By Steve Medcroft
Marga Fullana (Spain) and Julien Absalon (France) were crowned European Mountain Bike Champions last Sunday in Chies d'Alpago, Italy. Runner-up to defending European Champion Jean-Christoph Péraud (France) in 2005, Athens Olympic Gold medalist and reigning world champion Absalon held off Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) and Ralph Naef (Switzerland) by 28 and 36 seconds respectively to claim his European championship jersey.
Fullana managed to upset the seemingly unbeatable Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa (Norway) on her way to victory, proving that the most dominant female mountain biker in recent history is vulnerable to a strong and determined competitor. The victory also represents a return to top form for Fullana, who earned a silver medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney but struggled to reach the same peak in seasons since.
Fullana says that she managed to slip ahead of Dahle-Flesjaa in the climbing sections of the course. Dahle-Flesjaa was unable to make up the gaps on the descents an Fullana eventually won with a 1:31 advantage over the reigning world champion. "I dedicate this win to all those that have continued believing in me," she said on her Web site. "I have demonstrated that I am still here, that I am totally recovered and confident that I can return to the top of the podium in all the races that I compete."
Sabine Spitz (Germany), finished third.
For complete results from the Elite European Championships, click here.