Julien Absalon (Orbea) padded his already comfortable lead in the men's UCI World Cup series by taking his third consecutive win of the season, and the 19th of his career.
By the time the men were ready to start their six-lap race, the rain-soaked ground that had caused the women's race to be shortened had mostly dried up, and all sections were rideable.
Multivan Merida's Ralph Näf had his patented fast start, and a sizable group of contenders formed at the front of the race by the midpoint of the first lap. However, there were two big names missing from the front – world champion Christoph Sauser (Specialized Factory Racing) and the number-two ranked rider in the World Cup Wolfram Kurschat (Topeak Ergon). Both had poor starts and had to chase to make up places throughout the race.
At the front, the lead group was rapidly whittled down, and by the third lap it was just Absalon and Näf leading, with a chase group of four trailing at 29 seconds and including Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida), Roel Paulissen (Cannondale Factory Racing), Under 23 World Cup series leader Burry Stander (Specialized Factory Racing) and Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower).
World champion Christophe Sauser making up ground
A second chase group, at 44 seconds, was led by Olympic silver medalist Jean-Christophe Peraud (Massi). The two groups would merge late in the lap, to create a seven-rider chase. American Todd Wells (Specialized Factory Racing) joined the tail end of this group for a while before having to back off and ride at his own pace to finish 16th.
But the chasers weren't making any headway on the two leaders, who continued to add seconds to their advantage on lap four. By the fifth lap, Näf felt it was time to put some pressure on Absalon, and launched a powerful attack near the end of the lap, gaining 11 seconds as the pair began their final lap. But the move proved to be premature, as Absalon steadily reeled him in and then dropped the tiring Swiss rider to solo in with a gap of over a minute for his 19th World Cup victory.
"It was a bit of a tactical race with Ralph," said Absalon. "He did a very good attack against me, and gained some seconds. I wasn't able to keep his wheel when he went. But I think maybe it was too much for him to keep going (like that), and I was able to get back up to him."
Behind, the chase was down to four riders for the last kilometre, with Näf's teammate Moritz Milatz taking third, one second ahead of Marco Fontana (Cannondale Factory Racing) and three seconds ahead of Schurter and Peraud.
Absalon's lead in the series is becoming almost insurmountable, as the Olympic champion now has 950 points to second placed Kurschat's 625, while Stander sits in third at 580 points and leads the Under 23 standings. Canada's Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) is the top North American in 24th place, with Sam Schultz (Subaru-Gary Fisher) holding down 33rd, one spot ahead of Adam Craig (Giant), who skipped this race.
For full results and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.