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Absalon leads smooth victory through bumpy road on mountain bike
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Defending Olympic champion Julien Absalon of France exhibited his dominant power in the men's mountain bike cross country with a convincing victory at the Beijing Olympic Games on Saturday.

The four-time world champion finished the 8-lap zigzagging Laoshan mountain bike course at 1 hour 55 minutes and 59 seconds, enjoying a clear advantage over the chaser group with a margin of 1 minute 07 seconds.

His compatriot Jean-Christophe Peraud won the silver medal at 1:57:06, while Nino Schurter from Switzerland finished third at 1:57:52.

Ji Jianhua, the only Chinese rider who participated in the discipline, finished 22nd at 2:05:29, the best-ever result achieved by Asian male riders at the Olympics.

The Frenchman who celebrated his 28th birthday during the Games placed third in the first lap. Since the second lap, however, he had never left any chance for the chasers to challenge him and enjoyed a widening lead.

As soon as he crossed the finish line, he jumped off and raised the bike over his head to celebrate the victory.

The Laoshan mountain bike staged huge challenges to the Olympic riders, many of whom fell down from their bikes during speedy chases.

"It's the most complicated, difficult technical race. There were lots of stones and no time to rest," admitted Absalon.

The sentiment was echoed by the silver medalist Peraud, who said that it is one of the most difficult courses he had ever raced.

"After I finished, I was so tired that I had to take a rest, because I couldn't feel my legs anymore," said the 31-year-old French rider, claiming that he is proud to be on the podium.

On how his victory compared with winning gold in Athens in 2004, the defending champion said it's more exciting.

"I dreamed about it in 2004, and now it's like a dream again," Absalon said.

On the 22-year-old bronze medalist Schurter from Switzerland, the reigning champion heaped compliments, praising him to be the favorite in London, as the young rider boasts huge potentials.

Schurter thanked Absalon for the comments, saying that he is very proud that Absalon had such trust in his capabilities.

"I will do my very, very best in London to achieve the gold," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency August 23, 2008)


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