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Absalon tightens grip on World Cup

It could have been 2006 at the Mountain Bike World Cup in Madrid, with Julien Absalon (Orbea) and Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå (Multivan Merida) winning this third round of the series. For Absalon, it was business as usual, as he took his third straight victory. However, for Dahle Flesjå it was an emotional moment as she completed her journey back to the forefront of the field after a year of illness. Absalon cemented his lead in the men's overall standings, while Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain) donned the leader's jersey for the women, the third leader in three races.

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Dahle Flesjå takes first win in more than a year

By Rob Jones

Three's a charm. Absalon tightens his grip on World Cup

Three’s a charm. Absalon tightens his grip on World Cup

Photo: Frank Bodenmüller Photography

It could have been 2006 at the Mountain Bike World Cup in Madrid, with Julien Absalon (Orbea) and Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå (Multivan Merida) winning this third round of the series. For Absalon, it was business as usual, as he took his third straight victory. However, for Dahle Flesjå it was an emotional moment as she completed her journey back to the forefront of the field after a year of illness. Absalon cemented his lead in the men’s overall standings, while Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain) donned the leader’s jersey for the women, the third leader in three races.

Madrid has traditionally been a hot, dusty, dry and fast race, with the contenders gradually whittled away by the speed, and this year was no different.

In the women’s five lap race Marga Fullana (Massi) had her usual fast start, with only Premont and Dahle Flesjå able to follow her wheel. Georgia Gould (Luna) was chasing hard, but just couldn’t quite match the pace of the leaders on the opening lap.

Dahle Flesjå gets her first win in more than a year

Photo: Rob Jones

Chengyuan Ren (China), the U23 World Cup leader and winner of round one in Houffalize, got tangled up with her teammate Jingjing Wang on the first steep climb, losing 10-12 spots and then having to chase all race. Ren, who was Premont’s competition for the overall series lead in the absence of Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon) due to illness, initially looked like she might make it to the front, but faded dramatically in the final two laps to finish 18th.

By the second lap the podium was set, as the front trio continued to steadily open a gap on a shifting group of chasers, led by Gould, Ying Liu (China), Catharine Pendrel (Luna), Sabine Spitz (Ghost) and Petra Henzi (Fischer-BMC). The only question was: which of the three would win?

The day’s “smart money” was on Premont and Fullana, but both have been fading in the latter parts of the World Cups. Meanwhile, Dahle Flesjå came to Madrid with only moderate expectations, saying prior to the race that she was only planning to get some good training in as she continues to rebuild her form.

Premont was able to maintain the early fast pace

Premont was able to maintain the early fast pace

Photo: Rob Jones

However, as the race went on, Dahle seemed to get stronger and stronger, in particular opening gaps on the other two in descents or fast road-like sections. And this proved to be the key element of her eventual success, after she and Premont dropped Fullana on the first climb of the last lap.

“I felt on the limit during the race, but I know the others were also. I could feel that they were stronger on the steep climbs; I have lost that power, but I could see that I had my strong parts too. When Marie-Helene attacked on that steep climb on the last lap, I was really on the limit.” explained Dahle Flesjå.

“Before the last lap I was thinking that I could finish second today, but on the last lap I started thinking ‘I could win today’. I think it was maybe my experience that made the difference, because I had to be smarter today; Marie-Helene was stronger.”

“But I knew that if I could attack in the last downhill piece, where the stairs used to be in the old course, then I could get a little gap and she could not come by me before the finish, which is how it happened.”

“If you had told me yesterday that you thought that I would win, then I would have thought you were really drunk. This was so unexpected, not what we thought at all could happen this early, so I would say that it is like winning the world championships ten times in one day!”

For Premont, finishing second and taking the World Cup leader’s jersey made this European campaign a complete success. “I tried very hard for the victory, but this is a very fast course, and not as technical as I like. All race Gunn-Rita was at the front, working, and on the last lap it was together that we dropped Marga. I’m really happy to see her back up here, and she was clearly the winner. I am not a road racer, and many parts of this race were like a road race.”

Gould took fifth, behind a late charge by Spitz, with her teammate Pendrel finishing ninth, to put four North Americans in the top-ten, and give Luna the team victory for the third straight week.

“Today, it was just lots of little mistakes,” said Gould. “I was taking the wrong line, wrong speed in a corner … each one cost me, so I had to use extra power to chase, and when Sabine went by me I just didn’t have it. But overall, I’m definitely pretty pleased with two fifths in three weeks.”

The men’s race in Madrid is a long, long seven laps, and always becomes a race of attrition. Julien Absalon knows this, and planned his race accordingly. “It is too fast a race to go out there alone, so I just waited,” he explained.

“I have no pressure on me [for the World Cup] because of my wins in the first two. This is a race where an economy of energy is the best way, so I waited until the last minute before I attacked.”

The first half of the race saw a constant series of attacks, with Marco Fontana (Italy), Ivan Alvarez Gutierrez (Giant) and Martin Gujan (Athleticum) particularly active at the front. Both Absalon and José Hermida (Multivan Merida) were monitoring the action, sitting comfortably just behind the leaders.

However, other contenders, such as Christoph Sauser (Specialized), Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida), Jakob Fuglsang, Roel Paulissen (both Cannondale-Vredestein), Florian Vogel and Nino Schurter (both Swisspower) all struggled, with Schurter and Paulissen eventually dropping out.

Hermida went fast ... but maybe too early

Hermida went fast … but maybe too early

Photo: Rob Jones

On lap four Hermida made the first move, attacking and taking Fontana and Gujan with him. They appeared to catch Absalon slightly by surprise, initially opening a 10 second gap, before the World and World Cup champion came charging up to go right by them and take the lead early in the fifth lap.

Hermida clawed his way back up to Absalon, and the two commenced to ride away from the disintegrating chase. The pair took a minute out of the chasers, and on the final lap it was time for Absalon to implement the second part of his plan: the finish.

“I could see that on the really steep climb after the chute [descent] I was stronger, so that is where I attacked, and I was clear for the last two kilometers. The last time here was a sprint with [Christoph] Sauser, and I was afraid to do that with José [Hermida], because he is much faster.”

For Hermida, it was enough to be back racing at the front of the race after weeks of bike thefts, sickness and mechanical problems. “I’m just very happy to be back in business after these weeks of problems. We were together until that big descent, where I lost a bit of traction on my front wheel and Julien got a little gap, which is when he attacked. So, I had no chance to catch him after that.”

Horgan-Kobelski says he's "back in the game for Beijing."

Horgan-Kobelski says he’s “back in the game for Beijing.”

Photo: Rob Jones

Absalon’s teammate and countryman Jean-Christophe Peraud took third in a late surge, which should secure his berth for Beijing.

On the North American front, it was Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher) finally getting the ride he’s been hoping for by finishing 15th.

“I’ve had the form, but in both Houffalize and Offenburg I flatted,” JHK explained. “It’s been pretty frustrating, so I’m glad that this finally all came together. For this race I had a pretty good start but there was a lot of traffic to go through, so I just had to go full out the whole race. I started to fade a little in the final lap, but was able to hang on. This result was really important because it puts me back in the game [for Olympic selection].”

Geoff Kabush (Maxxis), after a very strong start that saw him with the front group on the first lap, started to yo-yo through the high-teens to low 30’s before he finally recovered to finish 21st. “I started with the leaders, yeah, but it became apparent quickly that I didn’t have it today, so I had to ride a mature race.”

Kabush finished 21st, at 3:22

Kabush finished 21st, at 3:22

Photo: Rob Jones

“I pulled the plug after the first lap and a half and settled into my own rhythm. I started to get worried that I would keep fading, but I bottomed out in the 30’s and then started to move up again.”

“It’s been a relief to have a good solid trip to Europe and reinforce my position [for Beijing], but I’m still not quite at the front of the races yet, and that’s my next challenge.”

Race Notes

• The cross-country World Cup takes a bit of a hiatus now until the end of May. The North American riders will mostly head back across the Atlantic, with many saying that they will contest the Norba race next weekend in San Dimas.

• Standing next to Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå’s husband and coach on the third lap, he shakes his head, and says “She is surprising me … not bad for an old lady, huh?”

• For Olympic selections, the Canadian one looks pretty clear: Premont and Pendrel for the women, and Kabush and McGrath for the men. The U.S. women’s selection is similarly straightforward, with Gould and Mary McConneloug (Seven-Kenda) well ahead of other contenders. The men’s side looks to be more of a battle, especially with Horgan-Kobelski’s ride here in Madrid putting him back in contention. Todd Wells (GT) and Adam Craig (Giant) have two strong rides each, while JHK has one … this one could turn into a battle like the one the Democrats are facing for the Presidential nomination.

Photo Gallery



1. Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå, (Nor), Multivan Merida Biking Team, at 1:48:14

2. Marie-Helene Premont, (Can), Rocky Mountain, at s.t.

3. Margarita Fullana, (Esp), Massi, at 1:13

4. Sabine Spitz, (Ger), Central Ghost Pro Team, at 1:37

5. Georgia Gould, (USA), Luna Womens MTB Team, at 2:37

6. Petra Henzi, (Sui), Fischer-BMC, at 3:01

7. Ying Liu, (Chn), Chinese National Team, at 3:09

8. Lene Byberg, (Nor), Specialized Factory Racing, at 3:17

9. Catherine Pendrel, (Can), Luna Womens MTB Team, at 3:32

10. Katerina Nash, (Cze), Luna Womens MTB Team, at 3:43

11. Blaza Klemencic, (Slo), Giant Italia Team, at 3:51

12. Cécile Rode Ravanel, (Fra), Team Lapierre International, at 4:00

13. Nathalie Schneitter *, (Sui), Colnago Cap Arreghini, at 4:15

14. Laurence Leboucher, (Fra), at 4:20

15. Mary McConneloug, (USA), Kenda Seven, at 4:22

16. Tanja Zakelj *, (Slo), at 4:30

17. Katrin Leumann, (Sui), at 4:41

18. Chengyuan Ren *, (Chn), Chinese National Team, at 4:49

19. Maroussia Rusca, (Sui), at 4:51

20. Elisabeth Osl, (Aut), Team Ghost International, at 4:55

21. Eva Lechner, (Ita), Colnago Cap Arreghini, at 5:31

22. Tereza Hurikova *, (Cze), Ceska Sporitelna Mtb, at 5:50

23. Jingjing Wang, (Chn), Chinese National Team, at 6:11

24. Adelheid Morath, (Ger), at 6:34

25. Esther Süss, (Sui), at 6:40

26. Heather Irmiger, (USA), Subaru-Gary Fisher, at 7:08

27. Mical Dyck, (Can), Terrascape-Trek, at 7:09

28. Anna Villar Argente, (Esp), Massi, at 7:14

29. Maria Osl, (Aut), Sunshine Racers Asv Nals, at 7:43

30. Arielle Van Meurs, (Ned), at 8:01

31. Nina Homovec, (Slo), at 8:17

32. Alison Sydor, (Can), Rocky Mountain, at 8:39

33. Githa Michiels, (Bel), at 9:01

34. Laura Turpijn, (Ned), at 9:15

35. Marielle Saner-Guinchard, (Sui), Bikepark.Ch Bmc, at 9:23

36. Dellys Starr, (Aus), at 9:25

37. Janka Stevkova, (Svk), at 9:31

38. Sabrina Enaux, (Fra), Team Lapierre International, at 9:32

39. Helene Marcouyre, (Fra), BH-SR. Suntour, at 9:42

40. Wendy Simms, (Can), Kona, at 9:49

41. Susan Haywood, (USA), Trek-VW, at 9:52

42. Laura Metzler *, (Fra), BH-SR. Suntour, at 10:05

43. Vera Andreeva *, (Rus), at 10:08

44. Sandra Araujo, (Por), at 10:15

45. Francisca Campos Salas, (Chi), Massi, at 10:18

46. Sandra Walter, (Can), X.O.Felt, at 10:40

47. Alexandra Engen *, (Swe), at 10:42

48. Ivonne Kraft, (Ger), at 11:20

49. Amanda Sin, (Can), 3 ROX Racing, at 11:30

50. Séverine Hansen, (Fra), BH-SR. Suntour, at 11:59

51. Sandra Santanyes Murillo, (Esp), Cemelorca-Seguros10.Com, at 12:08

52. Julie Bresset *, (Fra), Breiz Mountain, at 12:20

53. Emily Batty *, (Can), Toronto Trek Store, at 13:08

54. Asa Maria Erlandsson, (Swe), Subaru-Gary Fisher, at 13:23

55. Ruth Moll Marques, (Esp), at 13:41

56. Cristina Mascarreras Sabria, (Esp), Conor – Camping La Siesta, at 13:55

57. Kate Potter, (Aus), at 14:02

58. Yolanda Speedy, (RSA), at 14:21

59. Stephanie Wiedner *, (Aut), at 14:29

60. Rowena Fry, (Aus), at 14:35

61. Zoe King, (Aus), at 14:46

62. Ksenia Chernykh, (Rus), at 16:20

63. Emma Colson, (Aus), at 16:30

64. Caroline Mani *, (Fra), at 17:09

65. Laura Lorenza Morfin Macouzet, (Mex), at 17:24

66. Mercé Tusell Quevedo, (Esp), Massi, at 17:36

67. Kristien Nelen, (Bel), at 18:10

68. Susan Butler, (USA), at 18:22

69. Katherine O\’shea, (Aus), at 22:30

70. Daniela Bunzli Rojas, (Chi), at 22:58

71. Therese Rhodes *, (Aus), at -1Lap

DNF. Kiara Bisaro, (Can), Opus

DNF. Willow Koerber, (USA), Subaru-Gary Fisher

DNF. Kaytee Boyd, (NZl),

DNF. Rocio Gamonal Ferrera, (Esp),

DNF. Oxana Rybakova, (Rus),

DNF. Tory Thomas, (Aus),

DNF. Evgenia Belozerova *, (Rus),

DNF. Rocio Martin Rodriguez, (Esp),

DNF. Nicole Lechl *, (Ger), Team Xlc Haibike

DNS. Katrin Schwing, (Ger), Dolphin-Trek Mountainbike


Men – 54.60 kms.

1. Julien Absalon, (Fra), Orbea, at 2:12:30

2. José Antonio Hermida Ramos, (Esp), Multivan Merida Biking Team, at, at0:12

3. Jean-Christophe Peraud, (Fra), Orbea, at 0:52

4. Ruben Ruzafa Cueto, (Esp), Orbea, at 0:56

5. Marco Aurelio Fontana, (Ita), at 1:02

6. Kashi Leuchs, (NZl), Cannondale-Vredestein, at 1:12

7. Christoph Soukup, (Aut), at 1:17

8. Martin Gujan, (Sui), Athleticum-Mtb-Team, at 1:31

9. Lukas Flückiger, (Sui), Athleticum-Mtb-Team, at 1:38

10. Jürg Graf, (Sui), Swisspower Mtb Team, at 1:40

11. Manuel Fumic, (Ger), Fumic.Brothers.International, at 1:51

12. Christoph Sauser, (Sui), Specialized Factory Racing, at 2:06

13. Burry Stander *, (RSA), GT Mongoose, at 2:26

14. Jaroslav Kulhavy, (Cze), at 2:29

15. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, (USA), Subaru-Gary Fisher, at 2:32

16. Cédric Ravanel, (Fra), Team Lapierre International, at 2:39

17. Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez, (Esp), Cemelorca-Seguros10.Com, at 2:45

18. Todd Wells, (USA), GT Mongoose, at 2:49

19. Oliver Beckingsale, (GBr), Giant Mountain Bike Team, at 2:57

20. Ralph Naef, (Sui), Multivan Merida Biking, at 3:15

21. Geoff Kabush, (Can), Team Maxxis, at 3:22

22. Chris Jongewaard, (Aus), Dolphin-Trek Mountainbike, at 3:23

23. Inaki Lejarreta Errasti, (Esp), Orbea, at 3:34

24. Hannes Metzler, (Aut), Giant Mountain Bike Team, at 3:41

25. Thomas Frischknecht, (Sui), Swisspower Mtb Team, at 3:46

26. Yader Zoli, (Ita), Giant Italia Team, at 3:50

27. Seamus McGrath, (Can), Fuji, at 3:56

28. Tony Longo, (Ita), Full-Dynamix-It, at 4:22

29. Bart Brentjens, (Ned), Dolphin-Trek Mountainbike, at 4:53

30. Stéphane Tempier *, (Fra), Gewiss Bianchi, at 4:53

31. Adam Craig, (USA), Giant Mountain Bike Team, at 4:56

32. Karl Markt, (Aut), at 4:57

33. Rudi Van Houts, (Ned), Dolphin-Trek Mountainbike, at 5:12

34. Wolfram Kurschat, (Ger), Topeak Ergon Racing Team, at 5:24

35. Liam Killeen, (GBr), Specialized Factory Racing, at 5:32

36. Ivan Alvarez Gutierrez, (Esp), Giant Italia Team, at 5:57

37. Israel Nunez Baticon, (Esp), Massi, at 6:12

38. Milan Spesny, (Cze), Merida Biking Team, at 6:15

39. Marc Colom *, (Fra), at 6:27

40. Florian Vogel, (Sui), Swisspower Mtb Team, at 6:34

41. Christof Bischof, (Sui), at 6:52

42. Jan Skarnitzl *, (Cze), at 7:02

43. Martino Fruet, (Ita), at 7:05

44. Giuseppe Lamastra, (Ita), at 7:15

45. Karl Platt, (Ger), Team Bulls, at 7:23

46. Jakob Fuglsang, (Den), Cannondale-Vredestein, at 7:27

47. Michael Weiss, (Aut), at 7:33

48. Peter Riis Andersen, (Den), Team Alb-Gold Mountainbik, at 7:35

49. Jelmer Pietersma, (Ned), Beone Chainreaction Mount, at 7:36

50. Nicolas Bazin, (Fra), BH-SR. Suntour, at 7:39

51. Till Marx, (Sui), Swisspower Mtb Team, at 7:43

52. Marti Gispert Labarta, (Esp), Ecp-Tau Ceramica, at 7:47

53. David Lozano Riba *, (Esp), Msc Bikes, at 8:02

54. Anders Hovdenes *, (Nor), Team Etto Hoydahl, at 8:19

55. Alejandro Diaz De La Pena Lopez, (Esp), at 8:20

56. Lado Fumic, (Ger), Fumic.Brothers.International, at 8:28

57. Moritz Milatz, (Ger), Multivan Merida Biking, at 8:32

58. Klaus Nielsen, (Den), Team Alb-Gold Mountainbik, at 8:43

59. Bas Peters, (Ned), at 8:49

60. Lachlan Norris *, (Aus), at 8:51

61. Derek Zandstra, (Can), 3 Rox Racing, at 8:55

62. Mathieu Toulouse, (Can), Team Maxxis, at 9:20

63. Dariusz Batek *, (Pol), Halls Professional Mtb, at 9:38

64. Filip Meirhaeghe, (Bel), Versluys-Landbouwkrediet, at 9:50

65. Kohei Yamamoto, (Jpn), at 9:52

66. Ji Jianhua, (Chn),

67. Matthias Flückiger *, (Sui), Athleticum-Mtb-Team

68. Bjorn Brems *, (Bel),

69. Stefan Sahm, (Ger), Team Bulls

70. Dario Alejandro Gasco *, (Arg), Massi

71. Pierre Lebreton, (Fra), BH-SR. Suntour

72. Frank Schotman, (Ned),

73. Pierre Geoffroy Plantet, (Fra), Team Lapierre International

74. Severin Disch *, (Sui),

75. Denis Vorontsov *, (Rus),

76. Maxime Marotte *, (Fra), BH-SR. Suntour

77. Martin Fanger *, (Sui),

78. Balz Weber, (Sui), Bikepark.Ch Bmc

79. Cristian Cominelli *, (Ita), Gewiss Bianchi

80. Jeremiah Bishop, (USA), Trek-VW

81. Patrik Gallati *, (Sui), Swisspower Mtb Team

82. Cristobal Silva, (Chi),

83. Olivier Maignan, (Fra),

84. Lukas Kaufmann *, (Sui),

85. Chun Hing Chan, (Hkg),

86. Sebastien Carabin *, (Bel),

87. Luis Leao Pinto, (Por),

88. Javier Puschel, (Chi),

89. Dmitry Medvedev *, (Rus),

90. Michael Broderick, (USA), Kenda Seven

91. Vivien Legastelois *, (Fra), Team Lapierre International

92. Kristian Hynek, (Cze),

93. Emil Lindgren, (Swe), Full-Dynamix-It

94. Juan Pedro Trujillo Hernandez, (Pedro Esp), Cemelorca-Seguros10.Com

95. Alban Lakata, (Aut), Dolphin-Trek Mountainbike

96. Daniel Mcconnell, (Aus),

97. Patxi Cia Apezteguia, (Esp),

98. Kris Sneddon, (Can), Kona

99. Ruud Rentmeester, (Ned),

100. Ludovic Mottet, (Bel), Windose Houffalize

101. Diego Rosa *, (Ita), Giant Italia Team

102. Ian Field *, (GBr),

103. Jose Antonio De Segovia Botella, (Esp),

104. Sergio Pulido- Rodriguez *, (Esp), Cemelorca-Seguros10.Com

105. Nathan Haas *, (Aus),

106. Umberto Corti *, (Ita), Team Cbe Tecnoimpianti A.

107. Laurent Mineur *, (Bel),

108. Alexis Vuillermoz *, (Fra), Scott Valloire Galibier, at -1Lap

109. Josef Kamler *, (Cze), Ceska Sporitelna Mtb, at -1Lap

110. David Rosa *, (Por), at -1Lap

111. David Escolar Ballesteros, (Esp), Sunshine Racers Asv Nals, at -1Lap

112. Ricky Federau, (Can), at -1Lap

113. Vladislavs Neroznaks, (Lat), at -1Lap

114. Samuel Schultz, (USA), Subaru-Gary Fisher, at -1Lap

115. Jo Thorson Nordskar *, (Nor), Team Etto Hoydahl, at -2Laps

116. Freddy Betremiaux *, (Fra), BH-SR. Suntour, at -2Laps

117. Gion Manetsch, (Sui), Athleticum-Mtb-Team, at -2Laps

118. Milton Javier Ramos Gamez, (Hon), at -2Laps

119. Nicolas Jeantet *, (Ita), Team Cbe Tecnoimpianti A., at -3Laps

120. Samuele Porro *, (Ita), Team Cbe Tecnoimpianti A., at -3Laps

121. Dror Pekatch, (Isr), Subaru-Gary Fisher, at -3Laps

122. Dries Govaerts *, (Bel), Lingier-Versluys Team, at -4Laps

123. Joel Martinez Fernandez *, (And), at -4Laps

124. Frank Beemer *, (Ned), at -4Laps

DNF. Nino Schurter *, (Sui), Swisspower Mtb Team

DNF. Fredrik Kessiakoff, (Swe), Full-Dynamix-It

DNF. Roel Paulissen, (Bel), Cannondale-Vredestein

DNF. Carlos Coloma Nicolas, (Esp), Ecp-Tau Ceramica

DNF. Tim Bohme, (Ger), Team Alb-Gold Mountainbik

DNF. Jochen Kass, (Ger), Team Alb-Gold Mountainbik

DNF. Marc Trayter Alemany, (Esp), Ecp-Tau Ceramica

DNF. Max Plaxton, (Can), Rocky Mountain

DNF. Jiri Friedl, (Cze), Merida Biking Team

DNF. Magnus Darvell, (Swe),

DNF. Mirko Pirazzoli, (Ita),

DNF. Matous Ulman, (Cze),

DNF. Barry Wicks, (USA), Kona

DNF. Andrea Tiberi, (Ita), Giant Italia Team

DNF. Tim Wijnants *, (Bel), Dolphin-Trek Mountainbike

DNF. Pascal Meyer *, (Sui),

DNF. Gareth Montgomerie, (GBr),

DNF. Mitchell Peterson *, (USA),

DNF. Davide Marques, (Por),

DNF. Tobias Ullmann, (Ger), Team XLC Haibike

DNF. Nick Daems *, (Bel),

DNS. Yury Trofimov, (Rus),

DNS. Andreas Kugler, (Sui) Fischer-BMC