bike World Cups than any other man, was slow, relative to his competition, to switch away from the 26in wheel size to either the 29in or 27.5in wheels that are now more popular.
The former French world champion realizes that he may need to make some adjustments to his racing style if he changes bikes.
"I know my way of pedalling is not that good for a dually because I'm always standing up on the pedals. That's why I was really fast on the climb here in Windham."
Absalon made the trip to North America for both the Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebe and Windham, New York World Cup rounds despite it being just a few days after the birth of his second son. After finishing in Windham, he was looking forward to heading home.
"He was just six days old when I left. I missed him a lot. Yes, it gave me extra motivation, but it was hard to leave the house with my second boy so young. It was important for me to do a good race so that I wasn't leaving my family for nothing."