Kulhavy back in action, with focus on World Cup

2014-04-03 00:00

JAROSLAV Kulhavy, the 2012 Olympic Games cross-country mountain-biking gold medallist, is in a race against time to ensure he is ready for the season’s opening leg of the UCI MTB World Cup in Pietermaritzburg from April 11 to April 13, after recently making a return to action after being side-lined for more than six weeks by a fractured knee-cap, which he sustained in early February.

A competitive racing return last weekend in the UCI category 1 Kamptal Klassik event in Langenlois, Austria, saw the Specialized Racing star finish in ninth place, just two minutes and 28 seconds behind winner Jan Skarnitzl. Understandably a little off his usual pace, compounded by a puncture on the opening lap, Kulhavy (29) is now looking forward to the real test that next weekend’s World Cup season opener presents.

“I was expecting [my return] to be worse,” he said. “I was unable to train properly for six weeks, so I think [my result in Austria] is a good result.

“I did not want to push too hard first time back but I hope that now my performances will improve considerably. The World Cup in [South] Africa will show where [my fitness] really is.

“There is still a lot of work to do,” he added.

The Czech ace sustained the injury in a freak accident on February 2, when he slipped on an ice patch while walking to his car and landed hard on his knee, fracturing the knee-cap of his right leg in the process.

Four weeks of immobilisation of his knee, followed by two weeks of rehabilitation, meant Kulhavy was forced to delay the start of his 2014 season with many, including some of his medical team, initially fearing he would be forced out of the first few rounds of the World Cup.

“It’s infuriating,” Kulhavy said shortly after the accident.

“I had a great off-season without any problems, but now I will have to wait a few difficult weeks.”

“It’s obviously unfortunate,” added Kulhavy’s coach Viktor Zapletal.

“Especially because of the condition he was in after a great December and January training camp in Mallorca.”

However, Kulhavy’s recent return is a positive indication that he is likely to be on the starting line come the elite men’s cross-country showdown in Pietermaritzburg on April 12, where he will take on the event course designer Nick Floros’s recently revamped Cascades MTB Park.

“The changes we have made to the cross-country course will suit the bigger, stronger riders because there are a number of short, hard climbs rather than the gradual ones of the previous course,” Floros said recently.

“After riding the new course, I felt that it would probably suit best a rider like Kulhavy.”

Despite the refreshed track likely to lend itself to Kulhavy’s physique and racing style, the question in everybody’s minds at this stage, should Kulhavy be ready for the fast-approaching Pietermaritzburg assignment, is just how competitive will the former World Champion and 2013 UCI MTB World Cup third-place finisher be? And will he be able to improve on his best result in Pietermaritzburg — his third-place finish two years ago?

Only time will tell.

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