By Luke Webber in Madrid, Spain
In Madrid last weekend, Julien Absalon captured his third World Cup in succession - all in three consecutive weeks. The Frenchman finished in 2:12:30 and beat Spaniard José Antonio Hermida by 12 seconds and compatriot Jean-Christophe Peraud by 52 seconds.
His win was far more of a challenge than in either Houffalize, Belgium, or Offenburg, Germany, thanks to a fast course. A lead group split and reformed during the early laps. In the initial stages, American Todd Wells even led it out - his first experience and one he will not forget.
At one point, the lead group consisted of 20-30 riders, but as some made attempts at getting away, Absalon was aware that this move would not be successful. "With groups so big, never would one man or even a pair be able to ride to the win. It would be impossible," the savvy winner said after the race.
Absalon ended up duelling with José Antonio Hermida by the end. The latter's wheel washed out on the descent just as Absalon made a decisive attack that would stick until the end of the race. "On the steep climb, I knew I had the speed over Jose, so I entered the descent first and attacked hard in the final two kilometres," said Absalon. "Once you had a small gap, there was not enough time in the closing stages to make it back."
Commenting on the race after brief stint at the front, Wells said, "The course in Madrid hasn't changed much since the first time I raced here back in 2002. It's fast with short one-minute climbs, super hard pack with ball bearing type pebbles on top which make for slick corners. There are also tons of spectators packed on the course's six main climbs. Last weekend in Offenburg the race was only 35kmsthis weekend we did about 56kms, so that gives you an idea of how fast this course is."
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the elite men's World Cup race in Madrid.