Julien Absalon (Orbea) seized the lead of the cross-country Nissan UCI Mountain Bike World Cup on Sunday after winning round two of the series in Offenburg, Germany.
It was Absalon’s 18th World Cup victory — a record that tops the 17 wins scored by Thomas Frischknecht—and leaves him undefeated at Offenburg.
In women’s competition, Ren Chengyuan (China) took the win while Austrian Elisabeth Osl (Central Ghost Pro Team) finished fifth to retain the overall lead.
Huge field, heavy hitters
The huge men’s field — more than 220 riders — took more than a minute to roll through the start-finish area after completing the start loop and heading out onto the main course for the first of seven laps. By that time, a sizable group of heavy hitters was already pulling away from the rest of the field.
Among the group were Absalon, World Cup leader Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida), world champion Christoph Sauser (Specialized), U23 World Cup leader Burry Stander (Specialized), Florian Vogel (Scott-Swisspower), Lukas Fluckiger (Trek World Racing), Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower), Roel Paulissen (Cannondale) and Jean-Christophe Peraud (Massi). Also making the split were Todd Wells (Specialized), Marco Fontana (Cannondale), Jaroslav Kulhavy (Rubena-Specialized) and Martin Gujan (Cannondale Factory Racing).
Absalon counterattacked a move by Schurter on the longest climb, quickly gaining 25 seconds on the disorganized chase. The Olympic champion continued to open up his lead through the fourth lap, as the chase started to shed riders. Among the first to go was Hermida, who came to the race with a bad cold. Wells flatted and eventually abandoned.
On lap five, Sauser broke away from the rest of the group, taking only his teammate Stander with him. The duo quickly took 20 seconds on the rest of the chasers, but made no dent in Absalon’s lead, and the effort failed after Sauser crashed hard in one of the technical sections and had to abandon with a broken frame.
Stander continued on in second, but was steadily being reeled in by Wolfram Kurschat (Topeak Ergon) and Peraud. The pair caught and dropped Stander in the final kilometers to take second and third behind Absalon, with the South African holding on for fourth, and the top U23 result. Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida) capped an impressive ride up from midfield to take the final podium spot.
Swiss leads, Fullana attacks
Swiss rider Katrin Leumann led the 93-rider women’s field out onto the main circuit for their six-lap, 36km race, but the top names quickly moved to the forefront, with world champion Marga Fullana (Massi), Lene Byberg (Specialized) and Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon) leading after the first lap. They were closely followed by Osl, American Willow Koerber (Subaru-Gary Fisher) and Canada’s Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team). Pendrel had impressively worked her way up from 52nd on the start grid within one lap.
Fullana then attacked the lead group, carving out a lead that approached a minute by the fourth lap. The chase had reshuffled, with Kalentieva, Byberg, Pendrel and Osl dropping Koerber and Lechner, but being joined by Ren, who had also moved up from a poor start position.
Fullana looked to be in control, but Ren launched a strong attack in the fifth lap, with only Pendrel able to follow. Pendrel couldn’t maintain the pace of the former U23 world champion and dropped back to the chasers, while Ren continued to steadily reel in Fullana, catching and dropping her on the final lap.
Fullana hung for second, with Byberg repeating her third place from round one, followed by Kalentieva, Osl and Pendrel. Canada’s Emily Batty was the top U23 finisher in 10th place, with Julie Bresset (Breiz Mountain) retaining the overall U23 lead.
The next round of the Nissan UCI Mountain Bike World Cup takes place next week in Houffalize, Belgium.
UCI World Cup No. 2: Top 5
1. Julien Absalon (F), 1:49:26
2. Wolfram Kurschat (G), at 1:09
3. Jean-Christophe Peraud (F), at 1:24
4. Burry Stander (RSA), at 1:32
5. Ralph Naef (Swi), at 1:54
1. Ren Chengyuan (Chn), 1:49:56
2. Margarita Fullana Riera (Sp), at 0:49
3. Lene Byberg (Nor), at 1:24
4. Irina Kalentieva (Rus), at 1:37
5. Elisabth Osl (A), at 1:51