Posted by Editoress on 04/20/08
World Cup #1 - Houffalize
Coverage brought to you with the assistance of Velirium
Julien Absalon (Orbea) has now added the major World Cup win which has been missing from his palmares - Houffalize. Absalon literally rode away from the rest of the men's field to win this season-opener and take the lead in the 2008 World Cup series. Nino Schurter (Swisspower) was the only rider to stay with Absalon in the French rider's initial surge, and took second - plus the lead in the U23 series. Former Houffalize champion Christoph Sauser (Specialized) took third. Canadian champion Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) overcame a slow start to move up through the field for 12th place, while Seamus McGrath, wearing his new Team Fuji colours, started strongly but faded in the final lap to finish 23rd.
The men's five lap (plus start loop) began very fast, with Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida) opening a small gap on a chase group containing Absalon, local favourite (and former champion) Roel Paulissen (Cannondale-Vredestein) and Balz Weber (Bikepark.ch). Both defending champion Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida) and Sauser had poor starts, and had to work their way forward through traffic.
Hermida came up quickly, and by midway through the first full lap was into the lead, with Absalon and his team mate Jean Christophe Peraud watching closely, remembering how Hermida rode away for his win last year. However, Hermida was either not showing the form of last year, or had extended himself too much making it back to the front, and could not respond when Absalon mounted a challenge on the next lap.
Absalon didn't attack so much as steadily increase the pressure.
"I wanted to set a hard pace and see who could respond, and it was only Nino." Absalon explained. "This is an important race, a classic of mountain biking, and I have wanted to make sure that I could win it in my career."
Schurter managed to stay within sight of Absalon for a lap, but then started to slowly slide back as Absalon kept up the pace. Behind, there was a battle for third as Sauser moved up through the chasers, and early leaders such as Naf and Hermida fell back. Sauser was actually gaining on Schurter, and had the race been half a lap longer could have quite possibly taken second.
On the North American front, McGrath managed to move up from his 29th start position to as high as 15th by the third lap, but the pace was too much for this early in the season and he faded in the final two laps.
"This is only my second mountain bike race of the year, so I'm pretty happy actually," he commented. "I had a good start, but just couldn't hold it. But that will come, and I think I will do better in the next races."
Geoff Kabush, starting further up in 18th place, had the opposite experience, initially dropping back before working his way forward and picking off riders - including six in the last lap to finish 12th.
"My start was as good as I hoped for," he explained "and I lost probably about 12 or 14 spots. But it was a long race and there were lots of places to pass so I was able to move up pretty well. I was hoping to do better than this [12th], but it is still a solid result and it will ensure me a good start position for the next rounds."
Max Plaxton (Rocky Mountain) suffered the worst luck imaginable when a rock ripped off his rear derailleur in the first couple of kilometres of the race, forcing him to abandon.
The top North American was U.S. rider Todd Wells (GT) who had what he called "the ride of my life" to finish 11th. Wells was actually up to fourth, chasing Absalon with Sauser on the third lap, but then began to show signs of the strain and slid back just out of the top-10.
Kabush lost functionality in his suspension forks for the last two laps, and was essentially riding a rigid fork. "It really slowed me down on the downhill sections, because I couldn't just let it roll."
American Adam Craig (Giant), who finished just behind Kabush commented "I was wondering why we kept catching you on the downhills..."
|1. Julien Absalon (Fra) Orbea||2:06:56|
|2. Nino Schurter (Sui) Swisspower MTB Team||at 0:51|
|3. Christoph Sauser (Sui) Specialized Factory Racing||0:14|
|4. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Cannondale-Vredestein||2:00|
|5. CÃƒÂ©dric Ravanel (Fra) Team Lapierre International||2:37|
|6. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Orbea||3:10|
|7. Jose Hermida (Esp) Multivan Merida Biking Team||3:33|
|8. Roel Paulissen (Bel) Cannondale-Vredestein||3:55|
|9. Kashi Leuchs (NZl) Cannondale-Vredestein||4:10|
|10. Martin Gujan (Sui) Athleticum-Mtb-Team||4:34|
|11. Todd Wells (USA) GT Mongoose / Pacific Cycle||5:16|
|12. Geoff Kabush (Can) Team Maxxis||5:30|
|15. Adam Craig (USA) Giant Mountain Bike Team||5:55|
|23. Seamus McGrath (Can) Fuji Bikes/Shockwave||7:29|
|52. Ricky Federau (Can)||13:25|
|60. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher||15:28|
|73. Mathieu Toulouse (Can) Team Maxxis||17:07|
|88. Derek Zandstra (Can) 3 Rox Racing||19:10|
|133. Kris Sneddon (Can) Kona||at 1 lap|
|DNF. Max Plaxton (Can) Rocky Mountain|
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