Switzerland has been good to Jaroslav Kulhavy. After winning the junior cross country world championship title in Lugano in 2003, he rode to his first-ever elite cross country world title in Champery last weekend. The success capped off a perfect season for Kulhavy, who also won the overall World Cup just a few weeks ago.
"It's an incredible season for me, the best season in my life," said Kulhavy.
The Czech rider has taken over the dominant spot in the elite men's field this season, and he was only beaten twice at the World Cups - once by the sport's most recent dominant rider Julien Absalon and once by Nino Schurter.
Kulhavy sat next to Absalon at the post-Worlds presscon. The Frenchman had won a bronze medal. "It's like what Julien did. I hope I will be the best like him," said Kulhavy. "My future is just beginning. I think the Olympics will be a good race for me. I hope to get a medal."
Absalon is a two-time Olympic mountain bike champion.
Despite winning the World Cup and being called the favorite by all his rivals going into the world championships, Kulhavy stayed cool beforehand.
"I didn't feel pressure going into the race because my season had been so good. I was very satisfied already before this race."
All season, Kulhavy has ridden a 29er from his trade team sponsor Specialized. He's been a fixture on a full suspension rig while his rivals switched back and forth from hardtail to full suspsension based on each course.
"I think the 29er bike was the best option for this course because it was so fast in the technical sections," said Kulhavy. "I think it was fast on the flat sections, too. Maybe in the corners it was a little slower, but that's just one minor problem."
It wasn't enough of a problem to keep Kulhavy from winning against those of his rivals who chose the 26" option.
During the race, Kulhavy appeared more fatigued than usual in the first half, but he came on strong in the last two laps to attack his last remaining challenger, Schurter. In 2003, Kulhavy had also battled Schurter for gold.
"In the beginning, the race was hard for me because Nino was really strong," said Kulhavy. "I was dead then. But during the race, I felt better and better which was good."
"I attacked Nino after the hill because I felt strong on the flat sections. I kept it up and then had 10 seconds, 20 seconds, and it was good for me even though I made a lot of mistakes on the last downhill."