The US used to dominate mountain bike racing, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen an American XC racer up there with the best. Most of the best, anyway – the punishing Fort William course, made even less compromising by the frankly awful weather, took out some big names. Ralph Näf set the early pace, but he was out after just one lap. Roel Paulissen and Filip Meirhaeghe went out too, while British hope Liam Killeen never really got going and pulled out with two laps to go.
None of which should take anything away from a great ride by Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski. The riders at the very top of the series leaderboard – Julien Absalon, Jose Antonio Hermida, Bart Brentjens and Christoph Sauser – were firing on all cyclinders. But Horgan-Kobelski didn’t merely stay with the pace, he set it, leading at the end of lap one.
Left to right: Absalon and Hermida duelled it out all race; Florian Vogel was best of the rest; Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski led for the first lap and held on for a podium spot
It couldn’t last, though. Absalon and Hermida moved to the front for their own two-way battle for the rest of the race, swapping places until Absalon managed to ease out a small gap on the very last lap for his third consecutive World Cup win. Hermida took second, while third place was decided by a sprint to the line between Florian Vogel and Bart Brentjens, with Vogel coming out just ahead. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski hung on to fifth place, securing a career-best podium slot.
With Killeen struggling, British hopes rested with Oli Beckingsale. He managed a creditable 19th place, enough to keep him in the top 20 overall. At the top of the table, Absalon’s three wins out of four have given him a healthy lead over Hermida.
- 1 Julien Absalon (Bianchi Agos) 2:16:33
- 2 Jose Antonion Hermida (Multivan Merida) 2:16:41 (+7)
- 3 Florian Vogel (Swisspower) 2:18:57 (+2:24)
- 4 Bart Brentjens (Giant) 2:18:59 (+3:43)
- 5 Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru/Gary Fisher) 2:19:00 (+2:26)
- 19 Oli Beckingsale (Giant)
- 54 Philip Spencer (Bikin’ Cyprus Intl)
- 69 Ian Bibby
- 89 Zak Toogood
- 93 Robert Wardell
World Cup Standings after Round 4
- Julien Absalon (950pts)
- Jose Antonio Hermida (660pts)
- Bart Brentjens (625pts)
- Christoph Sauser (580pts)
- Ralph Näf (450pts)