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Olympic Games 2012: Olympic Men's Mountain Bike Race

Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the men's mountain bike race on this final day of the Olympic Games.  The men will start at 1:30 pm local time and race for about 1.5 hours.

Today's men's mountain bike race is the final cycling event of the 2012 Olympic Games.  The women raced yesterday, and Julie Bresset (France), Sabine Spitz (Germany) and Georgia Gould (USA) are going home with medals.  Check out our full race coverage. www.cyclingnews.com/2012-olympic-games/olympic-womens-mountain-bike-race/results

It looks like another beautiful day for mountain bike racing at Hadleigh Park.  The sun is shining and the crowds are out in force again as the men are called up one by one to the start line.

Julien Absalon (France) won the gold medal in both 2004 in Athens and 2008 in Beijing.  He is back on the start line today and will be trying to go for #3 in a row.  Whether or not he is the favorite is tough to say.  You could probably flip a coin between him and Nino Schurter (Switzerland), who just won the World Cup and has been consistently fast all season.  Of course, there are a handful of other contenders that could surprise today.  This season, the men's cross country racing has been very exciting, with lots of different faces on the World Cup podium.

You can't count out riders like world champion Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech).  He hasn't been dominant this year, but is known to put in some huge rides to crush his competition.

And they're off!

Nino Schurter gets the hole shot.  We've seen him go straight to the front in many races. 

Despite the chaos of the start, it seems to be a clean one.  There are only 50 men on the line instead of the up to 200 men we often have a World Cup start.

It is a little strange seeing all the guys in their national kits instead of their trade team kits.

Nino Schurter is still leading the train.  He is followed immediately by Manuel Fumic (Germany), a proven fast starter.  Swiss rider Florian Vogel, another good starter, is right behind him.

We've just spotted Americans Todd Wells and Sam Schultz passing by, near each other.

Jaroslav Kulhavy has moved up into third place, just behind Nino Schurter and Manuel Fumic.

We spotted Julien Absalon just outside the top 5.  We're looking to see if he's still there.

Marek Konwa (Poland) is putting in a good ride, up with the top riders.

We've spotted Julien Absalon in eighth place.

Another rider up there toward the front of the long train of riders strung out on the singletrack is Marco Fontana (Italy), He is another man we might see on the podium today.

Jaroslav Kulhavy has fired up the diesel engine and is at the front through a downhill rock garden.  The men are absolutely flying over this, so fast they go by almost in a blur.

Nino Schurter takes back over at the front.  Everyone wants to be up there setting the pace and staying out of possible trouble.  If you are at the front, no one can mess up in front of you.

It's Nino Schurter, Jaroslav Kulhavy, Marco Fontana and Manuel Fumic, then Florian Vogel and Marek Konwa in that order at 10 minutes into the race.

Julien Absalon is pretty far back.  He is getting passed by several riders on a climb and by his body language, he does not look so good.

Nino Schurter leads Jaroslav Kulhavy and Marco Fontana.  They have a slight gap of a few seconds on the rest.

Not far behind is Jose Antonio Hermida (Spain).  The 2012 world champion is working his way up.  Hermida is one of the most entertaining riders in the peloton, and you can't count him out for a medal today.  He's also one of the most experienced riders.  He won silver in 2004 in Athens.

Burry Stander is riding in 11th place.  Geoff Kabush looks like top North American in 15th.

Sam Schultz and Todd Wells are riding in 18th and 19th.

Julien Absalon (France) is back in 27th place.  Looks like no medal for him today.

The three leaders just saw six laps to go and are out on lap two.  Jaroslav Kulhavy leads Nino Schurter and Manuel Fumic through the rocks.  Of course, all three riders take the small gap jump over some rocks.

Jose Hermida is chasing alone in fourth place.  That's a tough place to be on this very open course.  It's nice if you have company when you are chasing guys like the three in front.

The three leaders just saw six laps to go and are out on lap two.  Jaroslav Kulhavy leads Nino Schurter and Marco Fontana through the rocks.  Of course, all three riders take the small gap jump over some rocks.

The three leaders just saw six laps to go and are out on lap two.  Jaroslav Kulhavy leads Nino Schurter and Marco Fontana through the rocks.  Of course, all three riders take the small gap jump over some rocks.

Correction on what we said earlier.  It's Marco Fontana (Italy), not Manuel Fumic (Germany) in the lead trio. Fumic is in the top 10, but a bit further back.

Nino Schurter (Switzerland) and Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech) are the strongest two in the break.  They are trading the leads.  Marco Fontana (Italy) is trying to hang on to them for dear life.

Jose Hermida is in fourth place at 11 seconds.  Burry Stander has moved up and is in fifth place.  We've seen Stander do this before - start a little slower and get faster and faster as the race goes on.

We've just got word that Julien Absalon (France) crashed, which accounts for why he didn't look so well back in 27th place at about 1:19 on the first lap.

Home crowd favorite Liam Killeen (Great Britain) is spotted down and receiving medical attention along side the course.  He finished 7th and 5th at the last two Olympic Games respectively and was hoping for a medal today.

With Nino Schurter on his 650b wheeled hardtail, Jaroslav Kulhavy on his 29er full suspension and Marco Fontana on his 29er hardtail, it just goes to show it's not about about the bike. The fast men are fast on whatever they race.

Marco Fontana (Italy) is having the ride of his life so far.  Fontana has been super motivated for these Olympics.  His weakness has traditionally been not being able to keep up a fast pace after starting too fast, but back in February, he told us he was working on this.  We'll see today how well he has done his homework.

Cyclo-cross star Sven Nys (Belgium) stops briefly to tweak something on his bike, perhaps with his drivetrain. Then he is back underway.

Burry Stander (South Africa) caught up to Jose Hermida (Spain) and the two are working together now to chase the three leaders.  Stander is a former U23 world champion and also happens to be Jaroslav Kulhavy's trade teammate on the Specialized squad.

Five laps to go and they've been averaging 23.1kph.  Whew!  They are about 25 minutes into the race.

Defending Olympic champion Julien Absalon (France) has abandoned the race.

Following our top 5, we have Stephane Tempier (France) in 6th, Alexander Gehbauer (Austria) in 7th, Geoff Kabush (Canada) in 8th, Florian Vogel (Switzerland) in 9th and Rudi van Houts (Netherlands) in 10th.

Todd Wells (USA) is riding well in 14th place, at 46 seconds and as the top American.

Liam Killeen (Great Britain), who we had mentioned earlier as a crash victim, has a suspected broken ankle.  He is out of the race.

On the long switchbacky, open climb, we still have our three leaders in the front and our two chasers at about 10 seconds.

Nino Schurter and Jaroslav Kulhavy continue to exchange leads at the front with Marco Fontana sticking to them like glue.

Burry Stander and Jose Hermida have closed slightly.  Their gap is six seconds.

Poor Julien Absalon is spotted with his backpack riding over to talk to TV cameras.  That's got to be a tough interview for him.  This is probably his last Olympic Games, but he is not retiring yet; he just inked a deal with BMC to race for two more years.  He is leaving the Orbea team.

Nino Schurter is a bit smaller and seems to have more juice in his legs for quick bursts of acceleration.  Jaroslav Kulhavy is more like a diesel, who keeps riding steadily and closing down the slight gaps. 

Last year's (2011's) world championship came down to Nino Schurter vs. Jaroslav Kulhavy.  In Champery, Switzerland, Kulhavy eventually dropped Schurter and rode away to take the win.  But this year, Schurter has been generally stronger than Kulhavy, so it will be interesting to see how today shakes out.

Personally, we wouldn't want to have to sprint Nino Schurter, should it come down to that.  As riders like Julien Absalon and Jose Hermida have found out through personal experience, Schurter is a tough man to outsprint at the end of races.

Jose Hermida and Burry Stander are so close to making contact with the three leaders.

The three in front seem to be easing up a bit and Burry Stander leaps around Jose Hermida to get even closer.

With four laps to go, we have a lead group o f five men: Nino Schurter, Jaroslav Kulhavy, Marco Fontana, Burry Stander and Jose Hermida.

A five-man lead group should make things even more interesting.  Burry Stander has realized he doesn't want to be too far back in that group and has moved up between Nino Schurter and Jaroslav Kulhavy.  Jose Hermida is tucked in behind Marco Fontana.

Going through the start/finish, Stephane Tempier (France) and Alex Gehbauer (Austria) were riding together in 6th and 7th, at 20 seconds off the leaders.  It's a good ride so far for both men.

The third group was made up of Manuel Fumic (Germany), Todd Wells (USA), Florian Vogel (Switzerland), Carlos Coloma (Spain) and Geoff Kabush (Canada).  All were at about 47 seconds.

Excepting Julien Absalon, this lead group contains all of the top favorites we had expected to be in contention for the win.

As the men ride through the feed and tech zone, they grab a quick drink at high speed.  They are nearing the 45-minutes mark, which puts them about halfway through the race.

Other DNFs so far besides Julien Absalon and Liam Killeen include Derek Horton (Guam), Robert Forstemann (Germany), Michael Vingerling (Netherlands) and Sam Bewley (New Zealand).

Burry Stander (South Africa) is at the front with Nino Schurter (Switzerland) just behind him, marking his surge.  Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech) is a little slower to respond, but he does while Marco Fontana (Italy) and Jose Hermida (Spain) try hard to hang on.

They are racing to the top of the hill to be first through the next tech section.  Nino Schurter wins that battle, followed by Jaroslav Kulhavy and Jose Hermida.  Then Marco Fontana and Burry Stander follow.

Burry Stander is slightly off the pace of the leaders after a slight bobble on that climb that gapped him.  They are going so hard, it's easy to make mistakes, even on a relatively simple looking open uphill.

Burry Stander regains contact and is back with the lead group.

They all coast for a minute to regroup physically and mentally as they come through at the end of lap 4.  Three laps to go.

Burry Stander doesn't want to have to repeat his chase effort and goes straight to the front to lead through the next downhill rock garden.

Alex Gehbauer and Stephane Tempier are maintaining their pace perfectly.  They are still right on at 20 seconds off the leaders.

Other top riders include Manuel Fumic in 8th at 40 seconds, Todd Wells in 9th at 45 seconds, Geoff Kabush at 47 seconds.  Sam Schultz is riding in 17th.

Jose Hermida has come off the leaders pace and is getting gapped.

The elastic is also looking a little worn for Marco Fontana.

But they all back off a bit through the feed zone and all five are back together again.

We expect to see continued surges from the strongest in the group as they go over and over again in an attempt to break the spirit and the legs of some of the others in the lead group.

Jaroslav Kulhavy, Nino Schurter and Jose Hermida are all former or current elite world champions.  The only former elite world champion missing from this group today is Julien Absalon.

Top chasers Alex Gehbauer and Stephane Tempier have dropped off the pace a bit.  They are at 37 seconds now and are about to be caught by Manuel Fumic at 40 seconds.  Todd Wells is in 9th at 51 seconds with Carlos Coloma just behind him, then Geoff Kabush at 57 seconds.

Jaroslav Kulhavy sets the pace for a bit before Nino Schurter surges past him to take a turn.  Burry Stander tries to follow, then Marco Fontana, then Jose Hermida.

Marco Fontana overtakes Burry Stander to get right back on Nino Schurter and Jaroslav Kulhavy.

Then all five come back together again going into this next climb.  Burry Stander and Jose Hermida seem to be suffering the most of the lead five at present.

Marco Fontana bumps his front wheel against the rear wheel of Nino Schurter.  The Italian bobbles and has to dab a foot, but doesn't go down.

The mistake has cost Marco Fontana a bit as he has to burn some more matches to close the gap that opened up.  He is almost back up.

That climb had a deleterious effect on Burry Stander and Jose Hermida, who were dropped after Fontana's mistake.

Jarolsav Kulhavy now leads Nino Schurter and Marco Fontana as he heads toward the finish of this lap.   The gap to the other two is significant and they are probably gone for good.

Jaroslav Kulhavy finishes lap 5 and sees two laps to go.  Nino Schurter and Marco Fontana are right behind him.

Burry Stander rolls through alone at 16 seconds.  Then Jose Hermida follows at 25 seconds.  Unless they make an amazing recovery or something happens to the three leaders, their medal chances are over.

Marco Fontana throws in a mini-whip as he goes over the gap jump right behind Jaroslav Kulhavy and Nino  Schurter, who take it straight on.

At the last split, Manuel Fumic was riding in sixth place at 51 seconds.  Then Carlos Coloma (1:02), Alex Gehbauer (1:02) and Stephane Tempier.  So the two chasers Gehbauer and Tempier have run out of gas and are moving backward.

Rudi Van Houts (Netherlands) stops along side the track to deal with a mechanical.

Max Plaxton (Canada) and Sven Nys (Belgium) have abandoned.  So has Andras Parti (Hungary).

At the front, Nino Schurter leads Jaroslav Kulhavy and Marco Fontana.  All three are together take hand-ups as they roll through the feed zone.

Burry Stander and Jose Hermida are back together again.  Both chase at 18 seconds behind the three leaders.

One and a half laps to go...

At the last Olympics in 2008, Julien Absalon won gold, followed by Jean-Christophe Peraud (France) and Nino Schurter (Switzerland).  Schurter is the only man back this time around in medal contention.  Although Peraud can claim to be the only man in today's race who also raced this year's Tour de France. 

As the leaders head toward 1 to go, they will feel the pressure increasing to make a move and get a gap. 

Supposedly, there were something like 20,000 tickets sold to the mountain bike event.  It's pretty cool to think that 20,000 people are watching this mountain bike race in person.

Body language-wise, both Nino Schurter and Jaroslav Kulhavy both still look pretty good.  Schurter is getting his usual small gaps in places while Kulhavy is continuing to power his diesel to close them. Marco Fontana is sitting on them, as he has done all race so far.  There's no pressure on him to take over as the other two are considered bigger favorites and are making each other.

Burry Stander and Jose Hermida continue to chase together but they are not making up ground.  Both are smart enough to know that anything can happen up at the front on the final lap and they could be back in medal contention in no time.

Huge cheers for the three leaders as they roll toward the line, where they'll see 1 lap to go.

The bell is rung.  Schurter leads through the finish at 1:16:47.

With the leaders sitting up slightly, Burry Stander and Jose Hermida have closed back to within 13 seconds.

The three leaders are together with Nino Schurter surging slightly.  Jaroslav Kulhavy chases as usual, then Marco Fontana.

With one to go, the other top 10 were Manuel Fumic (38 sec), Carlos Coloma (41 sec), Geoff Kabush (1:05), Alex Gehbaur (1:10) and Todd Wells (1:30).

At the end of the World Cup in Mont-Sainte-Anne in June, we saw an exciting sprint finish between Nino Schurter and Jose Hermida.  Schurter won.

Marco Fontana moves to the front.  He is leading Nino Schurter and Jaroslav Kulhavy.

Marco Fontana has never won a World Cup, though he has podiumed often, so if he pulls this one off, that would be a huge upset for Nino Schurter and Jaroslav Kulhavy.

Jaroslav Kulhavy is getting a bit gapped off on the climb.

Marco Fontana leads Nino Schurter.  Kulhavy is just three seconds back, but he doesn't look as strong.

In the chase, Burry Stander leads Jose Hermida.

Nino Schurter moves back into the front.  Then Marco Fontana.  Jarolsav Kulhavy has caught back up. and all three are together again.

Marco Fontana tries to get around Nino Schurter and he does.

All three clear the downhill rock garden.  Marco Fontana leads Nino Schurter and Jaroslav Kulhavy is still with them.

Nino Schurter says, no thanks, I want the lead back and moves around.  Jaroslav Kulhavy goes with him.

Marco Fontana drops off their pace slightly and is in third.

Marco Fontana put in a good effort.  Wonder if he can recover?

Jaroslav Kulhavy surges around Nino Schurter on the climb!

Marco Fontana is off the pace and probably will not catch them.

Kulhavy leads.  Schurter is right on him and then moves around.

Schurter now leads Kulhavy through some rocks.

Through the feed zone, Schurter leads and Kulhavy is right on him.

Fontana is blown and gone from the top 2 for good. He'll have to fight to keep the medal ahead of chasers Burry Stander and Jose Hermida.

Schurter still leads Kulhavy on another of these seated power climbs.

Coming into the finish, Schurter leads the final climb.

Kulhavy powers around to take over the lead.

Kulhavy leads into the final sprint.

Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech) wins the gold by one second over Nino Schurter (Switzerland).

Marco Fontana (Italy) holds on for third in a career best ride at 25 seconds.

Jose Hermida (Spain) finishes fourth ahead of Burry Stander (South Africa).

Carlos Coloma (Spain) is sixth at 1:00.  Manual Fumic (Germany) is seventh at 1:24.

Geoff Kabush (Canada) is 8th at 1:36.  Alex Gehbauer (Austria) takes 9th at 2:09 while Todd Wells finishes 10th at 2:21.  Stephane Tempier takes 11th at 2:23.

Sam Schultz (USA) rides in for 15th place at 3:22.

That wraps up our live Olympic coverage for 2012!  Thanks for joining us for an incredibly exciting men's mountain bike race.

Stay tuned for

including the report and full results and plenty of photos to come from today's race.

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