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Champions enjoy comfortable win on mountain bikes at Beijing Olympics
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Both men and women's champions in mountain bike cross country exhibited their absolute dominance on the Laoshan mountain bike course with two convincing victories Saturday.

The last day of cycling competitions witnessed Sabine Spitz claiming Germany's first cycling gold at the Beijing Olympics after she won the women's mountain bike cross country.

Spitz dominated the race from the first lap to the last, clocking one hour, 45 minutes and 11 seconds for the gold medal.

"It is a dream come true. I was very happy, because from the beginning I could make the race at the front and set the speed," Spitz said.

Maja Wloszczowska of Poland took the silver at 1:45:52, while the bronze medal went to Irina Kalentyeva of Russia at 1:46:28.

"Of course I want a gold, but the German rider was too fast. I think I need to have more power on the last lap, but I am satisfied with the silver," Wloszczowska said.

Chinese medal hopeful Liu Ying in the discipline finally placed 12th, while another Chinese biker Ren Chengyuan finished fifth.

"The gear went wrong when I started, which greatly affected my riding throughout the competition. I had to continue the race with a broken gear. I couldn't get it repaired because it would take time," explained Ren, who won China's first World Cup title last year in Belgium.

In men's mountain bike cross country, defending Olympic champion and four-time world champion Julien Absalon from France finished the 8-lap zigzagging Laoshan mountain bike course at 1 hour 55 minutes 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 Laoshan course is 4.5 kilometers long, and features a hard-pack track with a number of small climbs through heavy brush and woods. Changes were made to the course to make it more technical, adding more banked curves, drops, rock and new climbs and descents after riders complained it lacked challenge at the Good Luck Beijing invitational event in 2007.

"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 course 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 at 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.

The mountain bike is a relatively new discipline, which has its origins in the United States during the 1970s. However, the Europeans staged better performances over the Americans in the sport, with France and Switzerland dominating the men's competition, while Germany and Poland leading in the women's race.

(Xinhua News Agency August 23, 2008)

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