Cycling: Julien Absalon increased his record to 30 with his victory at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano in Albstadt, Jolanda Neff flew elegantly through the Bullental to her third World Cup victory in a row and 15000 spectators provided a great backdrop on Sunday in the Bullental.
The men's race in Albstadt was, so to speak, a repeat of Nove Mesto. The same five protagonists on the podium, but the first four with different roles.
The duel at the top this time was Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo) versus Julien Absalon (BMC Racing). Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy does not cope very well with the steep, long climbs and the winding descents and fought with Florian Vogel for third place.
After the Swiss had to give up his attempt to keep up with his compatriot Schurter and world champion Absalon in the third round, Absalon and Schurter sat down dueling. The large crowd of spectators experienced a gripping duel, but neither of the two opponents was able to gain a decisive advantage.
So it came to a showdown in the last round. And on the last climb. Julien Absalon knew that he would have the worse cards in the sprint and attacked several times. "I tried it, but I couldn't get it off my back wheel", described Absalon. "He then sprinted past just before the highest point."
Schurter went first into the following final descent and when he went down into the final drop he had a few seconds advantage. The drop went well, but on the gravel corner that followed, Schurter slipped and fell. This gave Absalon the opportunity to pass and celebrate his 30th World Cup victory by eleven seconds.
“I took a lot of risks on the descent to keep up and hoped that Nino would make another mistake. That's how it happened. I'm very happy about this 30th World Cup victory, because after the health problems in spring I'm still a bit behind. I just like this course in Albstadt, it suits me.", Absalon commented on the repeat of his previous year's victory.
Nino Schurter almost had to laugh at himself, although his ankle hurt. “It was a stupid crash, but that's racing. I felt very good and had the impression that I was the stronger one", Schurter said.
Jaroslav Kulhavy, who overtook Florian Vogel on the sixth lap and secured third place, was satisfied with his race. "I don't like the course. The climbs are too long for me and the corners are not good because my center of gravity is too high. That's why I'm very happy with it.", said the Czech Specialized rider.
As in Nove Mesto, Florian Vogel (Focus-XC) only finished fourth, ahead of the next Swiss rider, Mathias Flückiger (Stöckli Pro Team), who was also fifth in the Czech Republic.
Manuel Fumic (Cannondale Factory Racing) was not able to convert his ideas into action and fell well short of a podium finish in eighth. It could have been different with a better start, but Fumic got stuck in the early stages and had to slowly fight his way up to a position beyond 20th.
The Kirchheimer lost 47 seconds alone in the first of eight 4,2 kilometer laps.
“In the end I rode my pace. I got more and more people and tried to get in the top five. Unfortunately that wasn't enough. With the bad start, that was the maximum today. But I can't really be satisfied with it.", said Fumic, who lost the sprint for seventh place against the Swiss Lukas Flückiger and ended up eighth after 34,36 kilometers, 2:53 minutes behind.
Moritz Milatz (Koch Engineering-Müsing) showed a furious race to catch up, which finally ended in 13th place (+3:59). It had become necessary because the man from Freiburg didn't feel good at all at the beginning. "I slept badly last night and wasn't focused at all, all foggy. The bite was missing at the beginning", explained Milatz. “At some point the focus came and I was able to catch up. The legs were fine. This is definitely a good sign.”
Jolanda Neff drove two brilliant first laps in the women's category. The Stöckli Pro rider took the lead with a lead of 30 seconds in the first lap. Asked if she had planned such an early escape, she replied with a joke.
“Why, I waited for the start loop. No, I like it when I can drive my own speed.”
She literally flies through the course, extending her lead to over a minute before the duo Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro) and Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa (Multivan-Merida) worked together behind her and closed the gap more and more.
"I drove my speed without having to go to the limit", Neff explained how her sovereign victory came about.
“I am very happy that it went so well. The many spectators, including many friends and acquaintances, that was cool and I enjoyed it. Albstadt is a special race for me. It's well organized and I rode my first Elite World Cup here and last year I was third”, commented the 22-year-old.
She wins in 1:36:07, 28 seconds ahead of Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa, who can win the finish against World Champion Catharine Pendrel by one second.
"We both had a bad start, but we worked well together", Pendrel explained. “Jolanda was already too far away. I tried to get away on the last climb, but Gunn-Rita was able to follow me and passed me on the meadow. I am very happy with my race and happy that the gap to Nove Mesto is much smaller”, commented the world champion.
Completing the podium were Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing) and Maja Wloszczowska (Kross Racing Team), who lost touch with Pendrel and Dahle-Flesjaa after clipping out of the pedal.
From a German perspective, Helen Grobert (Ghost Factory Racing) managed to improve on her ninth place in Nove Mesto. In her first Elite year she drove a great race, especially a furious finish that brought her to sixth place (+1:41).
Grobert positioned himself between tenth and 15th at the beginning and then drove with a strong and stable rhythm together with Rebecca Henderson (Trek Factory Racing) to Sabine Spitz, who was seventh at the time.
Henderson and Grobert pulled away from Spitz and in the last lap Grobert launched the attack again. "My brother and my cousin gave me the signal", reported the woman from Freiburg.
She not only left Henderson behind, but also passed Vice World Champion Irina Kalentieva (Möbel Märki).
“I'm so happy that I was able to confirm my performance from Nove Mesto and showed that it wasn't a flash in the pan. The course here is so tough, it's always one-on-one on the mountain. I was able to do my thing, it's just awesome", Grobert gushed at the finish. With her result, she has already met the norm for the Olympic Games in Rio
Sabine Spitz had to pay tribute in the final phase. She ended up eleventh (+2:36). “In the beginning I was happy that I was quite good at it. Otherwise, of course, the two climbs are extremely tough, and it really takes your physical condition. And if, like me, you've had bad experiences downhill, that's in the back of your mind.", Spitz explained.