UCI Mountain Bike World Cup: Absalon wins in Houffalize, Pendrel triumphs in women's race

Julien Absalon (Orbea) returned to winning ways to claim his third victory in Houffalize, Belgium, and fire a warning shot to his rivals in Olympic year. 

Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower), who won the opening round of the World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, last month, attacked on the opening lap but Absalon, Olympic champion in 2004 and 2008, soon bridged the gap as the duo rode away from the rest of the field.

With Schurter opening gaps on every descent, and Absalon forced to chase back, the Frenchman attacked on the fifth lap, knowing he had to gain time on his rival ahead of the final downhill, 200m from the finish line.

And the 31-year-old Absalon, who won the London 2012 test event at Hadleigh Farm last year, rode away from his rival to claim victory by 38 seconds, with Marco Aurelio Fontana (Cannondale Factory Racing) one minute and three seconds off the pace in third.

“I was feeling good, but I was thinking ’Okay, I need to attack Nino before the last lap, because I know he is always strong on the last lap,’ said Absalon. ”I knew there was no chance to win after that, because I knew he is faster than me on the last downhill.  So my tactic was to attack before the downhill, so I attacked on the fifth lap.”

“Houffalize in incredible, all the spectators, lots of fans from France and Belgium behind me, so maybe that is why I push like this. I am really happy because it is always special to win in Houffalize.”

National champion Liam Killeen (Giant Factory Off-Road Team) was the first British finisher home in 29th place, five minutes and 44 seconds behind Absalon.

Schurter leads the overall World Cup standings after two rounds with 450 points, with Absalon second on 400 and Cape Epic champion Burry Stander (Specialized) third on 350.

Meanwhile, world champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna) overhauled Julie Bresset (BH SR Suntour Peisey Vallandry) on the third of five laps to win the women’s race.

The Canadian continued to increase her lead through the remainder of the race, crossing the line 48 seconds ahead of Bresset, with Maja Wloszczowska (CCC Polkowiceb) third, a further 36 seconds back.

“I just felt awesome,” said Pendrel. ”It was a good course, I really liked it. It felt a lot like my trails at home, and definitely had steep climbs. There was one section that I knew Julie was really strong on, so my focus of the race was riding that section as smooth as I can, and then just go as hard as I could on the climbs.”

Great Britain’s Annie Last (Milka Brentjens MTB Racing Team), who won the sprint eliminator event on Friday night, registered a top 20 finish to continue her strong start to the season.

Pendrel and Wloszczowska  are tied at the top of the overall standings having both amassed 410 points, while Bresset sits third on 340.

Elite Men Houffalize World Cup

1) Julien Absalon (Fra) Orbea Racing Team 1:30:22
2) Nino Schurter (Swi) Scott – Swisspower MTB Racing Team 0:00:38
3) Marco Aurelio Fontana (Ita) Cannondale Factory Racing 0:01:03
4) Burry Stander (RSA) Specialized Racing 0:01:20
5) Manuel Fumic (Ger) Cannondale Factory Racing 0:01:34
6) Florian Vogel (Swi) Scott – Swisspower MTB Racing Team 0:02:17
7) Stéphane Tempier (Fra) TX Active Bianchi 0:02:23
8) Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) 0:02:34
9) José Antonio Hermida Ramos (Spa) Multivan Merida Biking Team 0:02:38
10) Fabian Giger (Swi) Rabobank Giant Offroad Team 0:02:47

Elite Men World Cup Standings

1) Catharine Pendrel (Can) Luna Pro Team 410 pts
2) Maja Wloszczowska (Pol) CCC Polkowice 410
3) Julie Bresset (Fra) BH – SR Suntour – Peisey Vallandry 340
4) Emily Batty (Can) Subaru – Trek 320
5) Pauline Ferrand Prevot* (Fra) Rabobank Giant Offroad Team 230
6) Irina Kalentieva (Rus) Topeak Ergon Racing Team 225
7) Esther Süss (Swi) Wheeler – IXS Team 214
8) Sabine Spitz (Ger) Sabine Spitz Haibike Team 182
9) Karen Hanlen (NZl) 180
10) Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Nor) Multivan Merida Biking Team 178

Elite Women Houffalize World Cup

1) Catharine Pendrel (Can) Luna Pro Team 1:31:15
2) Julie Bresset (Fra) BH – SR Suntour – Peisey Vallandry 0:00:48
3) Maja Wloszczowska (Pol) CCC Polkowice 0:01:24
4) Pauline Ferrand Prevot* (Fra) Rabobank Giant Offroad Team 0:01:30
5) Blaza Klemencic (Slo) Felt Oetztal X – Bionic Team 0:01:50
6) Irina Kalentieva (Rus) Topeak Ergon Racing Team 0:02:11
7) Emily Batty (Can) Subaru – Trek 0:02:17
8) Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Nor) Multivan Merida Biking Team 0:02:45
9) Adelheid Morath (Ger) Felt Oetztal X – Bionic Team
10) Eva Lechner (Ita) Colnago Sudtirol 0:03:02

Elite Women World Cup Standings

1) Catharine Pendrel (Can) Luna Pro Team 410 pts
2) Maja Wloszczowska (Pol) CCC Polkowice 410
3) Julie Bresset (Fra) BH – SR Suntour – Peisey Vallandry 340
4) Emily Batty (Can) Subaru – Trek 320
5) Pauline Ferrand Prevot* (Fra) Rabobank Giant Offroad Team 230
6) Irina Kalentieva (Rus) Topeak Ergon Racing Team 225
7) Esther Süss (Swi) Wheeler – IXS Team 214
8) Sabine Spitz (Ger) Sabine Spitz Haibike Team 182
9) Karen Hanlen (NZl) 180
10) Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Nor) Multivan Merida Biking Team 178

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