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MTB World Cup XC # 3 - CDM
Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, May 20-21, 2006
Race 2 - Men
Absalon bags a brace
By Rob Jones in Spa-Francorchamps
The 250-strong men's field meant that there was a huge scramble on the opening half lap of the five and a half lap race to get to the front. Filip Meirhaeghe (Versluys) and Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida) managed to enter the singletrack at the front of a very long line, with Absalon, Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida), Roel Paulissen (Giant) and round one winner Bart Brentjens (Giant) just behind.
Missing from this front group were three key riders: Christoph Sauser (Specialized), Liam Killeen (Specialized) and Thomas Frischknecht (Swisspower). All three are strong in muddy and technical conditions. All three were caught out by the start, with Sauser going down and Frischknecht tangling wheels with another rider.
Frischknecht abandoned after a couple of laps (he had fallen right to the very back), but Sauser and Killeen charged up through the field, each passing over a hundred riders in the process, to finish seventh and 22nd respectively. Sauser's ride was particularly impressive - he moved up into the 30's by the third lap, flatted, chased again to within sight of Paulissen and Brentjens, who were riding for fifth, flatted again on the last lap and still managed to finish seventh.
"I had a really bad start. Sometimes when it's cold I can't push, and this was a really fast start, so I couldn't move with so many riders there," said Sauser after the finish. "The first two laps I went nowhere; there was very little space to move up. On the third lap I could go better, but then I had a flat. On the final lap I was in sight of Roel and Bart when I flatted again, so it was a hard day."
Meirhaeghe dropped back a bit on the second lap to fourth, while Näf opened a small 15 second gap on Absalon and Hermida. Absalon was doing all the chasing, while Hermida got a free ride to his team mate. Näf was passed by the other two on the third lap when he flatted on the descent, but he admitted that he would have been caught anyway.
"On the steep downhill my front wheel went into a hole and I punctured [front]. But that wasn't the problem, I would have been caught anyway - Julien was the strongest," said the German. "It wasn't my plan to start in front, but I saw that I had a gap so I just wanted to hang on for top three."
Hermida revealed after the race that he, too, had suffered a flat. It was late in the race, so he just rode the wheel in. "It was a great race. It is always difficult to fight Absalon because he is such a great champion," said Multivan-Merida's little Spaniard. "I just tried to stay on his wheel when we passed Ralph, but I couldn't stay when he attacked, and then I received a flat with one and a half laps to go. It was a slow leak, so I decided to ride it in to the finish, but by the time I crossed the line the tyre was flat," he explained.
Absalon dropped Hermida on the fourth lap and managed to stay clear to solo in for his second victory in two weeks. Absalon's margin was only 27 seconds by the finish, and Hermida was still looking strong as he crossed the line - so the men's world cup title is by no means wrapped up for Absalon.
"At the beginning I was a little bit worried, yes," said Absalon. "It was not a tactical race today, just who could race the technical parts and who could run. I began at the front with Ralph, but it wasn't possible for me to keep that speed. I thought that at that speed he would have problems afterwards."
The top North American finisher was once again Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher) in 16th place. Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) started strong, finishing the start loop in seventh, but then began to struggle with the running, eventually finishing 47th.
"Like last week, if you miss the train off the start, then you can't catch up." said Horgan-Kobelski. "None of my world cups have gone according to plan yet, but that's the way it is. I'm just super impressed by the guys who do it week in, week out."
Kabush admitted that his problem was the running, and said after the finish, "I read the start well - I just surfed the wave at the front. I felt comfortable up there, but after that, when I tried to settle in, I couldn't get a rhythm. I like to ride my bike more, so I was struggling. I realised after that that I just had to ride my own race and try to get some (world cup) points."
The Belgian crowd was generally supportive of Filip Meirhaeghe, although there was one group yelling 'Dope, Dope' when he went by. The former world champion, coming off a 15 month suspension for EPO use recognised that he would come in for criticism. "The boo's were expected, I knew they would happen. Those people have negative energy, and I don't accept that energy. But I think 99% of the people were supportive." He explained that, "Today was amazing - at the beginning of the season I was hoping for one top 10. Today was the course where I hoped to get that result, because I knew that this course was perfect for me - technical and wet. I was nervous at the start, because I knew that I could do well here."
Absalon was asked about Meirhaeghe being on the podium. The world and Olympic champion was hesitant to say too much, but did admit that, "when he finished (retired) it was honest, and I thought that was good, but now he's back, and his suspension, I think it was so short, too short."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Rob Jones/www.canadiancyclist.com
1 Julien Absalon (Fra) Bianchi Agos 2.14.53 2 Jose Antonio Hermida Ramos (Esp) Multivan Merida Biking Team 0.27 3 Ralph Näf (Sui) Multivan Merida Biking Team 2.13 4 Filip Meirhaeghe (Bel) Groep Versluys-Sportstech-Landbouwkredie 3.36 5 Roel Paulissen (Bel) Giant-Racing-Team 5.10 6 Bart Brentjens (Ned) Giant-Racing-Team 5.15 7 Christoph Sauser (Sui) Specialized Factory Racing 6.53 8 Carlos Coloma Nicolas (Esp) Proflex 7.03 9 Jader Zoli (Ita) Ktm International Team 7.11 10 Nino Schurter (Sui) Swisspower Mtb Team 7.16 11 Stéphane Tempier (Fra) Scott Les 2 Alpes 7.23 12 Cédric Ravanel (Fra) Team Lapierre International 7.44 13 Martin Gujan (Sui) Athleticum-Mtb-Team 7.45 14 Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Cannondale-Vredestein 7.50 15 Lado Fumic (Ger) Fumic.Brothers.International 8.22 16 Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher 8.26 17 Hakon Austad (Nor) Team Hoydahl 8.34 18 Florian Vogel (Sui) Swisspower Mtb Team 9.09 19 Ruben Ruzafa Cueto (Esp) Team Orbea 9.12 20 Nicolas Filippi (Fra) Scott Les 2 Alpes 9.33 21 Balz Weber (Sui) Team Bikepark.Ch Tui 9.53 22 Liam Killeen (GBr) Specialized Factory Racing 10.04 23 Marek Galinski (Pol) 10.05 24 Lukas Flückiger (Sui) Bianchi Agos 10.27 25 Oliver Beckingsale (GBr) Giant-Racing-Team 10.41 26 Ludovic Dubau (Fra) Pro Race Team 10.50 27 Hector Leonardo Paez Leon (Col) 10.55 28 Marco Aurelio Fontana (Ita) 11.04 29 Jelmer Pietersma (Ned) Dolphin 11.24 30 Ivan Seledkov (Rus) 11.35 31 François Bailly Maitre (Fra) Scott Les 2 Alpes 11.40 32 Jérome Chevalier (Fra) Bh-Sr. Suntour 11.45 33 Christoph Soukup (Aut) 11.46 34 Moritz Milatz (Ger) Multivan Merida Biking Team 12.19 35 Adam Craig (USA) Giant 12.44 36 Nicolas Bazin (Fra) Bh-Sr. Suntour 12.58 37 Karl Platt (Ger) Rocky Mountain Business Objects 13.20 38 Benjamin Rudiger (Ger) 13.25 39 Yury Trofimov (Rus) 13.34 40 Vaclav Jezek (Cze) Ceska Sporitelna Mtb 13.46 41 Ivan Alvarez Gutierrez (Esp) Proflex 13.50 42 Jaroslav Kulhavy (Cze) 13.58 43 Christof Bischof (Sui) Bikin'cyprus Int. 14.06 44 Michael Weiss (Aut) SRM 14.18 45 Joris Boillat (Sui) 14.26 46 Karl Markt (Aut) 14.48 47 Geoff Kabush (Can) Maxxis 14.59 48 Stefan Sahm (Ger) Giant-Racing-Team 15.17 49 Filip Eberl (Cze) 15.20 50 Marcel Bartholet (Sui) 15.23 51 Bas Peters (Ned) 15.26 52 Michael Broderick (USA) 15.36 53 Kashi Leuchs (NZl) Cannondale-Vredestein 15.44 54 Milan Spesny (Cze) Merida Biking Team 16.06 55 Nico Berckmans (Bel) 16.08 56 Klaus Nielsen (Den) Team Alb-Gold Mountainbike 16.11 57 Mirko Pirazzoli (Ita) 16.13 58 Jeremiah Bishop (USA) Trek Volkswagen Pro Factory Team 16.20 59 Kryspin Pyrgies (Pol) Lotto 16.39 60 Yannick Bernasconi (Sui) Team Bikepark.Ch Tui 17.13 61 Hannes Metzler (Aut) 17.14 62 Philip Spencer (GBr) Bikin'cyprus Int. 17.24 63 Martin Bratland (Nor) 17.32 64 Alban Lakata (Aut) Specialized Factory Racing 17.35 65 Daniel Suter (Sui) 18.04 66 Sébastien Hansen (Fra) Bh-Sr. Suntour 67 Dominiek Ranson (Bel) 18.23 68 Maxime Marotte (Fra) Maxxis-Msc 18.47 69 Petter Jorgensen (Nor) 19.26 70 Todd Wells (USA) GT 24.38 1 lap down 71 Gion Manetsch (Sui) Athleticum-Mtb-Team 72 Marcus Roy (NZl) 73 Andrea Tiberi (Ita) Ktm International Team 74 Steffen Thum (Ger) 75 Magnus Darvell (Swe) 76 Maxim Gogolev (Rus) 77 Ludovic Mottet (Bel) Massi-Abarth 78 Igor Bogdan (Ukr) 79 Samuel Schultz (USA) 80 Jürg Graf (Sui) 81 Thibault Legastelois (Fra) Team Lapierre International 82 Raffael Schmid (Sui) Fischer-Bmc 83 Chris Jongewaard (Aus) 84 Patrick Gaudy (Bel) 85 Tobias Witzak (Ger) 86 Rudolf Biedermann (Sui) 87 Till Marx (Sui) Swisspower Mtb Team 88 Quincy Vens (Bel) Groep Versluys-Sportstech-Landbouwkredie 89 Marc Trayter Alemany (Esp) Maxxis-Msc 90 Denis Vorontsov (Rus) 91 Tomas Vokrouhlik (Cze) Ceska Sporitelna Mtb 92 Clinton Robert Avery (NZl) 93 Lukas Hanus (Svk) Merida Biking Team 94 Carl Decker (USA) 95 Jiri Friedl (Cze) Merida Biking Team 96 Franz Hofer (Ita) 97 Rene Tann (Ger) 98 Shaun Lewis (Aus) 99 Jimmy Tielens (Bel) Dolphin 100 Marco Schätzing (Ger) 101 Romain Lejeune (Fra) Pro Race Team 102 Vincent Lombardi (Fra) Bh-Sr. Suntour 103 Bjorn Brems (Bel) Dolphin 104 Frank Schotman (Ned) 105 Joris Massaer (Bel) 106 Paul Oldham (GBr) Hope Factory 107 Axel Bult (Ned) 108 Lukas Kaufmann (Sui) 109 Eero Jappinen (Fin) 110 William Bjergfelt (GBr) 111 Burry Stander (RSA) 112 Vaclav Hlavac (Cze) 113 Ivan Planzer (Sui) 114 Nicolas Vermeulen (Bel) 115 Roy Van Heeswijk (Ned) 116 Oleksandr Yakymenko (Ukr) 117 Leon De Jong (Ned) 118 Ole Christian Fagerli (Nor) Team Hoydahl 119 Robert Kircher (Aut) 120 Pierre Geoffroy Plantet (Fra) Bh-Sr. Suntour 121 Kristof Bomans (Bel) 122 Andi Weinhold (Ger) 123 Frank Beemer (Ned) Dolphin 124 Jan Skarnitzl (Cze) 125 Christopher Maletz (Ger) 126 Rick Evers (Ned) 2 laps down 127 Tim Bohme (Ger) Team Alb-Gold Mountainbike 128 Martin Lazarski (Can) Rocky Mountain Business Objects 129 Martin Matrat (Fra) Bh-Sr. Suntour 130 Friedeman Schmude (Ger) 131 Torsten Marx (Ger) Team Alb-Gold Mountainbike 132 Marcel Wildhaber (Sui) 133 Anze Bizjak (Slo) 134 Hans Becking (Ned) 135 Murray Spink (Aus) 136 Sam Jurekovic (USA) 137 Julio Humberto Caro Silva (Col) 138 Andreas Kugler (Sui) Athleticum-Mtb-Team 139 Ivan Schalbetter (Sui) 140 Micha De Vries (Ned) Dolphin 141 Marc Golz (Ger) Fumic.Brothers.International 142 Calle Friberg (Swe) 143 Wilco Verwegen (Ned) 144 David Leiman (RSA) 145 Mathijs Wagenaar (Ned) 146 Pierre Lebreton (Fra) Pro Race Team 147 Peter Coddens (Bel) 148 Uwe Hochenwarter (Aut) 149 Markus Bless (Sui) 150 Duncan Jamieson (GBr) 151 Cody Peterson (USA) 152 Tim Ottens (Ned) 153 James Maebus (Aus) 154 Jordy Luisman (Ned) 155 Stéphane Didelot (Bel) 156 Martin Skopek (Svk) 157 Onno Houwer (Ned) 158 Atse Ten Brinke (Ned) 159 Simon Apperloo (Ned) 160 Marios Athanasiades (Cyp) Bikin'cyprus Int. 161 Karel Videcky (Cze) Max Cursor 162 Perren Delacour (Aus) 163 Kevin Van Hoovels (Bel) 164 Jakob Diemer Fuglsang (Den) Cannondale-Vredestein 165 Alessandro Peretto (Ita) Ktm International Team 166 Jochen Concocelli (Ger) Fumic.Brothers.International 167 Wilko Rochow (Ger) 168 Jochen Kaess (Ger) Team Alb-Gold Mountainbike 169 Renay Groustra (RSA) 170 Cédric Gaudy (Bel) 171 Rotem Ishai (Isr) 172 Raf Van Hoof (Bel) 173 Marcel Groothuismink (Ned) 174 Luka Kodra (Slo) 175 Laurent Englebert (Bel) 176 Wouter Declercq (Bel) 177 Davy Mols (Bel) 178 Nicola Rohrbach (Sui) Kona Verbier Factory Team 179 Kristof Houben (Bel) 180 Maarten Krommendijk (Ned) 181 Thomas Achouri (Bel) 3 laps down 182 Nicodemos Protopapas (Cyp) Bikin'cyprus Int. 183 Bas Mulder (Ned) 184 Kurt De Pooter (Bel) 185 Rolf Boon (Ned) 186 Robin Porters (Bel) 187 Mathieu Louis (Bel) 188 Pierre Quindot (Bel) 189 Davy Thienpont (Bel) 4 laps down 190 Bas De Bruin (Ned) 191 Lachlan Norris (Aus) 192 Lee Williams (GBr) 193 Nicholas Ranno (USA) 194 Guido Janssen (Bel) 195 Johan Wagenaar (Ned) 196 Kevin Raaymakers (Ned) 197 Hilbert Wagenaar (Ned) 198 Tom Geeraerts (Bel) 199 Bram Rood (Ned) 200 Peter Van Mil (Ned) 201 Thijs Laan (Ned) 202 Ruud Rentmeester (Ned) 203 Antoine Vanderstichelen (Bel) DNF Marti Gispert Labarta (Esp) Freebike Team DNF Martin Kraler (Aut) Giant-Racing-Team DNF Peter Riis Andersen (Den) Cannondale-Vredestein DNF Seamus McGrath (Can) DNF Thomas Frischknecht (Sui) Swisspower Mtb Team DNF Johann Pallhuber (Ita) DNF Tony Longo (Ita) DNF Thomas Dietsch (Fra) Bianchi Agos DNF Daniel McConnell (Aus) DNF Silvio Bundi (Sui) Athleticum-Mtb-Team DNF Sergiy Rysenko (Ukr) DNF Simon Richardson (GBr) Subaru-Gary Fisher DNF Ismael Ventura Sanchez (Esp) MSC Bikes DNF Steven Roach (GBr) DNF Martino Fruet (Ita) DNF Miha Solar (Slo) DNF Rudi Van Houts (Ned) Dolphin DNF Davy Coenen (Bel) DNF Olaf Rochow (Ger) DNF Dror Pekatch (Isr) DNF Michael Giraud (Fra) Team Lapierre International DNF Robert Odink (Sui) Kona Verbier Factory Team DNF Robert Mennen (Ger) DNF Maarten Kemperman (Ned) DNF Dries Hollanders (Bel) DNF Arnaud Grosjean (Fra) Bh-Sr. Suntour DNF Manuel Fumic (Ger) Fumic.Brothers.International DNF Nico Sabbe (Bel) DNF Sam Malfliet (Bel) DNF Jorgen Flion (Bel) DNF L. Muylaert (Bel) DNF Sander Bouwens (Ned) DNF Tim Wijnants (Bel) Dolphin DNF Andy Taildeman (Bel) DNF Peter Hafner (Aut) DNF Max Oste Macdonald (Swe) DNF Karel De Wael (Bel) DNF Hubert Pollinger (Ita) DNF Roland Abacherli (Sui) DNF Balint Nagy (Hun) DNF Joris Garrein (Bel) DNF Dariusz Batek (Pol) Lotto