Julien Absalon won his first cross country mountain bike World Cup while racing in BMC team colors this past weekend in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, Canada. It was also his first World Cup victory in over a year. The victory was both a relief and a confidence builder ahead of the world championships at the end of this month in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
"This is a good sign. I'm reassured about my fitness," said Absalon to L'Equipe after his victory. "I have two weeks to work before I leave for South Africa. The best preparation for Worlds is to win."
The Frenchman switched teams during the off-season. He came close to winning the World Cup opener in Albstadt, but a mechanical cost him the victory. He was close again twice more, with the pressure to win getting bigger with each passing World Cup round.
"I finally arrived, and with style. It started to weigh me not get the win, and I wanted to give it to BMC," said Absalon. "I was a little frustrated. But I could see that the pace was there. Looking toward a win at the World Championships three weeks, the timing is perfect ..."
Winning in Mont-Sainte-Anne was special for Absalon. He reminded Redbull.tv immediately after finishing that it was where he got his start winning big races. Fifteen years prior, he won the junior world championship race at Mont-Sainte-Anne.
When asked about his number one rival, Nino Schurter (Scott Swisspower), Absalon acknowledged to L'Equipe the challenges of racing the Swiss star. "I can make it difficult for him. He is almost unbeatable in sprints between 10 and 15 seconds. If I can extend my effort beyond this, he cracks. On short climbs, it is no secret, he is more explosive than me."
On paper, the Pietermaritzburg course may seem better suited to Schurter, but Absalon is optimistic. "I'll have to use the first long climb to get away," he said before noting that it's not just Schurter he has to watch but also other riders. "Look at last year, no one saw Jaroslav Kulhavy all year and then he won the Olympics."
Absalon's contract with BMC runs through 2014. Switching teams was a refreshing change for French National Champion, who expects to make a decision by next spring as to whether he will retire or continue racing.
"At one time, I considered stopping my career in 2012, at 32. Today, I do not know. Rio? Maybe. I'll have to see how the winter goes - it's always a difficult time. The early season work is often the most difficult. If I decide to keep racing, it will be for the adventure of Rio." The Olympic Games will be held in Rio in 2016.