August 28, 2004 – It could have been Grouse Mountain in late August as the Athens weather turned cool, breezy, and dry for the most perfect racing conditions of the entire Games. Too bad race-weather didn’t arrive until the second-last day of competition, but it seemed as if Julien Absalon of France could have ridden in a heatwave or snowstorm””he still would have won this event. Spain’s Jose Antonio Hermida took silver, also in a lone position, while former Olympic champion, Dutch rider Bart Brentjens claimed bronze as he too crossed the line in a solo position.
The race began with a bang as racers piled up on the first technical area, with many having to dismount. From here, a breakaway group of six got away, including two French riders; Julien Absalon, and Jean-Christophe Peraud, Dutch Olympic gold medallist in Atlanta Bart Brentjens, Marco Bui of Italy, European champion Jose Antonio Hermida of Spain, and Ralph Naef of Switzerland.
This break, just like the women’s early break the day before, proved to be the blueprint of the rest of the race. After three laps and 19.3 km, Absalon was pulling the six man group, while Roel Paulissen of Belgium chased 0:22 seconds down, Naef had fallen back to 0:36 seconds, and Sweden’s Fredrik Kessiakoff was 0:52 seconds off the pace. Canada’s Seamus McGrath sat in 11th, 1:27 behind, while Ryder Hesjedal DNF’d after a second pile-up occurred 10 minutes into the race.
At the 31.3 km mark, with five of seven laps ridden, Absalon had successfully broken away with 0:31 seconds ahead of chasing Brentjens. Hermida followed exactly 1:00 minute behind the leader, chased closely by Paulissen, who was just 11 seconds behind. Naef and Bui were 1:48 and 1:55, and Canada’s McGrath had slipped 3:36 behind Absalon. Going into the last lap McGrath was the only non-European in the top 17, ultimately making top-ten, in ninth – a fabulous result. Clearly the Aussies were not concentrating their efforts in this sport as their first rider sat in 20th position. Todd Wells was the first American in 18th spot.
1. Julien Absalon (FRA) 2:15:02
2. Antonio Hermida Jose (ESP) at 1:00
3. Bart Brentjens (NED) 2:03
4. Roel Paulissen (BEL) 3:08
5. Liam Killeen (GBR) 3:30
6. Ralph Naef (SUI) 4:13
7. Thomas Frischknecht (SUI) 4:37
8. Manuel Fumic (GER) 5:27
9. Seamus Mcgrath (CAN) 5:31
10. Marco Bui (ITA) 5:43