The early drama came when news arrived that Nino Schurter, World Cup leader, would not be racing, due to a stomach illness.
“I decided after a morning spin I am not fit enough,” said a disappointed Schurter.
Another of this season’s frontrunners, Burry Stander, ended his race in lap 1 with problems, while early leader of today’s race, Manuel Fumic, had a puncture that ruined his afternoon.
Ralph Naef was looking good, as was the evergreen Julien Absalon, racing just 10km from his home with his family in La Bresse to watch him perform.
Absalon eventually took the lead with Jaroslav Kulhavy running in second, but the result was far from certain for the Frenchman.
I was thinking of the victory maybe a little bit too early
In circumstances remarkably similar to the women’s race, the last slippery descent just precious minutes from the finish line almost cost Absalon the victory as he went over the handlebars when he had the win seemingly in his pocket. Absalon picked himself up to take the honours with just seven seconds to spare.
“It’s maybe one of my best races,” said Absalon afterwards. “I was in good shape, but I was suffering a lot, and when I saw Jaroslav in the last lap – I was dead!”
He also admitted the excitement of winning in France and taking his 25th World Cup victory had clearly overtaken him.
“I was thinking of the victory maybe a little bit too early,” he laughed. “I lost my concentration and I crashed.
“It’s been an amazing weekend with lots of spectators, good weather, good track. It’s a big honour for me.”
Men’s Elite XCO: Results
1.Julien ABSALON (FRA) 1:37:33
2.Jaroslav KULHAVY (CZE) +0:07
3.Ralph NAEF (SUI) +0:40
4.Florian VOGEL (SUI) +1:24
5.Fabian GIGER (SUI) +1:41