Once again, Houffalize proved that it is one of the classics of mountain biking, with exceptional racing at the second round of the RockyRoads UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano. In front of a huge crowd of enthusiastic spectators, World Champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna) and Julien Absalon (Orbea) won decisive victories.
Pendrel, who was third on the opening round of the World Cup last month in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, took the lead from defending UCI World Cup champion Julie Bresset (BH SR Suntour Peisey Vallandry) in the third lap of the five lap race with an attack on one of the climbs. She steadily increased her lead through the remainder of the race to finish with a time of one hour, 31 minutes and 15 seconds, 48 seconds ahead of Bresset. Maja Wloszczowska (CCC Polkowice), the winner of the first round of the 2012 series, was third at one minute and 24 seconds.
Pendrel and Wloszczowska are tied at 410 points each, however, Pendrel takes the lead in the World Cup by virtue of the more recent victory. Bresset moves into third, just ahead of Emily Batty (Subaru-Trek), second in the opening round.
"I just felt awesome today," stated Pendrel. "It was a good course, I really liked it. It felt a lot like my trails at home, and definitely had steep climbs. There was one section that I knew Julie [Bresset] was really strong on, so my focus of the race was riding that section as smooth as I can, and then just go as hard as I could on the climbs."
Third victory for Absalon in Houffalize
In the men's six lap race, Julien Absalon took his third Houffalize title, finishing with a time of one hour, 34 minutes and 42 seconds. Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower), the winner of the first round, was second at 38 seconds, with Marco Fontana (Cannondale Factory) third, one minute and three seconds in arrears. Absalon and Schurter broke away from the rest of the field by the second lap, and then Absalon dropped his Swiss rival in the final lap to solo in for the win.
"I was feeling good, but I was thinking "Okay, I need to attack Nino before the last lap, because I know he is always strong on the last lap". I knew there was no chance to win after that, because I knew he is faster than me on the last downhill. So my tactic was to attack before the downhill, so I attacked on the fifth lap.
"Houffalize in incredible, all the spectators, lots of fans from France and Belgium behind me, so maybe that is why I push like this. I am really happy because it is always special to win in Houffalize."
Schurter continues to lead the RockyRoads UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano, with 450 points, followed by Absalon at 400 points. Burry Stander (Specialized) sits in third place with 350 points.