Absolutely Absalon!

2014-04-14 00:00

AFTER five previous attempts, Frenchman Julien Absalon finally managed to win in Pietermaritzburg after he took first place in the men’s elite cross country at the UCI MTB World Cup yesterday.

The 33-year-old, who was involved in a tight duel at the front with world champion Nino Schurter, was handed a lucky hand when the Swiss suffered a puncture that sent him further back in the field with two laps to go.

The two-time Olympic gold medallist, four-time world champion and ex-European champion held his nerve and finally bagged a win in Pietermaritzburg, and he was pleased as punch.

“I’m really happy. It’s great to win the first World Cup, especially with it being here in South Africa where I crashed twice and broke ribs at last year’s World Champs,” Absalon, racing for BMC MTB Racing, said after the race.

“I wasn’t the fastest downhill and I arrived a little bit stressed after my two crashes last year. I wasn’t really feeling comfortable in the Tree House rock garden but I did a safe line, maybe not the fastest but a safe one, and the feeling and shape was good so I was happy,” he said.

“I used a lot of energy during the first lap to overtake about 15 guys. Once I got up to Nino it was a nice fight though. He was very fast in some of the technical sections but then he got a flat tyre.”

After finishing strongly in second place, German Manuel Fumic of Cannondale Factory Racing declared his love for South Africa and said he spent the European winter in the country.

“I love South Africa, I spend the European winter here. I love the country and Pietermaritzburg and it was just another really good day here for me again,” he said.

If there ever was a showing of how much South African cycling missed the late Burry Stander it was yesterday when Matthys Beukes, the highest ranked local cyclist, could only manage to finish in 50th place.

But there was reason to be optimistic amongst the U23s when Empangeni-born James Reid finished in fourth place.

The race was won by Frenchman Jordan Sarrou, but Reid was the star for many who had gathered at Cascades MTB Park yesterday.

“I grew up about 20 minutes away from here so there were a lot of old friends here and the Maritzburg crowd really helped me enormously,” the 22-year-old Kearsney College Old Boy said.

“It’s also really good for the South African public to see that we do have the cross country potential here in SA.”

Earlier on in the day, Schurter’s compatriot and U23 world champion Jolanda Neff achieved her maiden women’s elite World Cup win, beating six-time world champion, 41-year-old Norwegian Gunn-Rita Dahle by 0,25 of a second.

The 21-year-old didn’t have the best of starts and crashed in the second lap, losing some time in the process.

“I had a crash in the second lap after I had a lead of over a minute and when I crashed, I lost a lot of time and hurt myself and my saddle was out of place so I had to get off and fix it,” she said after the race, which was her second win in Pietermaritzburg.

“It is not the best thing that can happen, But I was happy that I could find the rhythm again in the next lap and keep the lead until the finish line,” she was quoted by Gameplan Media.

Mariske Strauss, racing for Orange Monkey Pro Team was the best placed South African as she came in in 19th place.


Men’s elite top 10

1.Julien Absalon (BMC MTB Racing) 1:38.05

2.Manuel Fumic (Cannondale Factory Racing) 1:38.39

3.Maxime Marotte (BH-Suntour-KMC) 1:38.59

4.Ondrek Cink (Multivan Merida Biking Team) 1:39.37

5.José Hermida Ramos (Multivan Merida Biking Team) 1:39.44

6.Nino Schurter (SCOTT-Odlo MTB Racing) 1:40.21

7.Thomas Litscher (Multivan Merida Biking Team) 1:40.24

8.Mathias Fluickiger (Stockli Pro Team) 1:40.29

9.Daniel McConnell (Trek Factory Racing) 1:40.42

10.Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez (Trek Factory Racing) 1:40.56

Women’s elite top 5

1. Jolanda Neff (Liv Pro XC Team) 1:38.00

2. Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) 1:38.25

3. Maja Wloszczowska (Liv Pro XC Team) 1:39.00

4. Annika Langvad (Specialized Racing XC) 1:39.37

5. Alexandra Engen (Ghost Factory Team) 1:39.55

Men U23 top 5

1.Jordan Sarrou (BHB-Suntour-KMC) 1:22.58

2.Michiel van der Heijden (Giant Pro XC) 1:23.56

3.Grant Ferguson (betch.nl Superior Brentjens MTB Racing Team) 1:24.20

4.James Reid (Trek Factory SA) 1:24.58

5.Anton Cooper (Cannondale Factory Racing) 1:25.25

Women U23 top 5

1.Jenny Rissveds (SCOTT-Odlo MTB Racing Team) 1:21.30

2.Perrine Clauzel (BH-Suntour-KMC) 1:22.06

3.Lisa Rabensteiner (Focus XC Italy) 1:22.10

4.Helen Grobert (Focus XC Team) 1:22.55

5.Lisa Mittenbauer (Feenstra Felt PB Kenda Bike Team) 1:24.27.

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