Kulhavy Crowned London Olympic Mountain Bike King

by Justin Davis

HADLEIGH FARM, United Kingdom, Aug 12, 2012 (AFP) – Czech world champion
Jaroslav Kulhavy was crowned king of the men’s Olympic mountain biking after
an epic seven-lap race which left Swiss Nino Schurter in a close second Sunday.

Italian Marco Fontana finished third to take the bronze at 25 seconds
behind Kulhavy’s winning time of 1hr 29min 07sec.

Julien Absalon’s dream of winning a third consecutive gold was ended when
the French defending champion suffered a puncture early on the seven-lap race.

But even before that mishap, Schurter and Kulhavy were expected to be in
the fight for the medals.

The pair were among a leading group whose ferocious pace left many of their
rivals trailing from the start on the technical Hadleigh Farm course.

And when it came to a duel at the finish, 27-year-old Kulhavy powered ahead
of Schurter on the final chicane to finish just 1sec ahead of the Beijing
bronze medalist.

“It’s incredible, it’s the best moment in my life because the Olympic gold
medal is the biggest prize in sport,” said Kuhlavy.

“We thought we would go home with a total of 10 medals, and now we have 10
medals and four gold.”

Kulhavy and Schurter were determined to stay out of trouble on a course
with challenging features like Triple Trouble, the Rock Garden and the Leap of

Their strategy had the double effect of keeping them free of crashes and
eliminating many of the rivals who, once trailing, found the pace even harder
to match on the course’s tight trails.

Schurter said: “I didn’t want to get into any trouble from guys making
mistakes. That’s why I was always racing at the front the whole race.

“It was a good strategy, in the end there was just one guy stronger than

A series of attacks by Kuhlavy on lap four forced Schurter and Fontana to
dig deep but also virtually eliminated South African Burry Stander and Jose
Antonio Hermida of Spain, who had been chasing.

Stander’s fifth place finish at 30sec was a “huge disappointment”.

“It’s four years and I had a realistic chance, but there were 10 guys here
with a realistic chance of winning this race,” added the South African.

On the final lap Schurter and Kuhlavy dropped Fontana after a brief surge
of pace took him to the front on the way to the switchback climb of Snake Hill.

They then attacked each other several times on the final climb before the
Swiss crested in the lead. With only a few hundred metres to race, however,
Kuhlavy found a last droplet of energy to come round Schurter on the chicane.

“Nino was really strong and we had a really big fight at the end,” added
Kuhlavy. “My last chance was in the chicane just before the finish and I just
gave it everything I had.”

A disappointed looking Schurter tried hard to put a positive spin on his
runner-up place.

“It’s hard to lose the race by so little. I was so close,” said the Swiss.

“At first I was really disappointed — the first thing that goes through
your head is that you’ve lost the gold medal — but now I’m happy because I
did a really good race.

“Jaroslav was just stronger in the last 200 meters.”

Fontana admitted any other color of medal would not have been deserved:
“The two guys ahead of me have been going really fast all season. They were
better than me so credit to them.”

Olympic men’s mountain biking results on

1. Jaroslav Kulhavy (CZE) 1h29:07.
(Average speed 22.9 km/h)
2. Nino Schurter (SUI) at 0:01.
3. Marco Aurelio Fontana (ITA) 0:25.
4. Jose Antonio Hermida (ESP) 0:29.
5. Burry Stander (RSA) 0:30.
6. Carlos Coloma (ESP) 1:00.
7. Manuel Fumic (GER) 1:24.
8. Geoff Kabush (CAN) 1:36.
9. Alexander Gehbauer (AUT) 2:09.
10. Todd Wells (USA) 2:21.
11. Stephane Tempier (FRA) 2:23.
12. Jan Skarnitzl (CZE) 2:41.
13. Gerhard Kerschbaumer (ITA) 2:55.
14. Ondrej Cink (CZE) 3:09.
15. Samuel Schultz (USA) 3:22.
16. Marek Konwa (POL) 3:34.
17. Rudi Houts van (NED) 3:46.
18. Ralph Naef (SWI) 3:51.
19. Kevin Van Hoovels (BEL) 3:54.
20. Karl Markt (AUT) 4:11.
21. Daniel Mcconnell (AUS) 4:15.
22. Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez (ESP) 4:39.
23. David Joao Serralheiro Rosa (POR) 4:43.
24. Rubens Valeriano (BRA) 5:16.
25. Florian Vogel (SUI) 5:29.