The latest round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, held in La Bresse, France, didn’t disappoint as the chance for Olympic qualification produced some exhilarating racing.
Taking his second win in the 2012 World Cup series, Julien Absalon notched up a 25th career win, making him one of the most successful cross-country racers in the discipline.
Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa hasn’t won a round of the World Cup since 2008, and used the challenging conditions – it rained the day before turning the trails into a slippery mess – to her advantage to gain a valuable win.
How the women’s race unfolded
Dahle Flesjaa led out the women’s race through the start loop and then stayed in touch with a changing set of leaders. Katerina Nash took the lead on the first climb, and was joined by World Cup leader Julie Bresset. World Champion Catharine Pendrel bridged up to them and attacked, with Nash dropping back to join Dahle Flesjaa.
In the downhill section, Pendrel and Bresset both crashed heavily at the halfway point of the race, and were overtaken by Nash and Dahle Flesjaa. The top two ranked World Cup riders chased but were unable to rejoin the new race leaders. In the final lap, Nash gained a slight gap on Dahle Flesjaa, but then crashed herself, opening the way for the patient Norwegian to claim another World Cup win in her illustrious career.
“I was just focusing on not going over my limit,” explained Dahle Flesjaa, “because you need so much power and concentration on this course, I was thinking I have to focus on my thing, she might be over her limit, and I think that she was. I did a very, very good race, I paced myself – to the limit but didn’t go too much over. This course is great. It is tough up, it is tough down. It is just a little dream for me.”
Bresset retains her lead in the World Cup, with 750 points to Pendrel’s 690.
Elite Women, La Bresse World Cup
1 DAHLE FLESJAA Gunn-Rita MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM 1:39:57
2 NASH Katerina LUNA PRO TEAM 1:40:13 +0:16
3 BRESSET Julie BH – SR SUNTOUR – PEISEY VALLANDRY 1:40:52 +0:55
4 PENDREL Catharine LUNA PRO TEAM 1:41:09 +1:12
5 WLOSZCZOWSKA Maja CCC POLKOWICE 1:42:19 +2:22
6 GOULD Georgia LUNA PRO TEAM 1:42:43 +2:46
7 LEUMANN Katrin GHOST FACTORY RACING TEAM 1:43:03 +3:06
8 LAST Annie MILKA BRENTJENS MTB RACING TEAM 1:43:17 +3:20
9 BATTY Emily SUBARU – TREK 1:43:48 +3:51
10 SPITZ Sabine SABINE SPITZ HAIBIKE TEAM 1:45:11 +5:14
Elite Women, World Cup Standings
1 BRESSET Julie 750
2 PENDREL Catharine 690
3 WLOSZCZOWSKA Maja 670
4 DAHLE FLESJAA Gunn-Rita 538
5 BATTY Emily 515
6 NASH Katerina 509
7 KALENTIEVA Irina 425
8 GOULD Georgia 393
9 FERRAND PREVOT Pauline 374
10 LEUMANN Katrin 362
Absalon reins supreme
For Absalon, this was a unique opportunity to race in front of his home crowd, since the two-time Olympic Champion lives within ten kilometres of La Bresse, and his brother was involved in designing the course.
Swiss riders Ralph Näf and Florian Vogel, each vying for an Olympic spot, set the early fast pace, until Absalon bridged up on lap two of the six lap race. Näf dropped back first, and then Vogel, as they struggled to match the searing pace of the French champion.
World Champion and 2011 World Cup Champion Jaroslav Kulhavy, after a poor start, was gradually moving forward through the field, and moved to less than 20 seconds from the lead, but the day was Absalon’s, as he rolled onto the main street of La Bresse in front of thousands of fans.
“It is maybe one of my best races,” agreed Absalon. “It will be for sure extra special in my mind, first World Cup at home, that is a big honour for me. I am really happy for me, but also for the organization, for all my supporters. It was very hard. I was in good shape, but I was suffering a lot, and when I saw Jaroslav in the last lap … I was dead, but managed to stay at the front to the finish.”
Nino Schurter, who did not start the race due to illness, remains the World Cup leader, with 700 points, followed by Absalon with 650.
Elite Men, La Bresse World Cup
1 ABSALON Julien ORBEA RACING TEAM 1:37:33
2 KULHAVY Jaroslav SPECIALIZED RACING 1:37:40 +0:07
3 NAEF Ralph MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM 1:38:13 +0:40
4 VOGEL Florian SCOTT – SWISSPOWER MTB RACING TEAM 1:38:57 +1:24
5 GIGER Fabian RABOBANK GIANT OFFROAD TEAM 1:39:14 +1:41
6 SAUSER Christoph SPECIALIZED RACING 1:39:41 +2:08
7 PERAUD Jean-Christophe 1:39:53 +2:20
8 MAROTTE Maxime BH – SR SUNTOUR – PEISEY VALLANDRY 1:40:08 +2:35
9 PLAXTON Max 1:40:24 +2:51
10 FLÜCKIGER Lukas TREK WORLD RACING 1:40:53 +3:20
Elite Men, World Cup Standings
1 SCHURTER Nino 700
2 ABSALON Julien 650
3 KULHAVY Jaroslav 625
4 STANDER Burry 568
5 FUMIC Manuel 470
6 GIGER Fabian 440
7 FONTANA Marco Aurelio 410
8 HERMIDA RAMOS José Antonio 405
9 NAEF Ralph 395
10 VOGEL Florian 390