Absalon wins cross country world championship in Hafjell

Julien Absalon (France) raced to the fifth world title of his career on Saturday by winning the elite men's cross country at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Hafjell, Norway. Absalon defended his top rival Nino Schurter (Switzerland) for the gold medal while Marco Fontana (Italy) won the battle for the bronze.

"It's special to have the world champion's jersey. Last time I won the world championships was in 2007, so it was a long time without after having won four in a row," said Absalon. "It's a pleasure to have the rainbow jersey, and it will be nice to ride with it next year."

Absalon recovered from an awful start, which included a crash, then worked his way to the front where he relatively quickly dropped Schurter en route to victory. It was Absalon's first race on a full suspension bike.

How it happened

Schurter went full gas from the whistle, trying to take advantage of his strong start. He instantly got a gap but was followed next by Matthias Flueckiger (Switzerland), Dan McConnell (Australia), Manuel Fumic (Germany) and Emil Lindgren (Switzerland).

"I had a super good start and in the beginning everything went my way," said Schurter. "I always try to start fast to cause Julien some problems. He often struggles with the starts. Everything went perfect with my start, and my first lap was under 12 minutes."

Absalon, on the other hand, was nowhere near the front and was spotted in eighth place halfway through lap one.

"I had a bad start. I crashed in the first woods section," said Absalon. "At this moment, I thought I can do nothing and I shouldn't waste my energy. I tried to go step by step to catch the leader. It's better to go in your own pace and pass one by one. I did the same at Mont-Sainte-Anne."

By the end of lap one of the seven-lap race, Schurter led Fumic by six seconds and Flueckiger. Behind them, places continued to shuffle.

Halfway through lap two, Absalon had moved into third behind Schurter and Fumic. He then chased with Fumic and Fontana, who had also moved forward through the pack. McConnell was riding well in fifth place until what would be the first of two flats on the day.

Absalon was within 10 seconds of Schurter on lap three. The French rider looked cool and collected. Fontana and Fumic followed together in third and fourth, 25 seconds off the pace of Schurter.

Fumic and Fontana, who are trade teammates on Cannondale, rode well together.

Fumic said, "We weren't fighting each other, we were working together."

Fontana said, "Manny and I were gaining time on the guy behind us. We have such a good relationship, and we each led our best parts."

Finally, on lap four, the patient but persistent Absalon made the catch. For the next quarter lap, the two raced each other for the front like the finish was near. After some back and forth on the climbs, Absalon made his move, out-climbing his Swiss rival to establish a gap.

"I thought maybe now the race would start once he caught me and it'd be like our other battles," said Schurter, "but somehow, he was a bit stronger today. He was strong through the technical sections, too, and I could tell he was not on his limit, but I was starting to struggle."

Perhaps it was because Absalon was racing a full suspension for the first time, perhaps it was because Schurter didn't have the legs today, but in either case, the French rider appeared to ride away relatively easily from Schurter.

"I went into this race to defend my title and try to win, but when Absalon caught me, I wasn't surprised to see him. I had been hoping he wouldn't make it back up to me after a bad start," said Schurter.

"I quickly realized that he's stronger today and I couldn't stay with him so I had to focus on second and getting the silver medal. I felt tired and like I couldn't suffer today."

Absalon said, "When I got Nino, I tried to pass him on the climb. I had made a good choice with my full suspension bike. It was risky because it was my first race with this bike, but it was a good one."

With two laps to go, Absalon's gap was decisive and with one to go, he'd grown it to 45 seconds.

"When I win, I usually win with lots of seconds or not at all," said Absalon, who has often been beaten by Schurter in a sprint finish.

Schurter realized he was not going to be able to defend his title. "I just tried to ride safe and get the silver medal," said Schurter.

It wasn't all smooth sailing to the line though as Schurter uncharacteristically crashed on a technical downhill section.

"It was a bad mistake. Sure I went into this race to win and I was a bit disappointed at first and lost my concentration and went over my bars," said Schurter. "Luckily nothing is really broken. Two days and I will feel fine."

Absalon rode on to the finish, celebrating world championship win number five. His last one was in 2007.

In the battle for the bronze, Fontana and Fumic were both strong, but Fumic decided he needed to stop for a wheel change - a mistake he would later regret.

"I came past the finish and heard some weird noise in my back wheel and I thought I had a puncture or some technical issue," said Fumic. "It was just that a [piece of] tree was in my back wheel. I had to make a decision and I stopped to change my wheel. I found out in the end, it was just a tree and nothing was wrong with it, so I'm a little disappointed but I was still fifth at the Worlds and I was battling for a medal. I'm happy with Marco because he had a rough season and finished well."

Fontana looked good for third, but then flatted on the final lap and had to stop and change a wheel, nearly losing the final medal spot.

Moritz Milatz (German) who was conistently getting stronger as the race progressed, passed Fontana as he got his new wheel, but Fontana wasn't going to give up after what has been a trying season for him.

"With one lap to go, some guy said 'Go Fonzi, don't use your brakes' and for some reason I did that," said Fontana. "That was dangerous though and I let go of my brakes and then 10m later, I had a flat. I went to the tech zone and got a wheel change."

"Once I changed the wheel, I gave it all and I made it. I thought 'I don't care who you are, this is my medal!' as I passed Milatz." Fontana rolled across the line riding a crowd-pleasing wheelie.

Milatz said, "I gave everything. I thought the whole time I could catch him, but I started to get cramps on the second last climb. Marco was just a little bit stronger, but he deserved it. It's not a medal, but it's a great result. It's my best result at Worlds. Last year I was seventh."

Race note

Julien Absalon got his brand new full suspension bike to take home after the Meribel World Cup two weeks ago. "I rode it a few times at home and was going to do one lap on it and one on the hardtail to compare when I got here to Hafjell. However, after one lap on the dually, I didn't even ride my hardtail. I thought it was a risk to do the race with a new bike, but I needed to try because it was faster."


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Elite men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Julien Absalon (France)1:27:06
2Nino Schurter (Switzerland)0:01:51
3Marco Aurelio Fontana (Italy)0:03:28
4Moritz Milatz (Germany)0:03:33
5Manuel Fumic (Germany)0:03:43
6Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez (Spain)0:03:56
7Lukas Flückiger (Switzerland)0:04:25
8Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic)0:04:33
9José Antonio Hermida Ramos (Spain)0:04:40
10Ralph Naef (Switzerland)0:05:06
11Fabian Giger (Switzerland)0:05:33
12Ondrej Cink (Czech Republic)0:05:52
13Andrea Tiberi (Italy)0:06:00
14Rudi Van Houts (Netherlands)0:06:16
15Derek Zandstra (Canada)0:06:24
16Carlos Coloma Nicolas (Spain)0:06:44
17Maxime Marotte (France)0:07:30
18Markus Schulte-Luenzum (Germany)0:07:39
19Mathias Flückiger (Switzerland)0:07:51
20Gerhard Kerschbaumer (Italy)0:07:57
21Michal Lami (Slovakia)0:08:18
22Markus Bauer (Germany)0:08:29
23Hugo Drechou (France)0:08:36
24Catriel Andres Soto (Argentina)0:08:58
25Kevin Van Hoovels (Belgium)0:09:07
26David Valero (Spain)0:09:11
27Miguel Martinez (France)0:09:23
28Stephen Ettinger (United States Of America)0:09:25
29David Joao Serralheiro Rosa (Portugal)0:09:29
30Hans Becking (Netherlands)0:09:32
31Kohei Yamamoto (Japan)0:09:38
32Frank Beemer (Netherlands)0:09:44
33Marek Konwa (Poland)0:09:56
34Russell Finsterwald (United States Of America)0:10:18
35Matthias Wengelin (Sweden)0:10:27
36Jan Skarnitzl (Czech Republic)0:10:32
37Florian Vogel (Switzerland)0:10:46
38Alexander Gehbauer (Austria)0:10:50
39Anton Gogolev (Russian Federation)0:10:54
40Stéphane Tempier (France)0:11:01
41Andras Parti (Hungary)0:11:20
42Philip Buys (South Africa)0:11:36
43Anton Sintsov (Russian Federation)0:12:19
-1lapTodd Wells (United States Of America)
-1lapLuca Braidot (Italy)
-1lapShlomi Haimy (Israel)
-1lapMartin Haring (Slovakia)
-1lapEvan Guthrie (Canada)
-1lapRuben Scheire (Belgium)
-1lapZsolt Juhasz (Hungary)
-1lapRotem Ishay (Israel)
-1lapOle Christian Fagerli (Norway)
-1lapKarl Markt (Austria)
-1lapMartin Fanger (Switzerland)
-1lapRourke Croeser (South Africa)
-1lapSpencer Paxson (United States Of America)
-1lapMatiss Preimanis (Latvia)
-1lapThomas Litscher (Switzerland)
-1lapJukka Vastaranta (Finland)
-1lapKirill Kazantsev (Kazakhstan)
-1lapOla Kjören (Norway)
-2lapsChristian Helmig (Luxembourg)
-2lapsDaniele Braidot (Italy)
-2lapsRaphael Gagne (Canada)
-2lapsZhen Wang (People's Republic of China)
-2lapsMartin Gluth (Germany)
-2lapsRicardo Pscheidt (Brazil)
-2lapsPaolo Cesar Montoya Cantillo (Costa Rica)
-2lapsSimon Gegenheimer (Germany)
-2lapsJan Nesvadba (Czech Republic)
-2lapsIgnacio Torres (Mexico)
-2lapsDario Alejandro Gasco (Argentina)
-2lapsMarco Antonio Escarcega (Mexico)
-3lapsSeiya Hirano (Japan)
-3lapsRyo Saito (Japan)
-3lapsGeoff Kabush (Canada)
-3lapsTudor Oprea Ovidiu (Romania)
-3lapsArtyom Golovaschenko (Kazakhstan)
-3lapsRubens Valeriano (Brazil)
-3lapsJosé Juan Escarcega (Mexico)
-3lapsAbdulkadir Kelleci (Turkey)
-3lapsMario Luis Miranda Costa (Portugal)
-3lapsMiguel Valadez (Mexico)
-3lapsSherman De Paiva (Brazil)
-3lapsPablo Roberto Voigt Rodriguez (Mexico)
-3lapsJohan J. Stroemberg (Norway)
-3lapsLucian Logigan (Romania)
-3lapsMiha Halzer (Slovenia)
-4lapsBayram Eroglu (Turkey)
-4lapsMotoshi Kadota (Japan)
-4lapsOskars Muiznieks (Latvia)
-4lapsElia Silvestri (Italy)
-4lapsGeorge-Vlad Sabau (Romania)
-4lapsPaul Van Der Ploeg (Australia)
-5lapsHenrique Avancini (Brazil)
DNFKyosuke Takei (Japan)
DNFSergji Rysenko (Ukraine)
DNFDaniel Mcconnell (Australia)
DNFEmil Lindgren (Sweden)
DNFTimofei Ivanov (Russian Federation)
DNFCalle Friberg (Sweden)
DNFPeriklis Ilias (Greece)
DNFMartin Loo (Estonia)
DNFJosé Alberto Gonzalez Merchan (Ecuador)
DNFDaniel Federspiel (Austria)
DNFIvan Smirnov (Russian Federation)
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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
6Czech Republic265
8United States Of America215
13Russian Federation132
18South Africa117
31People?S Republic Of China42
32Costa Rica39

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