Round 4 of the UCI World Cup was shook up even before the start when it was announced that Nino Schurter, World Cup leader, would not be racing, due to a stomach illness.
“I decided after a morning spin I am not fit enough,” said Schurter.
The race received another shake up when Burry Stander ended his race in lap 1 due to a mechanical and early race leader Manuel Fumic, fell victim to a puncture. This left Ralph Naef, Jaroslav Kulhavy and Julien Absalon to fight out the victory.
Absalon eventually took the lead with Jaroslav Kulhavy running in second, but the result was far from certain for the Frenchman. In circumstances remarkably similar to the women’s race earlier in the day, the last slippery descent just minutes from the finish line almost cost Absalon the victory as he went over the handlebars when he had the win seemingly in his pocket. Despite his crash Absalon picked was able to cross the line with just just seven seconds to spare.
“It’s maybe one of my best races,” said Absalon afterwards. “I was in good shape, but I was suffering a lot, and when I saw Jaroslav in the last lap – I was dead!
"I was thinking of the victory maybe a little bit too early,” he laughed. “I lost my concentration and I crashed. It’s been an amazing weekend with lots of spectators, good weather, good track. It’s a big honor for me.”
In the women's race thirty-nine-year-old Rita-Gunn Dahle Flesjaa returned to top step of the podium with a hard fought victory – her first World Cup win since 2008. In the early stages it appeared to be a repeat of the first three rounds as Catharine Pendrel along with round 3 winner Julie Bresset took an early lead with Katerina Nash running solidly third.
The shape of the race changed dramatically on lap three as Pendrel lost her balance on the slippery mud of a downhill section and came off the bike. Bresset unable to stop on the descent crashed into Pendrel, sending both riders to the ground. This opened the door for Nash to take the lead as as Bresset struggled in second and Pendrel was forced to stop and adjust her bike.
Then on lap 4, Nash herself had a fall on the wet descent but was able to maintain her lead from a charging Dahle Flesjaa. However, when Nash crashed again on next and final lap it allowed Dahle Flesjaa to close the gap and another slip-up towards the end of the race allowed Dahle Flesjaa to take the lead, which she held to the finish.
When asked how about her win Dahle Flesjaa said, “It is unbelievable. I was just focusing on not going over my limit as you need so much power and concentration. I paced myself to the limit but didn’t go too much over.”
Men’s World Cup Round 4
1.Julien ABSALON (FRA) 1:37:33
2.Jaroslav KULHAVY (CZE) @0:07
3.Ralph NAEF (SUI) @ 0:40
4.Florian VOGEL (SUI) @ 1:24
5.Fabian GIGER (SUI) @1:41
Women's World Cup Round 4
1.Gunn-Rita DAHLE FLESJAA (NOR) 1:39:57
2.Katerina NASH (CZE) @ 0:16
3.Julie BRESSET (FRA) @ 0:55
4.Catharine PENDREL (CAN) @ 1:12
5.Maja WLOSZCZOWSKA (POL) @ 2:22