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Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the 2009 International Cycling Union (UCI) Mountain Bike World Championships, from Australia's sunny capital Canberra. We'll bring you the Elite Men's Olympic Cross Country from 2 PM AEST.
After some patchy weather early yesterday the skies have cleared for today’s racing, although riders will face a light, chilly breeze over the next few hours of racing.
The elite men will take on seven laps of the 6.2 kilometre course today, two more than the women's race run earlier in the day.
The race is about to get underway, the riders have been called up and are just waiting for the starter's orders.
Julien Absalon (France) and Geoff Kabush (Canada) are fighting for the lead at the first bend, but the Swiss have a huge presence at the front.
As was the case with the women's race, the peloton is all together on the open road section. This section of the course is only used on the opening lap, which is 6.4 kilometres in length, with the track dropping back to 6.2 kilometres for the remaining six laps.
Florian Vogel (Switzerland) is leading on the single track, the first climb know as cardiac climb.
The race is missing Ralf Naef of Switzerland today. He is a regular at the front of the fast World Cup starts. Naef is sitting out the worlds due to an elbow injury. He stayed home and will concentrate on the final two World Cups coming up in Europe this month.
Geoff Kabush (Canada) is riding in third place behind Julien Absalon (France) and leader Vogel.
Australians will be excited to see Daniel Mcconnell (Australia) sitting in fourth early in the first lap. Maybe the home track advantage helped him get off to such a good start.
Cyclo-cross legened Sven Nys (Belgium) has enjoyed a good start, placing himself inside the top 10.
Nino Schurter (Switzerland) is sitting in fourth place, right on Kabush's wheel.
It's become normal to see a Swiss rider at the front of a World Cup or World Championship race. It's just a question of which one. This time it's Florian Vogel. Vogel was second last year at the worlds in Italy. In 2007, in Fort William at the worlds, he was third. He'd love to have a gold medal to complete his collection.
Of course, that won't be easy. He's racing Julien Absalon, who has won every year since 2004 except for last year, when Christoph Sauser won the title.
Marco Aurelio Fontana (Italy) is sitting in fifth place and is sitting in on the leaders as the track widens on a descent.
Bas Peters (Netherlands) went over the handle bars hard back in the field, nearly taking down Chris Jongewaard (Australia) on the blind drop.
Samuel Schultz (United States Of America) is riding a 29er in today's race. Earlier his compatriot Willow Koerber took the women's bronze medal also on a 29er.
We have a lead group of eight riders halfway through the first lap. The racing isn't too quick, with each rider playing their own tactical battle.
The two Swiss men in the lead group - Florian Vogel and Nino Schurter - have teamed up and are setting the lead group's pace, putting some pressure on those behind. Schurter is racing his first year with the elites after winning the Under 23 world championship.
Stéphane Tempier (France) is working hard to stay in the front group, hoping to be of assistance to team leader Absalon.
Geoff Kabush is the Canadian National Cross Country Champion and a Cyclingnews diarist. Last year, he was 16th at the worlds. Kabush is riding in a Swiss sandwich: Vogel on one side and Schurter on the other.
Geoff Kabush has crossed the line first, with the two Swiss riders on his wheel.
One Swiss rider we haven't picked out yet is Christoph Sauser, defending world champion, and yes, also a Cyclingnews diarist. Thanks to the timing of the 2008 and 2009 worlds, Sauser has had extra time in his rainbow jersey. Last year, the worlds were in June, since the Olympics were in August.
The top 12 riders have all crossed the line within six seconds of one another.
The 12 leaders have grouped together to drive the pace hard on the way back up towards the climb.
The men pass the feed zone twice each lap, so they have plenty of chances to refuel en route - though it's so early in the race, that it's too soon for most of them to feed. And the pace is so high, it would be difficult to eat or drink much.
Christoph Sauser (Switzerland), the defending champion, finished the first lap in 14th position.
Japanese rider Ken Onodera (Japan) has a flat. He's nowhere near the tech zone, so that may be the end of his race.
Former world champion José Antonio Hermida Ramos (Spain) is also in the lead group. He was looking relaxed, soaking up some sun while listening to his iPod on a deck chair prior to the race.
Sven Nys (Belgium) has done well to secure a place in the lead group. The cyclo-crosser is a strong starter, but today's race will be nearly twice as long as a cyclo-cross event. With that said, he has shown he can go the distance before - including at the Olympic Games last year - but can he stay with the likes of Absalon?
Frenchman Julien Absalon is a smart rider. You'll see him always near the front, but often one or two riders back. He knows how important it is to be up front far enough to save energy and not suffer the accordian effect, but he often will wait and time his surge so he doesn't go out too fast too soon.
If you want to contact the commentators at any point today, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Swiss duo Florian Vogel and Nino Schurter are with Frenchman Absalon at the front of the peloton, with the others from the lead group dropping back slightly
Emil Lindgren (Sweden) is also hanging on to the front group, with the original 12 now splitting down in to three groups.
Nys and Kabush have dropped off the lead group. That doesn't mean their day is over, though. There's still about an hour and a half of racing to go.
Julien Absalon is the French national champion. He won the title during national championship weekend in late July. Finishing behind him was Jean Christoph Peraud, who also medalled at the Olympic games last summer and won the French national time trial championships (on the road!) this summer. Peraud was the first rider to cross the line after the leaders on the last lap in 13th place..
The man whose been sitting steadily at the back of the lead group is Emil Lindgren of Sweden. Emil's had a long season - he was racing well back in February and March at the Cyprus Sunshine Cup.
Geoff Kabush has caught back on to the lead group as the riders cross the line for the third lap. He bridged across to the group with Sven Nys (Belgium).
José Antonio Hermida Ramos (Spain) has also moved up over the last lap, sitting in seventh place at the end of lap two.
Roel Paulissen (Belgium) lost a place on the last lap, dropping back to 11th place. He crossed the line 18 second behind the lead group which now includes six riders.
Lindgren, who is still part of the lead group, was part of the now defunct Felt International MTB Team. The team faced financial woes and ended in the first half of the season.
Julien Absalon (France) has taken the lead on the single track for the first time as the leaders take on the cardiac climb for the third time.
Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) should start to move up the field over the coming laps. The rider isn't known for his starting abilitiy, but he's still in contention to defend his title.
We wonder if Roel Paulissen (Belgium) might be feeling a little tired. Two weekends ago, he successfully defended his marathon world championship title in Graz, Austria.
José Antonio Hermida Ramos (Spain) has tagged on to the front group, just as Absalon and the Swiss duo bro free to form a new lead group of three. The Swiss are sticking tight to Absalon, knowing he's the man to watch today.
Milan Spesny (Czech Republic) just took an interesting ride down one of the drops. The rider lost balance and went down the drop as if he were cornering on a motorcycle, with the knee down and all.
Evgeniy Pechenin (Russian Federation) wasn't as lucky...the rider going over the handle bars hard.
José Antonio Hermida Ramos (Spain) is close to bridging across to the three leaders, with the second group still not too far behind.
Geoff Kabush (Canada) is doing all he can to stay with the leaders. The rider, who recently claimed a World Cup win, is sticking close to Hermida's wheel.
[7:51:01 AM] Sue George: Absalon has to be wondering how much the two Swiss leaders will work together to work him over. Last year at worlds, two Swiss riders dominated at the front; however, Absalon had pulled out of the race and didn't factor in the mix.
Florian Vogel (Switzerland) has put the hammer down at the front, forcing the pace to increase as Hermida rides in to third placce behind Absalon.
There's two clear groups at the front now. The first is led by Schurter with Absalon, Hermida Ramos and Vogel. The second is slightly more spread out, with Nys, Fontana, and Kabush coming in around 10 seconds behind.
Maybe Hermida and Absalon will end up working together against the Swiss. The Frenchman and the Spaniard must know each other well after so many years of racing all the same big events.
Absalon is doing a great job of always being in second place. We've seen both Swiss riders and now Hermida take turns at the front. Second is a perfect place to be. Close enough to the front to respond to any effort from the leader and not far enough back to fall prey to team tactics or rider bobbles that create gaps.
Lindgren, who was originally in the lead group, had a mechanical on the last lap and has dropped down to 21st as a result, one position ahead of Chris Jongewaard, the top Australian, who is one place ahead of American Adam Craig.
Todd Wells is the top USA rider in the race at the moment. Wells was in 12th place, around 50 seconds down when he last crossed the start/finish line.
Absalon has let himself sit in third with two Swiss riders in front of him. That's a bit risky, but maybe he thinks its too early for them to play games with him in the singletrack. Or perhaps he's having some trouble.
Course conditions today are very dry. Traction looks pretty good, and these pros are having no trouble riding up and down the technical stuff. When everyone was bunched up at hte start of the first lap, there was quite a cloud of dust, but with everyone all spread out, it's not an issue any more.
Geoff Kabush (Canada) has pushed ahead of Sven Nys (Belgium) but the pair are still struggling to make any time on the leaders.
Julien Absalon (France) has decided to test the waters again, passing the Swiss duo he had been trailing. He's pulled out several bike lengths on the descent, but it's yet to be seen whether this will be the Frenchman's key move.
Absalon tried to pull out a margin through the feed zone, half race distance, which put pressure on Hermida, who was starting to fall off the back. But he's sat up again, so clearly the Frenchman was just testing the waters again.
Kabush has moved awa from Nys, who is riding with Italian Fontana at the moment.
Hermida has come to the front of the lead group for the first time. He's upped the pace, forcing Absalon to follow, leaving the Swissmen at the back.
There aren't many trees on the course - due to the horrific bush fires in 2003 that claimed much of the Canberra region's forest - so it makes it easier for us to see the racers from afar. It also means its easier for them to see each other.
Hermida has eased off through the feed zone, allowing the four riders to come back together.
Hermida has crossed the line at the front of the four leaders, we're just waiting to see how far back Kabush is.
Kabush is riding mostly on his own now in fifth place, 20 seconds behind the leaders. Nys is behind him a further seven seconds behind. Both are drinking as they pass through the finish.
Todd Wells (USA) has crossed the line in eighth place, that's a good gain of four places for the rider.
Julien Absalon (France) is staying at the front of the leaders, he clearly wants to enter the single track first as he did on lap three.
Sauser is riding in 10th. He's been having a tough season. On the road, we often talk about the "curse of the rainbow jersey". Maybe it also applies to mountain biking, too!
Adam Craig hasn't made much headway on the last lap. He's sitting back in 21st ahead of another North American Max Plaxton.
The top Australian is still Jongewaard, who has movd up five places to 17th.
Absalon has made the most of his lead on the single track, he's started putting time on Hermida and the two Swiss riders.
Todd Well is riding well today. He had a tough US national championships this summer. He was racing in a two-man break with Jeremy Horgan Kobelski when on the final lap, Wells lost an important crank bolt requiring a size 10 allen wrench (which of course he didn't have with him). His crank fell off and that was the end of his national championship bid.
Absalon is making his move, pulling out more and more time on the three chasers. Schurter is the main chaser at the moment, with Fogel and Hermida both dropping back.
Absalon is riding a hard tail as are what seems to be a majority of the top pro men. Irina Kalentieva won the women's race earlier today - on a hard tail.
Only Schurter was able to close back up to Absalon. Vogel must be toasted after setting a blistering early-race pace. He does look to be pedalling less smoothly. He's with Hermida now.
The Schurter vs Absalon battle is classic. Swiss vs French - two of the powerhouse mountain bike nationals do battle.
Today's worlds course isn't only a stone's throw from the home town of Australian Formula One ace Mark Webber, it also has a bit of motorsport heritage itself. Not only has Stromlo forest played host to the Rally of Canberra on many occasions, the ‘Canberra Bridge’ riders pass under today, and riders will go over in tomorrow’s downhill race, use to be the pedestrian bridge at the former V8 Supercar race held around Old Parliament House.
Schurter's ride is impressive. Just last year he was racing as an Under 23, and he won the world championship title in that category. The rest of the year, however, he was racing the big boys in the elite race.
Absalon led his Swiss rival over the finish line to start the penultimate line. The duo were an entire straight ahead of Hermida and the second Swiss rider who they managed to shake during the previous lap.
Fontana, Peraud, Nys and Wells are all riding together, with Cedric Ravenel 45 seconds behind the leaders. That's a powerful group.
It's interesting how well Peraud is doing. He has really moved up in the last few laps. Those time trial skills come in handy in lengthy mountain bike races.
Schurter has taken the lead over Absalon heading in to cardiac climb. This was the site of Absalon's successful attack on the previous lap, but he seems to be finding it a lot more challenging this time around.
Despite being so young, up against one of the sport's legends, this shows Schurter is willing to take it to the Frenchman. No doubt Absalon will be able to stay with him, but that's definately a mental victory for Schurter.
There's no question that Nys will be starting the cyclo-cross season in good shape since he's keeping up with most of the world's best mountain bikers in eighth position.
Interestingly, the lap times of Burry Stander on lap four in yesterday's U23 men's race was actually quicker than the equivalent lap in the elite men's race today.
Kabush has continued to lose time on the leaders - Absalon and Schurter - but he's maintained a similar margin to Vogel and Hermida. He could catch the two contending for bronze, but he'll need to get a second wind to catch then match Hermida.
Schurter is clearly in his element. "I like this circuit very much and for me it is an advantage. The first half is technically challenging with many tight turns and requires with two drops a little courage. The second part is then fairly quickly in sandy soil with lots of banked turns. You have to be a complete driver being a factor front and center on this track!" he said on the Scott website before the race.
Schurter, who is leading, and Vogel, who is riding in third, are not only Swiss team-mates at worlds, but they are trade team-mates too - on Scott Swisspower.
Speaking of second wind, Vogel has moved ahead of Hermida. He's only a bike length or two ahead, but it's encouraging to see given he was looking ready to drop out the rear half a lap earlier.
Absalon and Schurter are shoulder to shoulder. They're clearly trying to be first in to the single track.
15 of the 75 starters have either been pulled from the race or pulled out so far.
Hermida has taken back the bronze medal position on the final section of single track.
Schurter was Under 23 world champion in 2006 and 2008. He finished second in 2007 and third in 2005. Guess who beat Schurter in 2007? Jakob Fuglsang - now better known as a roadie racing Grand Tours!
The gap between the first pair and the second pair is almost identical to what it was the last time through - about 20 seconds. Kabush is in no man's land on his own in fifth.
Within 15 minutes, we'll know the identity of our 2009 world champion.
Absalon has the lead on cardiac climb. He hasn't made a decisive move yet, which some might have expected.
The Frenchman will probably wait for the second single track to make his move. As with the women's race, who leads in to that final single track could prove key in the final outcome.
Absalon is probably the most consistent male pro on the circuit, but Schurter is applying the pressure today. We don't usually have sprint finishes to end the worlds, so it's hard to know who is the better sprinter should it come down to the very end.
Usually when Absalon wins, he does it solo, not with a sprint.
The two leaders are flying. They are going so fast - there's no time for mistakes. Any mistake now could cost the world title.
On this descent, it's like Absalon has a shadow named Schurter. The Swissman wants this to end in a sprint, where he knows he'll have the upper hand.
Nino Schurter (Switzerland) has pushed ahead of Absalon, he wants to be first in that final single track.
That sends the message that he's feeling good - active and willing to be aggressive.
Absalon fought hard in the final metres before the single track to get past, but the Swissman predicted the move and held him off.
Nino Schurter's (Switzerland) effort here this afternoon is impressive. He's shown the tactical ability of a world champion, he'll soon find out (as will we) if he gets the title to go with it.
Absalon is standing up more often than Schurter. In the women's race, we noticed Lene Byberg (who finished second), who also stood more than eventual winner Irina Kalentieva.
This has been a great race - the two are in a man-to-man battle down to the very end of the last lap.
Absalon does not seem to be responding as well as we might expect to Schurter. In fact, it's a little surprising to be writing that sentence. Usually, other riders are responding to Absalon.
The pace is picking up and Schurter is starting to pull away from Absalon.
The gap is only small, but the mental blows keep on rolling Absalon's way.
Schurter has the advantage on the final straight.
He's done it, skidding his bike across the line, Schurter has toppled Absalon.
There's a sprint fir bronze too.
Vogel takes the bronze medal over Hermida, who will settle for fourth.
There were some concerns the Swiss riders might burn out early due to their earlier efforts, but they rode like clockwork. Instead, gold and bronze for the nation.
Kabush takes fifth place while Ravanel crosses the line doing skid-marks in sixth place.
Peraud has taken seventh with Wells maintaining his eighth position and is the top USA rider.
Czech rider Jaroslav Kulhavy has taken ninth place ahead of defending champions Sauser who rounded out the top 10.
Fontana was 11th, followed by Tempier, Martin Gujan and Nys ending the race in 14th place. Australian champion Chris Jongewaard rounded out the top 15.
That's it from us at Cyclingnews folks. Thank you for joining us in the city of round-abouts for this year's World Championships. Our coverage will continue tomorrow with the downhill events and don't forget to check back for full report, results and images of today's men's race.