The test event for the 2012 Olympic Mountain Bike races proved to be a stunning success, with the small but select fields putting on an exciting show for some 4000-plus spectators. Julien Absalon (France) and Catharine Pendrel (Canada) proved to be the strongest riders on the day, taking solo victories in both the men's and women’s races, respectively.
After cool weather earlier in the week, race day dawned sunny, and the wide-open venue heated up quickly, with the heat becoming a significant factor in the latter laps of the races.
The men's race was expected to be a show down between Absalon and World Cup leader Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic), who has won four of the five World Cups contested so far this season - Absalon won the other one. Absalon skipped the last two World Cups to concentrate on training for his attempt at a fifth world title, so his form was unknown.
But the two-time Olympic champion rode 20 seconds clear of a chase group on the first of seven laps, gaining ground at every checkpoint. He did not back off all race, attacking every climb and taking the fastest, most difficult routes in every rock garden, as he continued to extend his lead.
"It was important to do good start, and I did it,” said Absalon. “The legs were good, and I did a perfect race. I'm also happy with the track, finally it's good to ride, it is a fun track and it's interesting. So, I go back to France with a good feeling."
Pendrel and World Cup leader Julie Bresset (France) broke away on the first lap of the women's race, as they have done at almost every World Cup this season. They were joined part way through the first lap (of six) by Pendrel's Luna teammate Georgia Gould (USA). Behind, Elisabeth Osl (Austria), Eva Lechner (Italy) and Nathalie Schneitter (Switzerland) battled for fourth, but were never in medal contention.
Pendrel attacked at the midpoint of the race, gaining 11 seconds by the time she started the fourth lap. Behind, Gould was marking Bresset, and when the French rider made no move to chase, Gould dropped her and soloed up to Pendrel. The North American pair rode together until the last half lap, when a crash in a loose, gravel corner knocked Gould out of contention. Pendrel soloed in 56 seconds ahead of Gould, with Bresset at 1:32.
Catharine Pendrel (Canada) celebrates her victory at the Hadleigh Farm International
"You appreciate the hardness of the climbs in race conditions," said Pendrel. "I think it races well; it's a hard course, a fast course, I think it's anyone's course. A lot of the Europeans were training through this, I think, preparing for the European championships next week, so this result is not indicative of what we will see next year."
This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Want to know what the mountain bike course is like to ride? We did a lap of the course earlier this year and put together this highlights video :
1 Julien Absalon (France) 1:31:48
2 Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) 0:01:20
3 Karl Markt (Austria) 0:01:46
4 Jeremiah Bishop (United States Of America) 0:02:19
5 Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) 0:02:33
6 Kohei Yamamoto (Japan) 0:03:27
7 Maxime Marotte (France) 0:04:38
8 Magnus Darvell (Sweden) 0:04:58
9 Uwe Hochenwarter (Austria) 0:05:14
10 Rubens Valeriano (Brazil) 0:05:46
1 Catharine Pendrel (Canada) 1:32:04
2 Georgia Gould (United States Of America) 0:00:56
3 Julie Bresset (France) 0:01:32
4 Elisabeth Osl (Austria) 0:03:40
5 Eva Lechner (Italy) 0:03:51
6 Nathalie Schneitter (Switzerland) 0:04:00
7 Alexandra Engen (Sweden) 0:04:29
8 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 0:05:00
9 Shi Quinglan (Chile) 0:05:32
10 Esther Süss (Switzerland) 0:06:24