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A crash in the first 300 metres of a race is the stuff of nightmares for any bike rider – and that?s exactly what happened to Liam Killeen in the Olympic MTB race on Saturday.

In a frantic start to the 35.6 kilometre event, Killeen was threading his way through to the front when he touched a wheel briefly with another rider.

It was only the slightest of crashes, but it had a snowball effect, sending him into what he called ?a bit of a gully.? and then crashing out completely.

?It was one of those things in bike racing, one minute you?re upright, the next you?re on the floor.? the Londoner said later.

?I just had a very unfortunate first 300 metres. I was trying to battle through to the front, when all the other guys are trying to do the same.?

?I guess I just touched wheels early on, went into a gully and went over the bars.?

?That wasn?t the worst thing: my bars were twisted, I had to ride to the pits, the mechanic had to work on the bike and it was just mentally a little bit frustrating.?

48th after the first lap, Killeen then gained between three and nine places per lap, moving his way up to seventh.

It was a superb performance – and one very reminiscent of Athens, where he also crashed early on but then clawed his way back into contention, finally finishing fifth. As Killeen said, a podium ride would have been possible – had he not had that nightmare start.

Riding on a course that did him no favours whatsoever, five-times national champi Oli? Beckingsale turned in a steady, incident-free ride that took him through to 12th place – although at one point he was lying 10th overall.

?I took it steady, rode at my own pace, the distance we had to do meant you almost rode one notch back.? Beckingsale said.

?I caught [Jose Antonio] Hermida [of Spain] and [Manuel] Fumic [of Germany] on that last lap, tried to get past Fumic on the switchback, cocked it up, had to get back on again and then lost them and then went back to twelfth.?

?That?s the only thing I?m a little bit annoyed about, being 10th, and dropping back to 12th. But other than that, I think it went all right.?

The race was finally won by Frenchman Julien Absalon, the 2004 Olympic champion and four times World Champion who went clear alone after two of the eight lap course.

The gap stretched inexorably as Absalon had one of his usual faultless performances on a very technical, if fairly dry course through dense woodland.

He finally finished over a minute ahead of team-mate Jean Christophe Peraud – the second time in 24 hours that France had taken gold and silver in a cycling event at Beijing.

1. Julien Absalon (Fra) 35.6km in 01hr 55min 59sec

2. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) at 1min 07sec
3. Nino Schurter (Swi) at 1min 53sec
4. Christophe Sauser (Swi) at 1min 55sec
5. Marco Aurelio Fontana (Ita) at 4min 00 sec
6. Christophe Soukup (Aut) at 4min 12sec
7. Liam Killeen (GB) at 4min 15sec
8. Iñaki Lejaretta (Spa) at 4min 22sec
9. Sven Nys (Bel) at 5min 01sec
10. Jose Antonio Hermida (Spa) at 5min 02sec
12. Oliver Beckingsale (GB) at 5min 26sec

A bronze medallist in 2004, Germany’s Sabine Spitz took the Olympic title with a dominant display in the women’s cross-country mountain bike event.

Maja Wloszezowska (Poland) came in 41 seconds behind Spitz to take silver, with Russia’s Irina Kalentieva securing bronze.

Several of the pre-race favourites – including defending champion Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) – did not finish the race due to mechanical problems or due to suffering with the stifling Beijing heat.

1. Sabine Spitz (Ger) in 1hr 45min 11secs

2. Maja Wloszezowska (Pol) at 41secs
3. Irina Kalentieva (Rus) at 1min 17secs
4. Catharine Pendrel (Can) at 1min 26secs
5. Chengyuan Ren (Chi) at 2min 29secs


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