If anyone was doubting Julien Absalon after he lost the mountain biking world championship title he had taken for four straight years, his display on Saturday should allay their fears.
The Frenchman dominated the men's Olympic event, pulling ahead of his rivals and then never allowing the gap to diminish.
"He was above my level," conceded Jean-Christophe Peraud, Absalon's teammate who took the silver medal. "You have to be having a really great day to get close to him."
Absalon, 28, took the gold medal in Athens at the beginning of a golden period for him. He was the world champion every year from 2004 to 2007. But this year, at Val di Sole in Italy, he pulled out before the end, blaming heatstroke, leaving the title to his biggest rival, Christoph Sauser of Switzerland.
Absalon said the heat was only one of the problems in Italy. He'd had a number of crashes in recent races and had injuries to his back and knee going into the world championships.
"You have to be at 100 percent and I wasn't. Today I was at 100 percent," he said.
A number of French athletes who were expected to retain their titles have failed at these Olympics. Absalon said it was a difficult thing to do.
"It isn't easy to be the favorite, and if you are an Olympic champion, you have to have to handle that and manage that over four years. In our sport, everything happens on one day. Anybody could win on that day."
Asked if he would go for the triple in London in 2012, Absalon's response was, "Why not?"
Four years passes very slowly, but also very quickly. I'm 28 so in four years I'll be 32. For the moment I have the motivation. But first I want to enjoy this medal."
The gold and silver for Absalon and Peraud was the second French one-two in two days in Olympic cycling. On Friday, Anne-Caroline Chausson took the women's BMX title, ahead of her compatriot Laetitia Le Courgille.