Julien Absalon (Orbea) displayed fine form and well-honed technical skills as he dominated the elite men's cross country at the World Cup in Mont-Sainte-Anne. On the very first lap, he attacked his competition and left them behind to race for second.
Absalon wasn't originally planning on racing at Mont-Sainte-Anne. "After my bad race at worlds [where he DNF'ed - ed.], I changed my mind. I decided that it'd be better to do the World Cup here to keep racing on an international level and boost my confidence."
"I'm happy to win here - it's good for the mind with the Olympics in four weeks," said Absalon, who was wearing the French National Champion's jersey after winning the title again last weekend.
Some surged early and some took the long, steady approach on six laps of a demandingly technical course with plenty of steep climbing, but in the end it was Canadian Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) taking a solid second place after a largely solo ride throughout the race. U23 Racer Burry Stander (GT Bicycles) raced to a third place finish, picking off riders on his way.
From the gun, it was Absalon followed by Jose Antonio Hermida (Multivan Merida).
"I attacked in the first half to get in the front, so I could choose my lane and go where I wanted," said Absalon of his strategy. The win was a big boost for his confidence. "Before the world championships, it was difficult for me with back problems and lots of pressure. Now I'm in good shape."
Behind them were Jaroslav Kulhavy, Martin Gujan (Athleticum-MTB-Team), Lukas Flückiger (Athleticum-MTB-Team), Kabush, Seamus McGrath, Burry Stander (GT Bicycles), Max Plaxton (Rocky Mountain) and Adam Craig (Giant).
Stander surprised himself with a third place in the middle of a pre-Beijing training block. "I had a rough first lap. I was pretty much riding into everything which wasn't the plan. I think I've been riding too much on the road."
Stander found his rhythm in the second lap when he was in ninth place, and slowed a bit before feeling good on the climbs on the third lap and starting to pick off racers on his way to a third place.
For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com