Julien Absalon (Orbea) claimed victory on a rain-slicked course in the fifth round of the Mountain World Cup at Mont Ste Anne, Quebec. This was the fourth consecutive World Cup victory of this season for him.
Absalon has always performed well at Mont Ste Anne, going back to his World title in the Junior category in 1998. "I was concerned at the start of the race," said Absalon. "Through the first two turns at the start I wasn't in a good position. Through the first lap I tried to work my way up. Näf was very strong at the beginning of the race but he started to drop back and I took the lead.
"I had to work hard not to make mistakes," he added. "It was really, really slippery out there. It was a very technical track, but I like that. To win here under these conditions is very satisfying."
A large men's field of 104 riders took the line for a total of six laps. The off-and-on rain that had plagued the women had fortunately stopped by the time the men started. The clouds remained low all afternoon and it looked like the heavens would open at any moment but they never did, much to the relief of the riders. However, it did remain windy and cool for the duration, and the track was still wet from the morning's downpour.
Without a start loop, the whole key for many was to try and get to the front from the gun. The start was done at very high speed by the field. Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida Biking Team) took the early lead, followed at 15 seconds by Martin Gujan (Cannondale Factory Racing) at the front of a large chase group.
Näf was still holding the lead at the end of lap one, with Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain Bicycles) in second at 32 seconds and Absalon 41 seconds back in third. Just behind Absalon was a small group with Gujan, Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower) and José Hermida (Multivan Merida).
Absalon had become comfortable with the conditions by the second lap and had caught and passed Kabush. He continued to gain time on the lead as Näf started to tire. Meanwhile, Hermida was slowly reeling in the leaders. By lap three, Näf had only one second on Absalon, with Kabush at 20 seconds and about to be caught by Hermida. It didn't take long for Absalon to take the lead and once he was at the front he started to open a gap on the chasers. Meanwhile Näf continued to go backward, dropping to fourth by the end of the lap.
Absalon was riding comfortably in the second half of the race, followed by Hermida at 29 seconds, Kabush at 32 seconds, and Näf at 58 seconds. In fifth was a surprising U23 rider - Alexis Vuillermoz (LaPierre International). Jean-Christophe Peraud (Massi), Todd Wells (Specialized), and Burry Stander (Specialized) were chasing just behind Vuillermoz.
With the top four firmly in place, the battle for the final podium spot was all that was left. The first to put on a charge was Stander, who by the fifth lap had moved up after his U23 opponent Vuillermoz hit the wall after a strong start and rapidly dropped out of the top 10 to finish 19th. Also blowing up was Wells, who fell to 15th by the finish after ridng as high as fifth.
Creating even more excitement was a last lap flat by Näf, who lost some time to Stander initially but then charged back to maintain his fourth place. Course conditions hadn't improved much, with even the lead motorbike crashing on the top of the rocky descent.
Absalon cruised in with a winning time of 2:06:05, 32 seconds up on Hermida and 2:48 up on Kabush. A tired Näf had enough left in the tank to retain fourth, 4:50 back. Stander claimed fifth (and the U23 win) 5:42 behind.
Two years ago Hermida also placed second to Absalon, with Kabush also third. Last year it was Absalon winning, with Kabush in second. Clearly this venue favours Absalon, Hermida and Kabush.
Hermida, one of the most congenial racers on the circuit, also liked his result. "I lost some time at the beginning of the race," said Hermida. "It was quite complicated and it was important without a start loop. I should have been more focused on the start. Julian and I both lost time. Overall, I thought I could catch him.
"In the beginning he had a gap of 30 seconds and it didn't change during the race so I thought I could attack and get him on the final lap, but it didn't happen,” he added.
Kabush was pleased by his result. His season hasn't been up the standards he has set in recent years. “I have a history of doing really well here. I started on the third row so I was really focused on the start,” said Kabush. “I got a really good start and I was climbing really well. This is a course that really suits me. The World Cup has been up and down this year and I'm happy to have a good result for my team.
“It's been a while," added Kabush. "It felt good to be back in the action. Being back in North America has been good for me. I feel grounded again. I'm 100-percent healthy now."
In the World Cup Points Series, Absalon has a 480-point lead over second place Stander. Hermida moved up to third from sixth with his placing here, while Kabush jumped 10 spots to 14th.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Julien Absalon (Fra) Orbea||2:06:05|
|2||José Antonio Hermida Ramos (Spa) Multivan Merida Biking Team||0:00:32|
|3||Geoff Kabush (Can) Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain Bicycles||0:02:48|
|4||Ralph Naef (Swi) Multivan Merida Biking Team||0:04:50|
|5||Burry Stander* (RSA) Specialized Factory Racing||0:05:42|
|6||Florian Vogel (Swi) Scott-Swisspower MTB-Racing||0:07:11|
|7||Lukas Flückiger (Swi) Trek World Racing||0:07:16|
|8||Ivan Alvarez Gutierrez (Spa) Giant Italia Team||0:07:21|
|9||Martin Gujan (Swi) Cannondale Factory Racing||0:07:45|
|10||Stéphane Tempier (Fra) TX Active Bianchi||0:07:48|
|11||Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez (Spa) Cemelorca-Trek-Lorca Taller Del Tiempo||0:08:16|
|12||Adam Craig (USA) Giant Mountain Bike Team||0:08:20|
|13||Nino Schurter (Swi) Scott-Swisspower MTB-Racing||0:08:43|
|14||Cédric Ravanel (Fra) Lapierre International||0:08:47|
|15||Todd Wells (USA) Specialized Factory Racing||0:08:53|
|16||Jaroslav Kulhavy (Cze)||0:09:05|
|17||Moritz Milatz (Ger) Multivan Merida Biking Team||0:09:20|
|18||Jiri Friedl (Cze) Merida Biking Team||0:09:36|
|19||Alexis Vuillermoz* (Fra) Lapierre International||0:09:43|
|20||Martin Fanger* (Swi) Giant Mountain Bike Team||0:10:16|
|21||Christoph Sauser (Swi) Specialized Factory Racing||0:10:45|
|22||Chris Jongewaard (Aus) Trek-Brentjens Mountainbike Racing Team||0:10:49|
|23||Rudi Van Houts (Ned) Multivan Merida Biking Team||0:11:19|
|24||Samuel Schultz (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher||Row 23 - Cell 2|
|25||Seamus Mcgrath (Can)||0:12:13|
|26||Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher||0:12:44|
|27||Lukas Kaufmann* (Swi)||0:12:53|
|28||Pierre Geoffroy Plantet (Fra) Lapierre International||0:13:13|
|29||Jan Skarnitzl (Cze) Giant Mountain Bike Team||0:13:31|
|30||Derek Zandstra (Can)||0:13:39|
|31||François Bailly Maitre (Fra) Team Scott Valloire Galibier||0:14:05|
|32||Ludovic Dubau (Fra)||0:14:20|
|33||Raphael Gagne* (Can) Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain Bicycles||0:14:26|
|34||Christof Bischof (Swi) ISD Cycling Team||0:14:53|
|35||Roel Paulissen (Bel) Cannondale Factory Racing||0:15:06|
|36||Guillaume Vinit* (Fra) Team Scott Valloire Galibier||0:15:17|
|37||Wolfram Kurschat (Ger) Topeak Ergon Racing Team||0:15:42|
|38||Irjan Luttenberg* (Ned)||0:15:56|
|39||Maxime Marotte (Fra) BH-Suntour||0:16:25|
|40||Bjorn Brems (Bel) Team Saeco||0:17:12|
|41||Christoph Soukup (Aut) Merida Biking Team||0:17:34|
|42||Giuseppe Lamastra (Ita)||0:17:50|
|43||Michael Broderick (USA)||0:17:59|
|44||Bas Peters (Ned)||Row 43 - Cell 2|
|45||Matous Ulman (Cze) Scott & Hagget MTB Team||0:18:31|
|46||Stefan Widmer (Can)||0:19:17|
|47||Marc Colom (Fra)||0:19:59|
|48||Milan Spesny (Cze) Ceska Sporitelna MTB||0:20:20|
|49||Josef Kamler* (Cze) Ceska Sporitelna MTB||0:20:35|
|50||Fabien Canal* (Fra) Lapierre International||0:22:06|
|-1lap||Renay Groustra (RSA)||Row 50 - Cell 2|
|-1lap||Kris Sneddon (Can) Kona||Row 51 - Cell 2|
|-1lap||Carl Decker (USA) Giant Mountain Bike Team||Row 52 - Cell 2|
|-1lap||Robert Mennen (Ger)||Row 53 - Cell 2|
|-1lap||Robbie Squire* (USA)||Row 54 - Cell 2|
|-1lap||Matthew Hadley (Can)||Row 55 - Cell 2|
|-1lap||Rotem Ishai (Isr)||Row 56 - Cell 2|
|-1lap||Barry Wicks (USA) Kona||Row 57 - Cell 2|
|-1lap||Lachlan Norris* (Aus) Discovertasmania.com||Row 58 - Cell 2|
|-1lap||Colin Cares* (USA)||Row 59 - Cell 2|
|-1lap||Martin Lazarski (Can)||Row 60 - Cell 2|
|-1lap||Julien Fillion (Can)||Row 61 - Cell 2|
|-1lap||Adam Snyder (USA)||Row 62 - Cell 2|
|-1lap||Cristobal Silva Ibaceta (Chi)||Row 63 - Cell 2|
|-1lap||Andrew Watson (Can)||Row 64 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Manuel Prado Gutierrez (CRc)||Row 65 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Pierre Lebreton (Fra) BH-Suntour||Row 66 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Jiri Hudecek (Cze) Scott & Hagget MTB Team||Row 67 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Andrew Blair (Aus)||Row 68 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Leni Trudel* (Can)||Row 69 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Craig Richey (Can)||Row 70 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Eric Batty (Can)||Row 71 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Patxi Cia Apezteguia (Spa) Conor - Camping La Siesta||Row 72 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Cal Britten* (Aus) Torq Performance Nutrition||Row 73 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Charlton Durie* (Aus) Discovertasmania.com||Row 74 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Andrew Freye (USA)||Row 75 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Mark Leishman (NZl)||Row 76 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Paul Van Der Ploeg* (Aus) Discovertasmania.com||Row 77 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Juan Pedro Trujillo Hernandez (Spa) Cemelorca-Trek-Lorca Taller Del Tiempo||Row 78 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Ryan Atkins* (Can)||Row 79 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Travis Livermon* (USA)||Row 80 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Niels Wubben* (Ned)||Row 81 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Nick Both (Aus)||Row 82 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Mike Garrigan (Can)||Row 83 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Ethan Gilmour* (USA)||Row 84 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Cameron Jette* (Can)||Row 85 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Stephen Ettinger* (USA)||Row 86 - Cell 2|
|-2laps||Peter Glassford (Can)||Row 87 - Cell 2|
|-3laps||Daniel Sessford (Can)||Row 88 - Cell 2|
|-3laps||Victor Galvez Perez (Chi)||Row 89 - Cell 2|
|-3laps||Aaron Snyder* (USA)||Row 90 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Massi||Row 91 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Umberto Corti (Ita) Team Cbe Tecnoimpianti A.S.D.||Row 92 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Marco Aurelio Fontana (Ita) Cannondale Factory Racing||Row 93 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Oliver Beckingsale (GBr) Giant Mountain Bike Team Gmt||Row 94 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Max Plaxton (Can)||Row 95 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Benoit Simard (Can)||Row 96 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Connor Mcconvey* (Irl) De Brink-Ten Tusscher||Row 97 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Nathan Haas* (Aus) Discovertasmania.Com||Row 98 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Daniel Mcconnell (Aus) Torq Performance Nutrition||Row 99 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Carlos Coloma Nicolas (Spa) MSC Bikes||Row 100 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Liam Killeen (GBr) Trek World Racing||Row 101 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Troy Wells (USA)||Row 102 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Brian Bain (Can)||Row 103 - Cell 2|
|DNS||Jochen Kass (Ger) Multivan Merida Biking Team||Row 104 - Cell 2|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result||Header Cell - Column 3|
|1||Multivan Merida Biking Team||87||pts|
|2||Specialized Factory Racing||54||Row 1 - Cell 3|
|3||Scott-Swisspower MTB-Racing||44||Row 2 - Cell 3|
|4||Orbea||40||Row 3 - Cell 3|
|5||Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain Bicycles||32||Row 4 - Cell 3|
|6||Giant Mountain Bike Team||32||Row 5 - Cell 3|
|7||Lapierre International||32||Row 6 - Cell 3|
|8||Trek World Racing||24||Row 7 - Cell 3|
|9||Giant Italia Team||23||Row 8 - Cell 3|
|10||Cannondale Factory Racing||22||Row 9 - Cell 3|
|11||TX Active Bianchi||21||Row 10 - Cell 3|
|12||Cemelorca-Trek-Lorca Taller Del Tiempo||20||Row 11 - Cell 3|
|13||Merida Biking Team||13||Row 12 - Cell 3|
|14||Subaru-Gary Fisher||12||Row 13 - Cell 3|
|15||Trek-Brentjens Mountainbike Racing Team||9||Row 14 - Cell 3|