Jaroslav Kulhavy stormed to his fourth victory, and wrapped up the overall title with one race remaining, in the 2011 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in front of 20,000 home fans as the series headed to the Czech Republic for the first time in 14 years.
At new venue Nove Mesto na Morave, Kulhavy proved too strong for his rivals once more and produced a brilliant ride to take the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup title with one race remaining.
Before the race the Czech rider said that he considered winning this event more important than a victory at the world championships. He did not disappoint his fans, with a dominant performance that also locked up the World Cup title. Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower) secured second in the overall standings with his second place in Nove Mesto, while Julien Absalon (Orbea) took third.
Kulhavy took no chances, attacking on the start loop and opening a gap on Nino Schurter by the start of the first lap, and then extending it steadily through the rest of the seven laps. Schurter, fighting an infection and having just finished a training camp at altitude, dropped back after he realized he could not match Kulhavy’s pace. Absalon, another favourite, had a slow start to the race.
“I wanted to get away early,” explained Kulhavy, “so that I could avoid any traffic and ride at my own pace. It was almost a perfect race for me, with only some little mistakes. It was incredible.”
While Schurter and Absalon were fading, world champion Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida) took up the chase. However, he was eventually picked up and dropped by Schurter and Absalon as they recovered and began moving back through the chasers.
Kulhavy rolled into the finishing stadium to the roar of over 5000 people in the stands, and lifted his bike over his head to stride across the finish line, with a wide grin cracking his normally serious demeanor. Behind, Schurter had finally managed to drop Absalon in the last kilometres to claim second by nine seconds over Absalon. Hermida hung on for fourth, and a last lap surge by Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez (Wild Wolf-Trek) gave the Spaniard the final podium spot.
Kulhavy’s fourth win (plus a second and a third) give him 1360 points to Schurter’s 1070 and Absalon’s 810 (Absalon skipped the two North American rounds). With a win worth 250 points, the Czech rider now has an unassailable lead in the standings. Schurter is also assured of second by the same margin, but Absalon is not as secure in third, going into next weekend’s final in Val di Sole, Italy. Maxime Marotte (BH-Suntour-Peisey Vallandry) is 70 points back of Absalon andHermida is 82 points behind.
The best placed Brit was Kiam Killeen who finished a lowly 38th.