Posted by Editoress on 09/4/10
MSA World Championships - Men's Cross-country
Our coverage of the 2010 World Championships brought to you with the support of Shimano
The cross-country events at the Mountain Bike World Championships concluded on Saturday with the Elite men. Jose Hermida of Spain took a very popular victory, ahead of Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) and Burry Stander (South Africa). Geoff Kabush, in his best ride all season, was the top Canadian in eighth place.
For the first time all week, riders woke to heavy rain, which changed the dynamics of the race significantly, favouring some riders and disappointing others. The rain had backed off by the start of the women's race in the morning, leaving the rock gardens with a slick, slippery film of mud. However, shortly after the start of the men's race, the rain rolled back in for one lap, which was enough to keep the track greasy for the rest of the race. The men raced two start loops and six full laps, for a total of 33 kilometres.
Kulhavy, led defending champion Nino Schurter (Switzerland) into the first lap with a gap on the rest of the field, after Hermida, Julien Absalon (France) and others got caught in a crash at the start and lost places.
Kulhavy set the pace in the early laps with Schurter, and followed by Hermida, as Stander faded a bit and Absalon couldn't quite close the gap. Kabush was working his way up steadily, picking off riders one by one as he moved into the top-ten by mid-race.
Schurter and Kulhavy rode together until the Swiss rider began to run into mechanical problems mid-race, stopping in the pits in both the second and third laps after suffering a flat. This dropped him to 14th by the end of lap three, and he could only recover to fourth by the end of the race.
By the fourth lap the podium was set; the only question was who would get to don the rainbow jersey?
Hermida was getting stronger as the race progressed, and he and Kulhavy dropped Stander for the final time on the fifth lap, leaving two to duke it out for the title.
Both riders looked equally strong, and Kulhavy was coming off a win in the World Cup final a week earlier ... But the Spanish rider started to pull away after the singletrack in the first half of the lap, leading by 12 seconds at the start of the first long climb. He held it through the rock garden descent and added a few more seconds on the switchback second climb. From that point it was a forgone conclusion, and Hermida came into the finish arena with time to get off his bike and walk across the line with it held in the air.
"For 14 years I have been wanting to win this championship," said an emotional Hermida, who often choked up when speaking. "To win here, in the cathedral of mountain bike, it is unbelievable."
"I knew after Windham [World Cup final] that my form was coming along pretty good, and my Team Relay lap was also good. But there are many strong riders here. When it was just [Kulhavy] and me, I wasn't sure, because he still seemed pretty strong, I couldn't tell. But then I got a small gap, it wasn't an attack, and I was able to climb faster than him."
Geoff Kabush: "It's always been a lottery at the start. I've had a rough season so I didn't have a front row position. I started about 15th, and then there was a crash ..."
"But I put it all out there, it's my best finish of the year, so got to be happy with that, to have my best ride at the world championships. Optimistically I was shooting for something higher, but I think I'm pretty satisfied with how the race went, I can't complain."
About the rain before the race: "It was drier than forecast for sure, but still a little muddy on the rocks and everyone was being cautious on those sections and I could make a little time up there. Maybe it would have favoured me a bit more if had been wetter, but eighth is good for the day."
The Canadian crowd: "It was pretty special [with the crowd], you could barely hear yourself think on the switchback climb."
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