Kulhavy wins world championship

Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech) raced to his first-ever elite men's cross country world championship on Saturday afternoon in Champery, Switzerland. The victory capped off a perfect season for Kulhavy, who had also won the World Cup overall title two weeks ago in Val di Sole. Former world champion Nino Schurter (Switzerland) won the silver while still another former world champion Julien Absalon (French) earned bronze.  In fact, the race turned into a battle among three former world champions and one soon-to-be world champion.

"It's an incredible season for me - the best season in my life," said Kulhavy. "It's like what Julien did. I hope I will be the best like him. My future is just beginning. I think the Olympics will be a good race for me. I hope to get a medal."

From the start, it was a contest of six men: Kulhavy, Schurter, Florian Vogel (Switzerland), Absalon, Jose Antonio Hermida (Spain) and Maxime Marotte (France). The group formed on the start loop, and those who missed it were out of medal contention for the duration.

Marotte was the first to come off the back. Later it was Vogel's turn after he'd put in a big effort to help Schurter set the pace early on.

"I did not feel very good," said Vogel. "I was very motivated for this race, and I tried to stay with the leaders for the first few laps, but I probably put in too much effort and couldn't hold on the last few laps. I tried to work together with Nino."

Left with Schurter, Kulhavy and Hermida, Absalon hit a root and flew through the air in a spectacular crash that gapped him off the other three. He would never regain the leaders thereafter.

"As for the crash, these things happen," said Absalon. "For me, there was no other choice but full attack - before or after the crash. When Kulhavy is riding strong, you already have a hard time following him. When you have a crash it's even harder to chase him. I wanted to fight hard to get back in the chase group. I took lots of risks."

At about the midpoint of the race, the skies opened and it started to pour, making a technical course even more technical.

"Everybody started with slick tires, but then it started to rain and it was difficult for all of us. It would have been a good bet to start with rain tires," said Absalon. "It was a good course."

Kulhavy and Schurter spent most of the race at the front together, and in fact, Schurter spent a majority of the early laps setting the pace and giving Kulhavy a real challenge.

"I had a good tactic to put pressure on him," said Schurter. "Things turned out well at the beginning. I had my chance and tried my best. I'm pleased with my race because I tried to challenge him and I have no regrets. He deserved today - he had a good season."

But Kulhavy said he never really felt pressure for a result today. "I didn't feel pressure going into the race because my season has been so good. I was very satisfied already before this race."

Afterward, the Czech rider admitted he didn't feel well early on. But with about one and a half laps to go, he decided to go to the front and put the hammer down. Schurter made a small mistake, couldn't follow and began to slip back.

"In the beginning, the race was hard for me because Nino was strong," said Kulhavy. "I was dead then. But during the race, I felt better and better which was good.

"I attacked him after the hill because I felt strong on the flat sections. I kept it up and I had 10 seconds, then 20 seconds. It was good for me."

Hermida had been riding with the two leaders, but a flat tire cost him some time and places. As a result, Absalon moved up to third, but Hermida hung in there after a wheel change for fourth place.

"I made some mistakes and paid with a flat tire," said Hermida. "I got a flat, but if you don't have form all year, it wouldn't be fair to win. It's fair that Kulhavy is the champion - he was fighting all year and won most of the races. He deserves it."

Hermida pointed out a parallel between last year's Worlds and this year's Worlds. "Last year, (then defending champion) Nino flatted twice and finished fourth. This year, I flatted and finished fourth. Maybe next year, I'll be back up there again like Nino was this year."

The North Americans placed three riders in the top 20: Todd Wells (United States) in a Worlds career-best seventh place; Geoff Kabush (Canada) in 10th and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (United States) in 12th.

"After it started to rain, I got a groove going," said Wells, who was hoping to make a top 5 and secure an Olympic team qualification. "I generally die near the end of the race, but today I kept moving up at the end, and that was a big boost for me. I was surprisingly good on the climb today, too. It's funny how everyone is talking about how great it is to be done with this season, but for me I go straight into cyclo-cross and I don't get a break until October."

"It was great. I felt like I had this course dialed all week," said Horgan-Kobelski. "I was doing all right and then it started raining and I started moving up fast. I was riding all the technical stuff very clean and I was climbing well. It's great to have a result like this."

Race notes

Overall, the riders were pleased with the course. "Conditions were difficult, but it was an exciting race," said Absalon. "It was a great race to promote mountain biking. The Swiss cheered everyone on."

"This course is the most legitimate mountain biking in the world," said Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (United States). "This is the hardest course we've raced on."

Talking with Adam Craig and Sam Schultz (both United States) after the race, both agreed that the jump on the US Pro XCT course in Missoula was a much bigger deal than the jump on this course.

"Missoula was way bigger and scarier," said Craig. "Here I rode it every lap - no big deal. In Missoula it took me four laps to not be scared."

Craig and Schultz finished 34th and 35th respectively, and the latter said the result left him hungry for a chance to do well when next season comes around.

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Full Results
1Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic)1:44:30
2Nino Schurter (Switzerland)0:00:47
3Julien Absalon (France)0:01:26
4José Antonio Hermida Ramos (Spain)0:02:09
5Lukas Flückiger (Switzerland)0:04:29
6Florian Vogel (Switzerland)0:04:56
7Todd Wells (United States of America)0:04:57
8Christoph Sauser (Switzerland)0:05:16
9Manuel Fumic (Germany)0:05:22
10Geoff Kabush (Canada)0:05:27
11Jan Skarnitzl (Czech Republic)0:05:50
12Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (United States of America)0:06:21
13Mathias Flückiger (Switzerland)0:06:44
14Inaki Lejarreta Errasti (Spain)0:06:52
15Kevin Van Hoovels (Belgium)0:07:02
16Maxime Marotte (France)0:07:21
17Ivan Alvarez Gutierrez (Spain)0:07:46
18Emil Lindgren (Sweden)0:07:52
19Fabian Giger (Switzerland)0:08:01
20Marco Aurelio Fontana (Italy)Row 19 - Cell 2
21Rudi Van Houts (Netherlands)Row 20 - Cell 2
22Max Plaxton (Canada)0:08:23
23Kohei Yamamoto (Japan)0:08:24
24Milan Spesny (Czech Republic)0:08:31
25Martin Gujan (Switzerland)0:08:43
26Derek Zandstra (Canada)0:08:45
27Jochen Kass (Germany)0:09:06
28Carlos Coloma Nicolas (Spain)0:09:22
29Karl Markt (Austria)0:10:20
30Stéphane Tempier (France)0:10:30
31Moritz Milatz (Germany)0:10:40
32Periklis Ilias (Greece)0:10:43
33Jiri Friedl (Czech Republic)Row 32 - Cell 2
34Adam Craig (United States of America)0:11:18
35Samuel Schultz (United States of America)0:11:38
36Catriel Andres Soto (Argentina)0:14:11
37Chris Jongewaard (Australia)-1lap
38Marek Galinski (Poland)Row 37 - Cell 2
39Umberto Corti (Italy)Row 38 - Cell 2
40Sid Taberlay (Australia)Row 39 - Cell 2
41Rotem Ishai (Israel)Row 40 - Cell 2
42Anton Gogolev (Russian Federation)Row 41 - Cell 2
43Jeremiah Bishop (United States of America)Row 42 - Cell 2
44Michal Lami (Slovakia)Row 43 - Cell 2
45Andrea Tiberi (Italy)Row 44 - Cell 2
46Martin Loo (Estonia)Row 45 - Cell 2
47Robert Mennen (Germany)Row 46 - Cell 2
48Rubens Valeriano (Brazil)Row 47 - Cell 2
49Uwe Hochenwarter (Austria)Row 48 - Cell 2
50Ole Christian Fagerli (Norway)Row 49 - Cell 2
51David Joao Serralheiro Rosa (Portugal)Row 50 - Cell 2
52Carl Jones (New Zealand)Row 51 - Cell 2
53Andras Parti (Hungary)Row 52 - Cell 2
54Alban Lakata (Austria)Row 53 - Cell 2
55Daniel Mcconnell (Australia)Row 54 - Cell 2
56Adam Morka (Canada)Row 55 - Cell 2
57Hannes Metzler (Austria)Row 56 - Cell 2
58Michele Casagrande (Italy)Row 57 - Cell 2
59Sergji Rysenko (Ukraine)Row 58 - Cell 2
60Evgeniy Pechenin (Russian Federation)-2laps
61Oleksandr Gerashchenko (Ukraine)Row 60 - Cell 2
62Tiago Jorge Oliveira Ferreira (Portugal)Row 61 - Cell 2
63Hector Leonardo Paez Leon (Colombia)Row 62 - Cell 2
64Eddie Andres Rendon (Colombia)Row 63 - Cell 2
65Robert Gehbauer (Austria)Row 64 - Cell 2
66Spencer Paxson (United States of America)Row 65 - Cell 2
67Matous Ulman (Czech Republic)Row 66 - Cell 2
68Michael Broderick (United States of America)Row 67 - Cell 2
69Ken Onodera (Japan)Row 68 - Cell 2
70Wolfram Kurschat (Germany)Row 69 - Cell 2
71Matthew Hadley (Canada)-3laps
72Tony Longo (Italy)Row 71 - Cell 2
73Mario Alberto Rojas Rojas (Colombia)Row 72 - Cell 2
74Marc Bassingthwaighte (Namibia)Row 73 - Cell 2
75Luciano Caraccioli (Argentina)Row 74 - Cell 2
76Edivando Cruz De Souza (Brazil)Row 75 - Cell 2
77Kazuhiro Yamamoto (Japan)Row 76 - Cell 2
78Benjamin Wittrup Justesen (Denmark)Row 77 - Cell 2
79Seiya Hirano (Japan)Row 78 - Cell 2
80Lachlan Norris (Australia)Row 79 - Cell 2
81Klaus Nielsen (Denmark)Row 80 - Cell 2
82Cristobal Silva Ibaceta (Chile)Row 81 - Cell 2
83Dani Simcic (Croatia)Row 82 - Cell 2
84Paolo Cesar Montoya Cantillo (Costa Rica)-4laps
85Chun Hing Chan (Hong Kong, China)Row 84 - Cell 2
86Philip Buys (South Africa)Row 85 - Cell 2
87Weisong Tong (People's Republic of China)Row 86 - Cell 2
88Claus Plaut Guzman (Chile)Row 87 - Cell 2
89Emmanuel Valencia Guadarrama (Mexico)Row 88 - Cell 2
90Andrew Watson (Canada)Row 89 - Cell 2
91Sang Hoon Na (Korea)Row 90 - Cell 2
DNFSergio Mantecon Gutierrez (Spain)Row 91 - Cell 2
DNFLiam Killeen (Great Britain)Row 92 - Cell 2
DNFBurry Stander (South Africa)Row 93 - Cell 2
DNFRuben Ruzafa Cueto (Spain)Row 94 - Cell 2
DNFDario Alejandro Gasco (Argentina)Row 95 - Cell 2
DNFAnton Sintsov (Russian Federation)Row 96 - Cell 2
DNFJavier Eduardo Puschel (Chile)Row 97 - Cell 2
DNFAlexey Medvedev (Russian Federation)Row 98 - Cell 2
DNFChristoph Soukup (Austria)Row 99 - Cell 2
DNFGeorgios Pattes-Toumanis (Greece)Row 100 - Cell 2
DNFMagnus Darvell (Sweden)Row 101 - Cell 2
DNFHakan Yildirim (Turkey)Row 102 - Cell 2
DNSJukka Vastaranta (Finland)Row 103 - Cell 2
DNSSzilard Buruczki (Hungary)Row 104 - Cell 2
DNSBojan Djurdjic (Serbia)Row 105 - Cell 2
DNSGonzalo Eduardo Aravena Garcia (Chile)Row 106 - Cell 2
DNSRuben Parra (Venezuela)Row 107 - Cell 2
DNSAntonio Guzman (Venezuela)Row 108 - Cell 2
DNSAdrian Brzozka (Poland)Row 109 - Cell 2
DNSDmitry Medvedev (Russian Federation)Row 110 - Cell 2
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2Spain277Row 1 - Cell 3
3Czech Republic276Row 2 - Cell 3
4France263Row 3 - Cell 3
5United States of America259Row 4 - Cell 3
6Canada254Row 5 - Cell 3
7Germany245Row 6 - Cell 3
8Italy208Row 7 - Cell 3
9Austria180Row 8 - Cell 3
10Australia180Row 9 - Cell 3
11Japan143Row 10 - Cell 3
12Colombia112Row 11 - Cell 3
13Russian Federation106Row 12 - Cell 3
14Argentina97Row 13 - Cell 3
15Portugal95Row 14 - Cell 3
16Belgium89Row 15 - Cell 3
17Ukraine88Row 16 - Cell 3
18Sweden86Row 17 - Cell 3
19Brazil84Row 18 - Cell 3
20Netherlands83Row 19 - Cell 3
21Greece72Row 20 - Cell 3
22Poland66Row 21 - Cell 3
23Israel63Row 22 - Cell 3
24Slovakia60Row 23 - Cell 3
25Estonia58Row 24 - Cell 3
26Norway54Row 25 - Cell 3
27New Zealand52Row 26 - Cell 3
28Hungary51Row 27 - Cell 3
29Denmark49Row 28 - Cell 3
30Chile38Row 29 - Cell 3
31Namibia30Row 30 - Cell 3
32Croatia21Row 31 - Cell 3
33Costa Rica20Row 32 - Cell 3
34Hong-Kong, China19Row 33 - Cell 3
35South Africa18Row 34 - Cell 3
36People's Republic Of China17Row 35 - Cell 3
37Mexico15Row 36 - Cell 3
38Korea13Row 37 - Cell 3


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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.

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