Under perfect conditions for mountain bike racing with blue skies, dusty trail and warm temperatures, Julien Absalon rode away from the field in round two of the UCI mountain bike world cup, underlying his class and dominance when it comes to men's cross country racing.
Much like the women's race earlier in the day, a long queue of riders formed before the first singletrack. An additional start loop was not enough to spread the 230-strong field and for the first lap at least a group of twenty riders headed the race including all of the favourites.
The start was not Absalon's strongest but by halfway through the first full 5km lap he was back taking control of the race. Here the main challengers emerged along with a few less familiar faces who soon paid for their early exertions. After three laps it was easy to see what sort of race was shaping up.
A lead group containing Absalon, Hermida, Schurter, Vogel and Sauser controlled the race while behind Adam Craig was flying just moments away from the top spots. Just as he was about to bridge however, Absalon put his plans forward and such was the pace, nobody could give any more.
This blew the race into a small chase group of Schurter, Vogel and Hermida, trailed by Sauser and Craig. This lasted two laps until which time everyone had recovered and the racing could start once more. In this time it was possible for Frederik Kessiakoff and Bury Stander to make gains and their results would be massively helped by what followed.
First, riders who pushed too hard early on had to drop their pace and second Jose Hermida had bad luck. A snapped chain and long walk to the tech zone followed, killing any chance of a top result.
In under two hours Absalon had managed to put a minute into the chasers which were headed by Sauser. Even though he faded when the attacks went on lap five, his deep strength allowed a comeback and even a small sprint to overhaul fellow countryman Florian Vogel. Schurter's fourth place finish meant there were three Swiss in the top five.
Adam Craig's week of adaptation to the Euro lifestyle, following a late fly-in to Houffalize obviously paid off, finishing top American in eighth. Todd Wells went well early on, eventually getting 23rd proving last week was no fluke.
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