France's Julien Absalon became a legend in the sport of mountain biking when he became the first man to win successive Olympic titles in 2004 and 2008. Absalon enters the 2012 Olympics as one of the favorites for gold, to add to his four consecutive cross country World Championships, and numerous World Cup victories.
Born in 1980, Julien Absalon did not begin riding mountain bikes until 1995. Absalon had not begun cycling for leisure until the age of thirteen, but after discovering mountain biking he began riding competitively. He claimed a 25th World Cup victory in 2012 to enter the Olympics in good form. Winning the men's mountain biking gold in Athens in his Olympic debut in 2004, followed by his 2008 Beijing victory, has made Absalom a national hero in France.
Despite a crash that injured his thumb and knee in 2012, Absalon claimed his 25th World Cup victory in 2012 to enter the Olympics as one of the favorites for a medal. In July 2011, Absalon won the test event held at Hadleigh Farm in preparation for the 2012 Olympics. Part of the London Prepares series of events, the event was held to test the venues for suitability for staging Olympic competition.
Racing around the 4.6 kilometer course that will be used to stage the mountain biking events at London 2012, Absalon won the test event by one minute and twenty seconds. Second place went to Christoph Sauser of Switzerland, and third to Karl Markt of Austria. Leading for the entire race, Absalon did not relinquish the lead in the test event. The result gives him a strong chance of becoming the first three time Olympic champion, and keeping the gold medal with a French male for a fourth consecutive Olympics.
Entering the 2012 Olympics, Absalon will face more competition than in previous Olympiads. Amongst his biggest rivals is Nino Schurter of Switzerland; the 2009 world champion, and winner of three World Cup events during 2012. The third placed rider at the Hadleigh Farm test event, Karl Markt, will also be competing in the London 2012 event. Of course, crashes and damage to equipment are common during mountain biking races, making the result of the Olympic race difficult to predict.
Paul Cartmell has been riding in a variety of bicycle disciplines, including road racing, mountain bikes and BMX as an amateur for over twenty years.