September 09, 2012 (Saalfelden, AUT) – At only 19 years of age, France’s Julie Bresset has pulled off the double winning both the Olympic gold medal in London and now the rainbow stripes of the UCI MTB World Championship Elite Women’s XC. Bresset took the lead from the start in the crash-filled 29.3km race including 1 start loop and 6 laps of the 45.km course, and never looked back as she blazed to a 1:30+ victory over silver medalist and three-time world champion Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway).
There was no stopping the French rider as her pace blew the field, leaving the rest of the pack to focus on the silver and bronze. Georgia Gould (USA) fought hard and attacked to set herself up for the podium position at over 3 minutes behind the leader and a minute and a half behind Dahle Flesjaa, the Norwegian veteran who is one of the most decorated women riders in the sport.
Canada’s Catharine Pendrel, the defending champ who has admittedly not been performing at her best at the last few races including the London Olympics, showed signs of her good form. “Today was interesting. I was actually at the front for the first 500m of a race, which never happens so I worried that I went out too hard, backed off a smidge and got swarmed by probably 20 girls,” Pendrel told Pedal. “After that I was working my way through traffic and had good climbing legs, but a couple mistakes the first time down the descents and later a good crash meant I lost all of the positions I had gained that climb.”
Being a tough competitor, Pendrel got back into the race with the help of teammate Emily Batty who rode strongly for the first three laps. Pendel began to pick off riders carving her way up to 5th spot until the penultimate lap when her legs failed her and she began to fade.
“My awesome teammate (Emily) and course-side coaching from Dan [Proulx] got me fired up to get to the front and over a couple laps I was in 5th and 30 seconds off a bronze,” continued Pendrel.
“When my climbing legs started to fade I was getting overtaken before the descents and then loosing time to the leaders being stuck behind people. There was a lot of frustrating and nervy wasted time back and forth and eventually a large group of women reconnected with me, overtook me, and didn’t look back. I slid many positions down to an eventual 15th place.”
“It’s not the result I wanted, but I am just happy to see my old self return for at least a good chunk of the race. I know with a bit of a breather from this season I will be motivated to win more races next year! Thanks to all the U23′s and Juniors who added some amazingly loud cheers out there! Just Roc D”azure left for me and maybe some local cross, but the best thing for my next season will be taking some time away from racing to recharge,” added Pendrel.
The crash-filled race had many victims including Dahle Flesjaa who was 30 seconds behind Bresset but crashed on course. She regrouped to find herself 56 seconds behind the leader and ended up at 1:47 back but still very pleased to be on the final podium. Georgia Gould clawed her way up from 19th to 3rd within 2 laps with the help of Pendrel’s wheel.
Sabine Spitz (Germany), the 2008 Olympic gold medalist was up front at the beginning but crashed on the third lap as Dahle ran into her and her bent wheel forced her into the tech zone. She fought her way back into contention only to crash again on the final lap to finish 6th. Italian star Eva Lechner faced a similar fate crashing hard on the second lap, recovered getting back into the top 10 only to crash again like Spitz on the final lap to end up 14th.
Batty looked determined and rode well with Pendrel for the first two laps coming in just three places behind the 2011 defending champion in 18th while Sandra Walter had a career-best finish at the world championships in 35th place.
“This is my best result at an Elite World Championships yet and it’s the first time I’ve actually finished on the same lap as the leader,” Walter told Pedal. “I was hopeful that I would ride to a personal best result, considering I’ve been achieving PB’s all season, but actually doing it is very satisfying.”
Amanda Sin and Marie-Helene Premont rounding out the Canadian team in 37th and 38th, respectively.
More race quotes:
Julie Bresset: “I was lucky to take advantage of others’ mistakes and today the technical parts were not so bad!”
Georgia Gould: “The race was boring (as I was pretty alone) and I didn’t have much strategy, just deal with whoever might come near I’d tried to attack.” Also: ” How about that, I know this course so well, and practiced the boulder jump with NO problems ever until the very last try and I crashed” (and gashed her forearm).
Rita Dahle: “The Olympics were a big disappointment for me, and I’m getting too old for this (laughing) but as I was quite sick and didn’t race well for the past 3 weeks, that if you asked me 6 days ago if I would medal here to day, I’d say “most definitely not!”
Full results HERE.