Jaroslav Kulhavy Tops London Mountain Bike Podium; Nino Schurter, Marco Aurelio Fontana Take Second, Third
The Czech Republic’s Jaroslav Kulhavy was far from the favorite in the men’s mountain bike competition this year in London. The world champion had yet to collect a world cup win during the season. He entered the race in England quiet and poised to surprise the world-class field. He did just that, sprinting to the victory during the final 200 meters, beating out Switzerland’s Nino Schurter for the top prize, by just one second. Almost as remarkable was the third place ride by Italy’s Marco Aurelio Fontana. Fontana lost his seat and seat post during the final lap of the course and finished just 25 seconds behind the second place finisher, with nothing to sit on.
It was no question the pre-race favorite was France’s Julien Absalon. Absalon’s hopes of a repeat top performance from his Athens and Beijing victories were lost when Absalon received a puncture. While it wasn’t an immediate blowout, Absalon believed he started the race with a flat and it gradually deflated, as did his chances for a podium finish. Absalon dropped out after the second lap, siting his previous wins as motivation to be content with his current resume.
“After being a two-time champion, there was no point fighting for a 10th-place finish,” Absalon said.
Kulhavy took advantage of Absalon’s unfortunately position, riding out hard from the get-go. While Schurter lead most of the race, Kulhavy and Fontana kept up for most of the seven 4.7km laps. Following the second lap, the trio were able to separate themselves from the main pack by a comfortable ten second advantage. During the fifth lap Kulhavy made his move, attacking the leader Schurter, who was forced to take the back wheel of the Czech rider. With the three leaders separated from the main field, Kulhavy made his final move on the last lap during the steep decent leading to the finish line. Schurter responded initially but in the end, Kulhavy just edged the Swiss rider by a one second margin.
“It was really hard. We went full gas all day. I gave everything, all my energy,” Kulhavy said. "This was so important for me this year. I’ve now won everything.”