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Photo ©: Schaaf

29th Olympic Games - JO

Beijing, China, August 9-23, 2008

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August 23: Men's cross country mountain bike race, 34.4km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Susan Westemeyer

14:53 CST   
Here we are again! It is time for the final cycling event of the 2008 Olympics, the men's mountain bike race. The women put on a great show earlier, so let's see what the guys have in mind to top that.

14:57 CST   
The guys have to do eight laps of this difficult course. That is two more than the women did this morning.

14:59 CST   
The men are in 5 lines at the start, for a total of 50 riders.

15:00 CST   
Off they go! Christophe Sauser of Switzerland gets off to the best start.

15:01 CST   
Geoff Kabush is leading things right now. Before the race even started, we had mail from Miss Pink – also known as Keri Pink, the wife of Canada's Geoff Kabush. She wrote that she and her sister are on site there. Her husband “starts in the front row. I am really hoping he gets a pinhole shot at the start and can get out there early and have a great race.”

15:02 CST   
Liam Killeen of Great Britain is the first to go down. He is off the course and in the greenery. He doesn't appear to have hurt himself and we hope he gets back up and going.

15:03 CST   
Florian Vogel of Switzerland has now taken over the lead. Everyone is pretty much still all together.

15:05 CST   
This is a very narrow course and it makes passing difficult. Not impossible, and nothing for faint hearts.

15:05 CST   
We now see the number one near the front. That is France's Julien Absalon.

15:07 CST    .5laps/7.5laps to go
Vogel continues to lead, just ahead of countryman Nino Schurter.

15:09 CST   
The riders pass through "pit row" and pick up something to drink. The two Swiss riders still lead.

15:10 CST   
Breaks are starting to form in the race, with smaller groups falling back.

15:11 CST   
A Belgian has now moved into the lead, in that distinctive light blue jersey.

15:12 CST   
That must be Roel Paulissen, who is most closely followed by Schurter, Absalon and Kabush.

15:14 CST   
The riders got a look at the course last September, but it has been “toughed up” since then. There are lots of ups and downs with very few chances to relax. In fact, just about the only breather they get is on that bit of asphalt around the finish line.

15:15 CST    1laps/7laps to go
Paulissen is the first over the finish line after the first lap, in a time of 14.22. He is followed by Schurter, Absalon, Fontana of Italy and Vogel.

15:16 CST   
Paulissen has fallen back a bit and now Frederik Kessiakoff has taken over the lead.

15:17 CST   
Antipass Kwari of Zimbabwe has already walked a part of the race. But conditions here are quite different from those he is used to.

You think you have troubles finding a good place to train? Think again. Antipass Kwari has it a lot tougher. The 33 year-old from Zimbabwe has to put up with the local wildlife, like a herd of elephants. "One time there was a lion, that really made me go faster," he said. We are sure of that!

15:19 CST    1laps/7laps to go
The guys have to do eight laps of this difficult course. That is two more than the women did this morning.

15:20 CST   
Our top five right now: Kessiakoff, Schurter, Vogel, Fontana and Sauser.

15:22 CST   
Absalon was also in that top group and in fact he has just passed Kessiakoff to take over the lead.

15:23 CST    1laps/7laps to go
Absalon and one of the Swiss riders have a lead over Kessiakoff, who in turn has a lead over the followers. The Swede may be catching up with the other two, though.

15:24 CST   
Who is who here? That's a good question. Sometimes you can catch a number and when you do that, then check out our starting list. Just click up at the top of this page.

15:25 CST   
Our friend Antipass Kwari walks his bike again.

15:26 CST   
Absalon has managed to pull away from his followers. He must have about 10 seconds on Schurter and Kessiakoff.

15:27 CST    1laps/7laps to go
Perhaps he watched the women's race and saw how successful Sabine Spitz was with her early breakaway.

15:28 CST   
Absalon is really flying and has a sizeable lead now as he bounces down one of those rocky descents.

15:29 CST    2laps/6laps to go
Absalon has a lead of 18 seconds as he crosses the finish line in 28.15. His closest followers are Schurter and fellow Frenchman Jean-Christophe Peraud.

15:30 CST   
A Czech rider has a nasty tumble.

15:31 CST   
Absalon hits another short paved section. There is no one for a long ways behind him now. Well, let's make that 20 seconds behind him.

15:33 CST    2laps/6laps to go
WE have a five-man chasing group: Sauser, Schurter, Peraud, Fontana and Kessiakoff.

15:35 CST   
Absalon pedals on his solo way, the dream of gold pulling him on. The five followers are bumping along in pursuit.

15:36 CST   
Julien Absalon won the World title from 2004 to 2007 and has won 14 World Cup events. The 28 year-old will certainly look to defend the Olympic title he won in Athens. He is known for his climbing strength and descending skills.

He now has a 40 second lead over the chasers.

15:37 CST   
Burry Stander of South Africa is moving up in hopes of catching the chase group. The 20 year-old burst on to the scene this year when he finished second in the U-23 World Championship race.

15:40 CST   
Here is the “tale of the tape”: Bart Brentjens of the Netherlands , Geoff Kabush of Canada and Todd Wells of the US are the tallest in the race, all coming in at 188 cm, or about 6'2”. Brentjens is also the heaviest in the race, at 79 kg( 174 lbs).

15:44 CST    3laps/5laps to go
Absalon crosses the first line yet again, with a time of 4.21. His team-mate Peraud is second, 33 seconds later, alone. Sauser, Fontana and Schurter at 51 seconds, Kessiakoff has fallen back to 1 minute.

15:45 CST   
Absalon has now lapped the Zimbabwe rider.

15:47 CST   
After the experiences of the road races, it seems strange to see so many fans along the course here.

15:49 CST   
Absalon bounces down what looks like a staircase, before going up a steep climb.

15:50 CST    3.5laps/4.5laps to go
At this latest checkpoint, Absalon has a lead of 35 seconds over Peraud.

15:51 CST   
The two Frenchmen are followed by Sauser (1.10), Schurter (1.11) and Fontana (1.12).

15:52 CST   
Absalon wobbles a bit around a sharp corner. Will the Frenchmen take gold and silver today?

15:53 CST   
Jean-Christophe Peraud is a 32 year-old Frenchman. He finished 11th in Athens and has been in the top ten in the Worlds three times.

15:54 CST   

Current race situation

  • Julien Absalon (France)
  • Jean-Christophe Peraud (France) at 0.35
  • Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) at 1.10
  • Nino Schurter (Switzerland) at 1.11
  • Marco Aurelio Fontana (Italy) at 1.12
  • Manuel Fumic (Germany) at 1.21

15:55 CST   
Christoph Sauser of Switzerland was a top favourite coming into the race. He won the World Championship in June, and won the “Good Luck Beijing” event on this course last year. The changes that were made on the course should favour him, as he is an outstanding bike handler.

15:57 CST    4laps/4laps to go
It's the halfway mark now for Absalon, as he crosses the line in 56.41 and heads off on his lonely way again. Peraud is 36 seconds back.

15:58 CST   
The two Frenchmen have totally destroyed the field here. We see lots of lone riders out on the course.

15:59 CST   
Now 1.31 down we have Schurter, Sauser, Manuel Fumic of Germany and Fontana.

16:01 CST   
Nino Schurter of Switzerland claimed the World U-23 title at the World's earlier this summer.

16:03 CST   
Marco Aurelio Fontana is a 23 year-old Italian. He is the national cyclo-cross champion.

16:05 CST    4.5laps/3.5laps to go
Florian Vogel of Switzerland has abandoned. He is sitting on the ground next to the course. We don't know if he has crashed or not.

At 4.5 laps, Absalon has a lead of 49 seconds over Peraud.

16:05 CST   
Robin Seymour of Ireland has also abandoned.

16:07 CST   
Some two minutes behind Absalon are now Fontana, Schurter, Fumic, Sauser and Belgian Sven Nys.

16:08 CST   
Manuel Fumic, 26, of Germany, is here without his brother, Lado, also a mountain biker. He is German national champion. The brothers have had some disagreements with “the establishment” about the whereabouts reporting requirements, but apparently everything has been more or less cleared up.

16:09 CST   
We now see Todd Wells of the USA, way back. He specializes in both mountain biking and cyclo-cross. Now 33, he finished 19th in the Athens race.

16:11 CST    6laps/2laps to go
It's that time again -- Absalon hits the finish line at 1.11.04. Where's Peraud?

16:12 CST   
Here he comes, 54 seconds later. Absalon has built up a very nice lead at this point.

16:14 CST   
Fontana and Schurter cross the line about 2.14 down.

16:17 CST   
Absalon makes his way down and then up again. He is riding very consistently, every lap in just over 14 minutes.

16:19 CST    5.5laps/2.5laps to go
At the halfway point of this lap, Absalon has a lead of 1.08 over Peraud.

16:20 CST   
Another bottle of water for Absalon in "pit row".

16:21 CST   
Over 2.37 back now to Fontana, Schurter, Nys, Sauser and Fumic.

16:24 CST   
The chain has fallen off from Yury Trofimov's bike. The Russian has to jump off to set things right again.

16:24 CST   
Klaus Nielsen of Denmark, somewhere near the bike, tears down the "staircase".

16:26 CST    6laps/2laps to go
Two laps to go now for Absalon, as he hits the finish line yet again.

16:27 CST   
Peraud is 59 seconds back. We'll probably have to wait another minute for the next riders to come across.

16:28 CST   
Trofimov is pushing his bike along. Evidently he couldn't fix the problem himself and has to walk to the next place where he can get help.

16:29 CST   
Absalon is as smooth as ever. By this point he knows exactly which line to take.

16:30 CST   
Another drink for our solitary leader. It is hot and sunny today.

16:31 CST   
The Frenchman goes up a long steep climb -- but it's no problem for him.

16:33 CST    6.5laps/1.5laps to go
One and a half laps for Absalon. How much of a lead does he have now?

16:34 CST    6.5laps/1.5laps to go
1.09 is the lead now over Peraud.

16:35 CST   
The group of five is still pretty much together: Sauser, Schurter, Nys, Fumic and Fontana.

16:37 CST   
The five chasers are about 3 minutes back.

16:39 CST   
What is Absalon thinking as he makes his way around? Is he dreaming of standing on the podium, or are his thoughts more along the line of "look out for that rock, more power here, turn left, now up, oops a tree root..." ?

16:41 CST    7laps/1laps to go
The French rider sill has lots of power as he once again hits the paved stretch. That lap took him over 15 minutes, for the first time.

16:42 CST   
Here comes Peraud, 1.07 down. Definitely looks like a one-two finish for France!

16:44 CST   
The two Swiss riders are together and have pulled away from the other pursuers. They are 2.39 back. Which of them will take the bronze? Fumic is only 10 seconds back, can he challenge for the final medal?

16:44 CST   
Fontana pours a bottle of water over his head as he crosses the line 3.39 behind Absalon.

16:45 CST    7laps/1laps to go
No slowing down now for Absalon! He is still giving his all, and grabs another bottle of water.

16:45 CST   

Current race situation

  • Julien Absalon (France)
  • Jean-Christophe Peraud (France) at 1.07
  • Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) at 2.39
  • Nino Schurter (Switzerland) at 2.39
  • Manuel Fumic (Germany) at 2.49
  • Marco Aurelio Fontana (Italy) at 3.38
  • Sven Nys (Belgium) at 3.48

16:48 CST   
Absalon powers his way up a climb, on his way to his gold medal.

16:49 CST    7.5laps/0.5laps to go
He comes through the last checkpoint. He has been underway for 1.45.25 now.

16:49 CST   
Down goes Absalon over the rocky descent. He doesn't have much left to ride.

16:52 CST   
There is Kabush again! Very far back, but still in the race!

16:53 CST   
Absalon works his way up the zig zags. It doesn't look quite as smooth and easy it did earlier, but no one can take it away from him now.

16:55 CST   
Another rocky descent for Absalon -- it really isn't far now!

16:56 CST   
He is on the pavement. Absalon raises both hands in victory as he claims his second gold medal in a row.

16:58 CST   
Peraud turns on the power as he nears the road. He checks that no one has sneaked up on him from behind, and rejoices as he takes silver, 1.07 down.

16:58 CST   
Schurter takes bronze, finishing two seconds ahead of his Swiss team-mate, the World Champion Sauser.

17:00 CST   
Another big star made a long breakaway and dominated the race, just like this morning's race. Absalon is certainly a worthy champion.

17:00 CST   
Fontana celebrates his fifth place finish with a wheelie over the finish line.

17:02 CST   
Well, that was it for not only today, but for the whole 2008 Olympics cycling events. We had a great Games, with upsets and favourites taking home the medals. Will we see any of these same names in London 2012? Join us then and find out!

Meanwhile, thanks for reading along.

Provisional results

1 Julien Absalon (France)                   1.55.59
2 Jean-Christophe Peraud (France)              1.07
3 Nino Schurter (Switzerland)                  1.52
4 Christoph Sauser (Switzerland)               1.54

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