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Absalon Racing for Record Third Olympic Gold

The French rider hopes to become the first Olympic cyclist to win three consecutive gold medals.
ByJustin Davis/AFP
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French mountain bike star Julien Absalon says he is putting all thoughts of making history to the back of his mind ahead of his bid for a third-straight Olympic gold.

 

Absalon stunned his rivals on a tough Beijing course four years ago, in which teammate Jean-Christophe Peraud finished second to take the silver, on his way to defending his 2004 title from Athens. If he dominates a strong field in Sunday's cross-country race in Essex, he will become the first cyclist to win three consecutive gold in any one event. Absalon says he has just about got over the effects of a crash two weeks ago and is hoping experience, and the lack of pressure, puts him within sight of a third gold. But says he would be happy with a medal.

 

"In Athens I was very young and it was the start of my dominance in the discipline," said the Frenchman. "In Beijing I was the big favorite and had a lot of stress and expectation. I've come here more relaxed, I've got more experience, I'm the only one to have already won two gold medals and this takes some pressure off of me. A medal here would be just a bonus."

 

Both the men's and women's cross-country races are held at Hadleigh Farm, a Salvation Army-owned site which underwent massive changes to make sure the riders face some tough climbing as well as technical challenges. The course contains several man-made features with names like “Dean's Drop,” “Snake Hill,” and the “Rabbit Hole.” Absalon expects the "condensed circuit" to be a challenge. "It's very difficult, there's not much place to recover," he said.

 

When he sat facing the world's media with the gold medal around his neck in Beijing, Absalon pointed to third-place finisher Nino Schurter and said "he will be the man to beat" in London. Four years and one world championship title (2009) later, the Swiss remains Absalon's big threat.

 

"I think the big favorite this time is Nino Schurter followed by Jaroslav Kulhavy and myself. I would say there are three favorites," Absalon said.

 

Germany's Sabine Spitz, meanwhile, is also staring at a possible place in the Olympic history books. The 2008 Olympic champion will be 40 years and 228 days old Saturday when she lines up hoping to become the oldest medal winner in an individual cycling event since Jeannie Longo won time trial bronze in Sydney 2000 at the age of 41.

 

Spitz, however, faces a handful of strong, younger rivals in reigning world champion Catharine Pendrel, fourth in Beijing, Frenchwoman Julie Bresset, and Georgia Gould of the United States.

 

Bresset believes she is "capable" of medaling on Saturday but called Pendrel the favorite. "She's had three wins in the World Cup and she's the leader in the general ranking," said Bresset.



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