France's reigning Olympic mountain bike champion Julien Absalon has admitted that losing his world title has relieved him of some of the pressure ahead of this summer's Olympics.
Absalon, the world cross country champion a remarkable four years in a row (2004-2007), failed to finish the men's world championship race on Sunday in Italy won by Christoph Sauser of Switzerland.
The 27-year-old Frenchman from the hilly north-eastern region of Les Vosges is now favouring rest before resuming competition in July as part of his preparation to defend the Olympic mountain bike crown he won in Athens in 2004. And after Sauser's victory, in an all-Swiss sweep of the podium, Absalon is happy to share out some of the pressure that goes with being the gold medal favourite for Beijing.
"The one positive thing is that now I'm no longer the sole favourite (for Beijing). Sauser can take some of that pressure off me, and that's a relief to be honest," said Absalon. "Now I simply want to go on holiday and put my feet up. I think I had a bit too much pressure before the world championships, maybe I wanted to try and achieve too much."
Absalon, who abandoned Sunday's race, held in hot temperatures and with the Swiss racing for Olympics selection, is scheduled to race again on July 5-6 in the Alps.
© AFP 2008