AP Sports Writer
HADLEIGH, England (AP) - World champion Jaroslav Kulhavy of the Czech Republic won a two-man sprint Sunday to take the gold medal in the mountain bike race of the London Games.
Kulhavy made the most of a final steep ascent on the technical circuit in the English countryside to move ahead of Nino Schurter of Switzerland and then sprinted to the line.
Schurter won the silver medal and Marco Aurelio Fontana of Italy took bronze.
Kulhavy, whose sole objective this season was the Olympic gold, put his hands on his head as if he couldn't believe he won. He then tied a Czech flag around his neck like a cape while Schurter, a bronze medalist in Beijing four years ago, collapsed to the ground in exhaustion.
"It was really hard. We went full gas all day. I gave everything, all my energy," Kulhavy said. "This was so important for me this year. I've now won everything, the World Cup, the world championship and now the Olympic title."
On a course featuring short but steep climbs and several technical sectors, all pre-race favorites got off to a strong start, with Schurter leading the pack ahead of two-time defending champion Julien Absalon of France.
But Absalon's hopes of retaining his title were dashed by a flat tire. The Frenchman said he probably started the race with a flat and that his tire deflated during the beginning of the race.
He already trailed the leading group by 54 seconds after the first of seven 4.7-kilometer laps. Absalon, who won gold medals in Athens and Beijing, retired on the second lap.
"After being an Olympic champion there was no point fighting for a 10th-place finish," Absalon said
At the front of the pack, Schurter rode an aggressive race as only two riders, Kulhavy and Fontana, were able to follow his frenetic pace. The leading trio started to work together to distance the rest of the field, building a gap of 10 seconds after the second lap.
On the man-made course overlooking an estuary of the Thames, Kulhavy attacked early in the final lap and tried again in a steep ascent, but Schurter was able to respond. Fontana was the first to crack while Schurter and Kulhavy battled until the final sprint.
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