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UCI Mountain Bike World Championships 2011: Elite men cross country

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Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the elite men's cross country race at the UCI mountain bike championships in Champery, Switzerland. The race starts at 4:30 pm local time. We'll be bringing you updates from alongside the course.

We just saw an amazing battle in the elite women's cross country battle and are here to bring you coverage of the elite men's race starting in less than 10 minutes.  Catharine Pendrel (Canada) is the new elite women's cross country World Champion. Defending champ Maja Wloszczowska (Poland) put up a great fight but with a flat tire, luck was not on her side today.

It's cloudier for the men's race than it was for the women's race.  That means it will be quite dark in some of the deep, wooded sections.

There are 111 elite men taking the start this afternoon.  Jose Antonio Hermida (Spain) goes into the race as defending World Champion.  He won last year in Mont-Sainte-Anne

Some favorites to watch are Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech), who is the World Cup overall winner, and multi-time past world champion Julien Absalon (France).  The crowd is going wild as these guys are introduced.

Don't count out Nino Schurter (Switzerland), another former world champion who will undoubtedly get the biggest cheers out there today while racing on home soil.

Other medal contenders include Burry Stander (South Africa), Florian Vogel (Switzerland), Maxime Marotte (France), Marco Aurelio Fontana (Italy) and Christoph Sauser (Switzerland).

They are off for a start lap and seven full laps.

Kulhavy leads them out

Some have said this race is Kulhavy's race to lose.  He has dominated the World Cup circuit all season winning a record five of seven events.

They are nearing the end of the start lap.

Going across the line with seven to go it's Schurter, Kulhavy, Vogel, Absalon, Hermida and Marotte in that order.

The favorites are looking around at each other a bit on this short, flat paved section - seeing who is where and who might be missing.

At the front, Kulhavy, leads Schurter adn Vogel.  Looks like all the guys just mentioned are forming a sort of peloton together at the front.  Making this selection is key.

Kulhavy is first through the Hell's Gate A-line.  Of course all the top men take that line.

At the front, Kulhavy, leads Schurter adn Vogel.  Looks like all the guys just mentioned are forming a sort of peloton together at the front.  Making this selection is key.

It's strange to see Hermida in Spanish colors and not in the rainbow stripes he has been wearing for the past year.

The pace on this first lap is absolutely blistering.  The leaders are flying.  Kulhavy is driving the pace at the front.

Everyone wants the wheel of the Czech rider and we've all seen what happens when you let him get away so no one wants to do that.

National champion Todd Wells (United States) rides by.

Former world champion (2008) Christoph Sauser is in 26.  Wells is in 33rd..  Jeremy Horgan Kobelski (United States)  is in 39th.

At the first time split, Kulhavy led Schurter, Absalon, Vogel, Marotte and Hermida.  All were within about four seconds of each other.

Absalon just took a high speed digger on a rooty descent.  He landed several meters in front of his bike but got back on as fast as he could.

Kulhavy and Schurter have a gap and are together at the front through the feed zone.

Absalon's crash certainly helped them open that.  Let's see if they can capitalize on it.

Crowds are lining both sides of the main climb as they go up it.  Everyone is still close enough to see everyone else among the top 20-30 riders.

Schurter rounds the U-turn at the top of the climb and heads into the Snake Pit first, just ahead of Kulhavy.

Schurter leads Kulhavy through the start finish.  Seven laps to go.  They have an 11-second lead on a chase group.

The chase group includes Vogel, Absalon, Marotte and Hermida.  They are taking drinks on the road section and getting ready for more roots and rocks.

Correction on what we said earlier.  When they went through the start/finish, they were completing lap 1.  Which means 6 laps to go, not 7.

Schurter is setting the pace through the roots.  That strategy could help keep Kulhavy in check.

Sam Schultz and Todd Wells are the top Americans after the end of the first lap in 29th and 30th.  JHK is just a few more places back.

Max Plaxton is the top Canadian in 23rd.

At the split, Schurter is just in front of Kulhavy.  Vogel, Marotte, Absalon and Hermida chase.  A bit further back at 54 seconds, Stander charges onward.  The South African seems to be working his way up.

They are nearly 30 minutes into the race and it's still wide open as to who will emerge the strongest.

The lead group hits the climb on the second full lap.  It includes Schurter, Vogel, Absalon, Kulhavy, Marotte and Hermida.

Schurter and Vogel lead Kulhavy on the climb.  The Czech rider had better be careful in case the two Swiss riders apply some tactics going into the Snake singletrack section after the climb.

Defending champion Hermida has been spending the most time hanging on near the back of the lead group.  He is tenaciously keeping contact with the other favorites.

Schurter is charging through the start/finish in the lead, but his fellow top contenders are all within six seconds.  2 full laps down, 5 to go.

Stander is in no man's land chasing after them.  He's at 50 seconds.  That will be a tough gap to close, but he has been known to recover well from tough starts.

Vogel and Schurter are at the front together now with a one-second gap on Kulhavy.  They are in a wooded, technical section.  Hermida chases Kulhavy, then it's Absalon and Marotte.

Stander goes down on some roots.  It's so easy to make mistakes out there - it's super technical and a bit slick.

Kulhavy has inserted himself back in the Swiss sandwich.  That's smart as it makes it a little tougher for them to work him over.

Our six leaders are still together.  Stander chases at 44 seconds.  Then Lukas Flueckiger (Switzerland) and Manuel Fumic (Germany) are at 1:13.  Sauser is up to 10th place.

And it starts to rain!  That is going to make thing extremely interesting.

We saw in the junior men's race earlier this week how crazy it is out there when the course is wet.  They were falling all over the place.

Marotte has come off the lead group, leaving five men to tackle the main climb.

This climb is stretching them out a bit.  Into the Snake section they go.

It's absolutely dumping now

The leaders are approaching the start finish. 

It's all coming apart now.   Schurter leads Kulhavy through the start finish.  Hermida is 1 second back and Absalon is at 4 seconds.  Vogel has come off and is at 19 seconds while Marotte is at 20 seconds.  Stander chases at 1:06.

Looks like Absalon is falling off the pace too.  Schurter, Kulhavy and Hermida are together at the front.

Lukas Flueckiger is in the pits.

Looks like the Swiss rider needs a new rear wheel and the change is not happening super fast. It may cost him a few places.

Manuel Fumic pedals past. He is on his own through the woods.

It's Schurter, Kulhavy and Hermida still at the front together.  Hermida is the defending world champion.  Schurter was world champion two years ago and Kulhavy has never been a world champion.

We see Kulhavy slip on a root and have to dab his foot.

After the 3 leaders Absalon chases at 11 seconds.  Vogel is at 51 seconds and Marotte is at 55 seconds.

Fumic is riding in seventh and Sauser is eighth.

The three leaders, Kulhavy, Schurter and Hermida ride through the tech zone while on lap 5.  They recently saw 3 to go.

Absalon has the leaders in his sights on the climb.  All three leaders are out of the saddle.

Schurter goes into the Snake first ahead of Kulhavy, then Hermida.

Hermida has to dab after Kulhavy and he try to occupy the same line at the same time.  It's Schurter at the front opening up a gap on those two through this downhill technical section.

This could be a decisive moment.  We'll see if Kulhavy can power through the pain to close the gap back down.

Schurter is pedalling strongly through the start finish.  He has five seconds on Kulhavy and 8 seconds on Hermida.  Absalon is at 18 seconds.

There are still a ton of fans out there watching despite the rain.

Vogel is in fifth at 1:28.  He is likely out of the race as far as medals go, but anything can happen, especially now that it is raining and everything is so slick.

6th - 9th are Marotte, Fumic, Lukas Flueckiger and Sauser.  The latter is the world marathon champion for 2011.

It looks like Schurter and Kulhavy have gotten ride of Hermida.  Well may be not... he's still hanging in there, just a few seconds behind them.

Given how much time Schurter is spending at the front compared to Kulhavy, he may be feeling better.  It can be an advantage to set the pace from the front plus he will be clear of any mistakes Kulhavy might make

Fumic is looking pretty dirty.  He has taken a few tumbles.

The rubber band is stretching between Schurter and Kulhavy and Hermida.  The Spaniard is now 8 seconds off them.

It doesn't sound like a lot, but it's a big gap psychologically on a course like this in the rain.

Absalon is at 20 seconds, riding in fourth place ahead of Vogel in fifth place.  Both of those riders are on their own.

It's still Schurter setting the pace at the front, with Kulhavy glued to his wheel.  Absalon will be getting splits and know that Hermida has come off them, so he will see the chance to get that last medal.

Hermida points to his wheel as he gets to the tech zone.  New rear wheel for the Spaniard.

Hermida is back under way with a new wheel but not until after Absalon passes him.

So it may be that Hermida's coming off the two leaders was due to his flat, not to him being more tired than them. That has to be a disappointment for the defending world champion.  We saw the same thing happen in the women's race when defending World Champ Maja W. got a flat and lost her place with leader Catharine Pendrel.

Vogel tosses his glasses in the tech zone.  It's turning into that kind of a race.

Schurter is looking stronger in the woods.  He keeps getting little gaps on Kulhavy, but the powerful Czech keeps closing them.

Both Schurter and Kulhavy come through the start finish together.  Should be two laps to go.  They call a momentary truce and both take a drink and eat something.

Absalon comes through in third at 25 seconds.  He has lost a little ground.  Following his flat, Hermida dropped to fourth at 45 seconds.

Vogel is fifth at 2:25.  That gives Switzerland two men in the top five.  Well, let's make that three in the top six as Flueckiger is in 6th place.  Fumic is seventh.

Kulhavy puts in a dig and gets to the top of the Hell's Gate climb first and then is first through the drop.

Maybe Kulhavy has been bluffing and letting Schurter be up front and think he's the one who is feeling better?

Schurter was able to answer Kulhavy and is sitting right on him.

It is raining torrentially at the moment.  It has to be so slick out there, but it's amazing to watch these guys ride like it's not that slippery.

Vogel flies over the jump.  Appropriate as his name often gets auto-translated by mistake as "the Bird"

Kulhavy has an 8-second gap on Schurter!

Absalon is third at 34 seconds.

The Czech World Cup champion seems to be riding away from Schurter.

Kulhavy is looking good, out of the saddle when it is appropriate and pushing the pace.

Flueckiger and Marotte run a rooty downhill section.

Schurter's body language looks more tired. 

Kulhavy races through the tech zone and into the bottom of the main climb.  Schurter comes through a bit after and it looks like Kulhavy is blowing open the gap between them on this climb.

The riders are taking the technical sections in the later part of the lap.  Kulhavy is closing in on the start finish.

One lap to go for Kulhavy.  He rolls through the finish at 1:30:01.  Let's see how far back Schurter is.

Schurter came through in second place and Absalon is in third.

Kulhavy turns on a long road straightaway and Schurter is nowhere in sight behind him.  Further back Hermida rolls through in fourth place and Vogel is in fifth.

It's looking good for Kulhavy to add the 2011 world title to his 2011 World Cup title.  Now he's got to stay out of trouble for the duration of this last lap.  That will require some concentration as it's starting to look soupy out there on the dirt sections.

Kulhavy nails the A line on Hell's Gate. He'll want to ride strong enough to keep his lead, but a bit conservatively so as not to make any race-ending mistakes.

Schurter takes the A line.  All of these guys look like they are rolling it more than jumping it.  Now is not the time for showing off and you can tell they are tired by watching them at this point in the race.

The top five men, Kulhavy, Schurter, Absalon, Hermida and Vogel are each on their own now at various points on the last lap.

Kulhavy is on a full suspension 29er.  He has been the first of the top men on the World Cup circuit to fully embrace the larger wheel size.  People seem to be paying more attention to the 29ers now in the European cycling community - maybe it's in part due to Kulhavy bring more attention to them, especially the full suspension versions.

At the final split point on the last lap, Kulhavy leads Schurter by 40 seconds.  Absalon is at 1:10.  Barring the unexpected, it looks like these will be our three medal winners today.

The gaps are really opening up.  Hermida rolls through in fourth.

Kulhavy is on the final climb.  Behind him the other riders are pacing themselves and taking onboard more fluid for the last lap.  Kulhavy is out of the saddle and grinding up this climb.  He takes a look behind... coast is clear.

Kulhavy enters the Snake section for the last time.  He is filthy and so is his bike.

Schurter is on the last climb now.  The two top riders will effectively pass each other as one goes down and one goes up so they will know well what the gap is.

Schurter heads into the Snake section while Absalon is on the final climb.

After the women's race, new world champion Catharine Pendrel described that final climb as "the hardest climb of her life".

Kulhavy comes to the finish as the new world champion!  He raises the Czech flag and celebrates.

Kulhavy's time was 1:44:30.  Schurter comes in with a Swiss flag for second place at 0:47.

Absalon gets third at 1:26.

 

Hermida rode into fourth place and Lukas Flueckiger rode into fifth place.

So we are left with two brand new world champions for 2011: Catharine Pendrel and Jaroslav Kulhavy.  Thanks for joining us - that wraps up our live coverage from Worlds.

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