Olympics: Czech stayed strong on the gas pedal when it mattered

Relentless Kulhavy beats fancied Swiss rival in sprint finish to mountain bike gold.
Czech Republic's Jaroslav Kulhavy took the lead from the fifth lap onwards.
Czech Republic's Jaroslav Kulhavy took the lead from the fifth lap onwards.

Jaroslav Kulhavy of the Czech Republic was thrilled to add the Olympic title to his world crown after a sensational victory in the London 2012 men's mountain bike race at Hadleigh Farm.

The 2011 world champion had enough strength to win a sprint finish ahead of Nino Schurter of Switzerland in one hour, 29 minutes, seven seconds, with Italy's Marco Fontana third, 25 seconds adrift.

"It was really hard, because we went full gas the whole time," Kulhavy said.

"I was amazingly strong, I gave everything for this race. I put in all my energy and it's amazing. This race was important this year, nothing else. I won everything, world champs, world cups. Now I am Olympic champion."

Schurter had a strong season and was one of the pre-race favourites, along with Kulhavy and France's Julien Absalon, the two-time Olympic champion.

The Swiss said: "It was a great race. I performed to the maximum. Just at the end, Jaroslav was a bit stronger than me.

"He's not been so strong this whole season but today he was very strong and he deserved it.

"It is hard to get second, but it was a great day. I have to be happy with silver. It was an awesome feeling to compete here."

Absalon lost touch with Schurter, who won four rounds and the overall World Cup series title this season, and Kulhavy on the first of seven laps of a 4.7-kilometre route, carved into an Essex hillside overlooking the Thames estuary.

Schurter, Kulhavy and Fontana established a narrow lead at the end of the opening circuit, but South Africa's Burry Stander and Jose Antonio Hermida of Spain bridged the gap at the end of the third lap.

Kulhavy took the lead on the fifth lap and stretched the group with the relentless pace.

Kulhavy and Schurter were vying for the win, with Fontana dropped in the closing stages of the final lap. Schurter moved to the front but Kulhavy rounded his rival to triumph.

Absalon of France, the 2004 and 2008 champion, did not finish after falling down the field following a puncture.

"The first lap was the worst thing that could happen to me, because I did hard work for four years to be 100 per cent today, and to have a mechanical problem is the worst luck," Absalon said.

"I had a puncture at a bad moment. It's hard to finish my last Olympics like this."

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Published: August 12, 2012 04:00 AM


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