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You could forgive a spectator for a certain confusion at the men’s cross-country race at the world championships in Quebec Saturday.
One lap it was cool and foggy, the next sunny and muggy, and another featured heavy rain. The lead — indeed the positions in the top 10 — constantly fluctuated as riders attacked, flatted, crashed, surged and faded at various times.
In the end, Spain’s Jose Antonio Hermida — who crashed at least once, with pre-race favorite Julien Absalon on lap 1, and was as far back as 10th at one point — powered to an impressive win, handily holding off a late challenge from the Czech Republic’s Jaroslav Kulhavy and South Africa’s Burry Stander.
“I feel like tonight I can sleep tranquilo, even though it’s going to be a long party for sure,” Hermida said following his victory. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long …14 years that’s a long wait. So now I have five months to recover from that effort.”
Hermida, who rides for the Multivan Merida trade team, tried an attack with four laps to go, but then faded back to fourth and waited patiently for the final lap, where he surged ahead of the fading Stander and Kulhavy.
Kulhavy, who won the final World Cup race of 2010 last week at Windham, New York, said he may have left a little power south of the border.
“In the end, Jose was just stronger than me,” he said. “Windham I pushed my limits. Maybe that’s what was missing for me.”
Defending champion Nino Schurter flatted twice and each time paced himself back into the race. In the final laps, however, he could not stay with the leaders and finished fourth.
Earlier this season Hermida won the World Cup stop in Houffalize, Belgium. To win the rainbow jersey at Mont Saint Anne, which has hosted World Cups and world championships for 20 years, is especially fulfilling, Hermida said.
“I was always close to winning the big races,” he said. “I always said I wanted to win in one of the cathederals — Napa Valley, Houffalize, Mont Saint Anne — finally I got it.”
Canadian Geoff Kabush put on a good show for the host country, pulling off his best result of the year at eighth place, 3:58 behind Hermida.
Sam Schultz was the top American, in 20th, followed by Todd Wells in 21st. Wells had started stronger, sitting in 13th and 14th place for the first few laps, but lost four spots on the last lap, while Schultz went in the other direction, passing five riders in the final lap.
Other American rides were Adam Craig, who finished in 29th place while Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski was 34th. Michael Broderick, Carl Decker, and Spencer Paxson were 41st, 48th, and 68th respectively for the U.S. contingent.
1. Jose Antonio Hermida Ramos (ESP) 1h 52:26.
2. Jaroslav Kulhavy (CZE) ˆ 29.
3. Burry Stander (RSA) 1:10.
4. Nino Schurter (SUI) 2:03.
5. Julien Absalon (FRA) 2:23.
6. Carlos Coloma Nicolas (ESP) 2:43.
7. Liam Killeen (GBR) 2:51.
8. Goeff Kabush (CAN) 3:58.
9. Florian Vogel (SUI) 4:14.
10. Ivan Alvarez Gutierrez (ESP) 4:30.