By Nigel Wynn published
Jaroslav Kulhavy won the men's mountain bike event on the final day of the 2012 Olympic Games to claim gold for the Czech Republic after a close-fought battle for top honours with Nino Schurter of Switzerland.
Kulhavy got the better of the Swiss rider in the finale in front of 20,000 spectators at Hadleigh Farm in Essex, with Marco Fontana (Italy) coming home for bronze. All three of the top riders won their respective home nations their first cycling medals of the 2012 Games - Czech Republic, Switzerland and Italy.
There were numerous crashes on the first two laps. Britain's sole rider in the race, Liam Killeen crashed on one of the technical descents and was forced to withdraw with an open fracture dislocation of his left ankle.
Schurter hit the front of the race from the gun, and led the pace on the opening lap. Schurter, Fontana and Kulhavy then worked together to take the lead, with Spain's Jose Hermida and South African Burry Stander chasing hard.
By the half-way point, Hermida and Stander had linked up with the lead trio but the junction was short lived after the chasing effort took its toll. First Hermida fell back, and then Stander lost contact with the fast-moving trio of Schurter, Fontana and Kulhavy who looked like they were now battling it out for the medal order.
Schurter again led the pace on the final lap, with Kulhavy in close attendance as Fontana was distanced on the final descent of the rock garden after losing his saddle.
Kulhavy waited until the very final climb to make his move, passing Schurter and taking the inside line around the crucial final bend to claim the gold medal, and Schurter having to settle for silver after having put in so much work during the race.
Double Olympic champion Julien Absalon (France) also withdrew during the race after puncturing on the opening lap. It's likely to be his last Games appearance.
"The first lap was the worst thing that could happen to me, because I did hard work for four years to be 100 per cent today, and to have a mechanical problem is the worst luck, so I am very disappointed. I had a puncture at a bad moment. It's hard to finish my last Olympics like this. I was in good shape but, after one lap, I was in (27th) place, 55 seconds behind. I didn't have any chance to reach the podium."
One rider on the start list but who failed to materialised at Hadleigh Farm was Robert Forstemann. His German team took advantage of a loophole in the Olympic rules to get the track sprinter into the Games by placing him on the mountain bike start list. He returned home to Germany last week meaning that we were denied the sight of Forstemann's enormous thighs trundling around the mountain bike circuit.
London 2012 Olympic Games: Men's cross-country mountain biking
1. Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) in 1-29-07
2. Nino Schurter (Switzerland) at 1 sec
3. Marco Fontana (Italy) at 25 secs
4. Jose Hermida (Spain) at 29 secs
5. Burry Stander (South Africa) at 30 secs
6. Carlos Coloma (Spain) at 1-00
7. Manuel Fumic (Germany) at 1-24
8. Geoff Kabush (Canada) at 1-36
9. Alexander Gehbauer (Austria) at 2-09
10. Todd Wells (USA) at 2-21
DNF Liam Killeen (Great Britain)
Jaroslav Kulhavy strikes gold, with Nino Schurter taking silver
Marco Fontana takes bronze even after losing his saddle
Give 'em some welly: Jaroslav Kulhavy tops podium
London 2012 cycling events medal table
Julie Bresset wins Olympic mountain bike gold for France
London 2012 Olympic Games coverage index
Nigel Wynn worked as associate editor on CyclingWeekly.com, he worked almost single-handedly on the Cycling Weekly website in its early days. His passion for cycling, his writing and his creativity, as well as his hard work and dedication, were the original driving force behind the website’s success. Without him, CyclingWeekly.com would certainly not exist on the size and scale that it enjoys today. Nigel sadly passed away, following a brave battle with a cancer-related illness, in 2018. He was a highly valued colleague, and more importantly, n exceptional person to work with - his presence is sorely missed.