FROM STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS
BEIJING — A slow start led to a premature finish for Exeter native Adam Craig in the Olympic men’s mountain bike race Saturday at the Laoshan Mountain Bike Park.
Riding bike No. 13, Craig started in the second row among 50 riders from 32 nations, but was unable on several occasions to initially lock into his pedals. That left him in the back of the pack heading into the first climb on the technically demanding course.
Craig was able to rally back to the middle of the field during the 22.1-mile race, but ultimately was pulled from the field according to the so-called 80 percent rule entering the final lap of the eight-lap event.
The Giant Mountain Bike Team rider finished 29th, one of three riders one lap behind the leaders.
Under the 80 percent rule, a rider must ride at a lap pace of at least 80 percent of the leader’s pace. The rule is designed to prevent congestion among lead-lap riders and those who are a lap or more down.
“I’m more disappointed to miss the opportunity to have people fired up about mountain biking back at home,” Craig said. “Maybe next time.”
Twenty-eight riders completed the race, led by Julien Absalon of France, who became the first two-time Olympic mountain bike gold medalist with a winning time of 1 hour, 55 minutes and 59 seconds.
Jean Christophe-Peraud, also of France, finished second, 1:07 behind Absalon. Nino Schurter of Switzerland finished third, pulling away from reigning world champion Christoph Sauser of Switzerland on the final lap to earn the bronze medal. Schurter was 1:53 behind Absalon and two seconds ahead of Sauser.
The top North American in the field was Canadian Geoff Kabush, who finished on the lead lap in 20th place, 7:56 behind Absalon. The other American in the race, Todd Wells, was pulled with three laps remaining and finished 43rd.
The riders battled temperatures in the 90s and a course whose difficulty had been significantly upgraded since many of the riders in the field — including Craig — had participated in a test race last year.
Craig planned to watch the closing ceremonies at the Olympics before heading off to Canberra, Australia, for a World Cup race next weekend.
In the women’s mountain bike race, Germany’s Sabine Spitz won the gold medal, adding it to the bronze she won at the Athens Games four years ago.
Spitz finished six laps around the 2.75-mile course in 1:45:11. She stopped about five meters (yards) from the finish, hopped off her bike and carried it across the finish line.
Poland’s Maja Wloszezowska won the silver, finishing 41 seconds behind Spitz. Russia’s Irina Kalentieva won the bronze, another 36 seconds back.
Spitz led by 21 seconds after the first lap, 49 seconds after two, and was never seriously threatened on the 88-degree day.
Defending gold medalist Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa of Norway only completed three laps before dropping out, citing mechanical problems.