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MTB world champ Absalon aims for 2006 World Cup

For Olympic cross-country mountain bike champion Julien Absalon (Bianchi-Agos), his second consecutive world championship victory in Livigno on Sunday was no walkover. "At first, I tried to keep the strongest opponents under control," Absalon said, recounting his race in a team statement. "In the second lap, I did my best to stay in the front."

But then the Olympic champion hit difficulties. "I noticed my wheel looked a bit flat at the first filling-up point, but I didn't realise I had had a puncture. When I got to the big climb, the wheel was almost completely flat. I lost time: on that occasion I was 'helped' by [Christoph] Sauser's puncture. For a while, I was afraid I might lose, especially when I fell in the stream."

But the French rider held it together with the help of some pre-race reconnaissance. "Fortunately, I tested the route before the race and got used to the altitude," he said. That experience helped him stay away for the rest of the race, to take his second rainbow jersey.

Absalon now has his sights set on next year's World Cup title. "Last year I wanted to win the Olympic Games and I got also the World Championships. This year I was aiming at the World jersey and I got it. Next year I could fight for winning the World Cup."

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