August 22, 2006 (Rotorua, New Zealand) – Another nation has found its first ever gold medal here at the 2006 World MTB Championship here in Rotorua, New Zealand as China’s Ren Chengyuan won the Women’s U23 cross-country race. Chengyuan teammate Ying Liu won silver as Switzerland celebrated their third medal of the championships with Sarah Koba taking the bronze.
Under warm sunny skies 26 women were at the U23 startline ready to embark on four laps of the 5.9 km course. The clear weather and fast draining soil dried out much of the mud that had plagued yesterday’s Team Relay event and this morning’s Junior Women’s race.
China’s Ren Chengyuan and Ying Liu jumped to front and lead the field around the grassy section at the start. At the feed zone half way through the course the two Chinese girls had opened a 20-second gap on Italy’s Eva Lechner and Switzeland’s Sarah Koba. Behind them, a further 20 seconds back, a steady stream of riders followed including Canada’s Jean Anne McKirdy, Meghan Kindree and Catherind Vipond in the high teens.
By the end of the first lap, teammates Chengyuan and Liu working together to establish a 1-minute gap over chasers Koba and Lechner. McKirdy, Kindree and Vipond rolled along in the hunt at about three to four minutes down.
A strong looking Koba dropped Lechner on the climb but was not able to close back any time on the Chinese duo. Tereza Hurikova of the Czech Republic looked strong in fifth as she chased down Lechner.
Chengyuan dropped her countrywoman late in the second lap as she posted the fastest lap time of the day at 22:31. While she looked very strong on the third climb her teammate Liu looked in serious pain as she climbed alone. Behind Koba also looked very strong and hungry but was not able to close much of the nearly 3-minute gap. Hurikova passed a cracked Lechner but was also unable to bring back any time. McKirdy and Kindree climbed together in 19th and 20th spots as Vipond trailed not far behind.
Chengyuan crossed the line first as the chasers maintained their positions on the fourth and final lap. Liu, who looked ready to crack on last lap, dug deep to maintain her second place position. Koba was ecstatic as she crossed the line in third and was congratulated by Swiss legend Thomas Frischknecht. All three medal winners were quickly ushered off to doping control by UCI officials. Czech rider Hurikova missed the podium finishing 1:38 behind Koba as Nathalie Schneitter gave Switzerland another strong result finishing fifth.
Squamish B.C.’s Meghan Kindree was the top Canadian finishing 19th at the inaugural event, 16 minutes back. Racing at her first MTB Worlds Kindree said she was “Very, very, very happy with my race. All year I was waiting for “˜my day’ and today I found it.” Kindree was another advocate of the course comparing the steep climbing to racing in B.C.
Jean-Ann McKirdy, of Valemont, B.C., rolled in 40 seconds behind Kindree to finish 20th. McKirdy who raced worlds as a junior in 2001 and 2002 was very supportive of the introduction of a U23 Women’s category, saying “the jump from junior to elite is very hard, so the U23 category provides a great bridge.” McKirdy is also fortunate to have Rocky Mountain/Business Objects coach Lesley Tomlison on site and said, “Working with Rocky and is great, having the consistency with a bike and a coach is good. Her [Lesley’s] follow through is really good.” On today’s race McKirdy said she felt “pretty good”.
Catherine Vipond, of Oshawa Ontario, placed 23rd on the day saying she was “pretty happy” with her result. “I felt strong, but not super. I couldn’t have done more,” she added.
At the press conference following the race, the two Chinese medalists faced a variety of questions commenting that they had been racing for four years. When asked a variety of different questions about today’s race most of their answers centred on learning more. It appeared that they had been provided with a series of pre-determined answers as the riders would often look at their manager when asked questions and were not going to provide much more. When asked how they will prepare for their home Olympics in Beijing in 2008 Chengyuan responded, “We will do our best.”
Results — 23.6 kms (5.9 km, 4 Laps)
1 Ren Chengyuan (People’s Republic Of China) 1.31.17 (15.51 km/h)
2 Ying Liu (People’s Republic Of China) 1.38
3 Sarah Koba (Switzerland) 4.56
4 Tereza Hurikova (Czech Republic) 6.35
5 Nathalie Schneitter (Switzerland) 7.56
6 Eva Lechner (Italy) 8.15
7 Nina Homovec (Slovenia) 8.46
8 Elisabeth Osl (Austria) 9.13
9 Amy Hunt (Great Britain) 10.07
10 Adelheid Morath (Germany) 12.40
11 Chloe Forsman (United States Of America) 12.53
12 Jenna Zander (United States Of America) 13.21
13 Evelyn Staffler (Italy) 13.47
14 Laura Metzler (France) 14.21
15 Maureen Guichardot (France) 15.23
16 Hanna Klein (Germany) 15.27
17 Tereza Jonsova (Czech Republic) 15.49
18 Carissa Wilkes (New Zealand) 16.13
19 Meghan Kindree (Canada) 16.43
20 Jean Ann Mc Kirdy (Canada) 17.23
21 Francisca Campos Salas (Chile) 20.40
22 Michelle Hyland (New Zealand) 22.22
23 Catherine Vipond (Canada) 23.16
24 Evgenia Belozerova (Russian Federation) 27.32
One lap behind
25 Michelle Bellamy (New Zealand)
26 Fiona Lindsay (New Zealand)
DNS Caroline Mani (France)
DNS Lauren Koedyk (New Zealand)
DNS Chelsea Wills (New Zealand)