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Kulhavy wins mountain biking gold
8:41pm Sunday 12th August 2012 in Sport
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 07 seconds, with Italy's Marco Fontana third, 25secs 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, with Jose Antonio Hermida of Spain leading the chase.
South Africa's Burry Stander and Hermida bridged the gap at the end of the third lap to join the three leaders, but the relentless Kulhavy took the lead on the fifth lap and stretched the group with the relentless pace, opening up a narrow lead over Schurter and Fontana with two laps to go, with Stander and Hermida losing contact.
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% 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.
"I was in good shape but, after one lap, I was in 27th place, 55 seconds behind. I didn't have any chance to reach the podium."
Germany's Robert Forstemann, who entered the mountain bike event to exploit a loophole and take a place on the velodrome track, did not even start the race.
His team-mate Manuel Fumic, who finished seventh, said: "He's a track guy. I don't think he is able to ride a mountain bike."