Annika Langvad (Denmark) was unstoppable taking her first worlds title with a decisive margin as Lea Davison (USA) won the silver in a dramatic last lap which saw two racers suffered untimely flats in the final minutes. Batty charged to the line in a final sprint with Maja Wloszczowska (Poland) to capture Canada’s first medal of the championships by a tire width.
“The most rewarding sprint of my life. Never stop fighting everyone! Overjoyed with a BRONZE MEDAL at WORLD CHAMPS,” tweeted Batty post-race.
The 23.3km race proved dramatic from the start, with legendary Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå (NOR) crashing almost immediately. The 62-woman race saw six Canadian starters including Batty, Pendrel, Cindy Montambault, Rebecca Beamont, Sandra Walter and Haley Smith. Unfortunately, Smith was caught behind Dahle Flesjå, who dropped out after the crash.
Race favourite Jolanda Neff (SUI) took the hole shot but Pendrel soon moved into the lead as the first lap began with a tight-knit group behind including Neff, Wloszczowska, Batty, Katerina Nash (CZE), Langvad, Sabrine Spitz (GER) and Linda Ingergand (SUI). By the end of the start loop, defending champ and multi-decorated Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (FRA), was 1:22 behind the leaders – already a sign that the race was going to be an interesting battle.
Mid-way through the first lap this 8-strong lead group jockeyed for position, hitting the technical rock gardens and steep climbs on the course. Pendrel was forced off her bike over a particularly technical section, losing the lead, but maintained her spot in the group.
Halfway through the lap, Langvad, Neff, Pendrel, and Nash pulled away from Wloszczowska, Spitz and Batty by a few seconds, with Indergand and Kalentyeva nearly 20 seconds behind. Ukranian Yana Belomoina suffered a crash and left the race.
As the second lap began Langvad had already attacked and opened a 19-second gap over Wloszczowska, who had passed Pendrel and Spitz, while Neff, Nash and Batty were roughly nine seconds behind. Behind Montambault and Beaumont were together in 36th and 37th at 3:15 down while Walter was in 43rd, with Smith in 47th.
Through Lap 2 Langvad stretched her gap to 32 seconds over Pendrel, who was now just ahead of Wloszczowska and Spitz as Davison, Nash and Batty struggled to return to the head of the race. Neff, who was clearly suffering after her fast start, dropped to 38 seconds behind the leaders.
Starting the third lap the gap was holding as Wloszczowska and Spitz gapped Pendrel who fell back and was soon joined by Davison and Batty with Nash just behind as she struggled to put on a good show for her home country. Neff recovered and working with her Swiss teammate, moved back into ninth at the start of Lap 3.
Davison surged through the lap passing Pendrel as the two Canucks were now together. “I had a great start and felt strong. When Annika got a gap, the other girls seemed content to race for second, so I ended up driving the pace,” explained Pendrel. “I think I over-paced for the heat though and was seeing stars a bit.”
Meanwhile Prevot never made it into the lead group, unfortunately crashing twice, once hard on the rock section soon after she had moved up to 12th and announcers wondered if she would remain in the race.
Heading into the fourth lap, Langvad’s gap to Wloszczowska had grown to 54 seconds with Spitz 1:11 down, and Davison at 1:44 with Pendrel at 2:04 and Batty at 2:08. Behind them, Beaumont, Montambault and Walter formed a train for 37-39th places, while Smith moved from 47th up to 45th.
During the lap Batty passed Pendrel for the first time in the race as the final positions seemed to be forming with Langvad in control. Each riders’ strengths would play out as the race wound down to determine the final outcome.
Through the start/finish heading into the last lap Batty stretched her back muscles as the strain of the day began to take it’s toll. Soon after disaster struck Spitz as a sudden flat forced the third-placed rider off her bike and into a run across the technical course and towards the pits to fix her flat.
Her podium chances quickly faded as she fell behind, and a long wheel change ticked away the seconds. She salvaged a top-10 finish, but the medal that seemed so close was now gone. But that wasn’t the only heartbreak on the last lap.
At the midway point Davison moved into third place behind Wloszczowska, who looked comfortable in second with Batty roughly 30 seconds behind in fourth. Then disaster struck again – this time Wloszczowska’s rear wheel was flat with just under half a lap of racing remaining.
Davison made the pass as Wloszczowska desperately tried to run and push her bike to the tech zone as Batty closed the gap between them. Davison now sat in second. As Wloszczowska’s tire was changed Batty swept past, but only a few seconds separated them as the Polish star began to chase back.
Langvad crossed the line celebrating her win in earnest, with nearly a minute to spare. She has won Marathon Worlds three times, but says this World Championship title is the most important to her, because she wants to be known as a cross-country racer who can win on shorter courses as well.
Davison rolled across the line comfortably for second while the greatest drama of the race was about to unfold as Batty rounded the final corner and hit the pavement of the finishing straight with Wloszczowska just behind.
The two blazed to the finish line with Batty just edging out her rival by a tire length for the bronze. Both riders were visibly exhausted at the finish as Wloszczowska collapsed and Batty tried to catch her breath soon looking up to see that indeed she had won the bronze for Canada – her first World Championship medal, and a marked improvement on last year’s seventh place.
Pendrel finished fifth with Russia’s Irina Kalentyeva, who won silver last year, in 6th as Nash took 7th with Neff in 8th. Spitz finally rolled across in 9th as Indergand took 10th.
“It was tough to drop out of the medals but happy I kept driving forward and I feel good for the World Cup next weekend. The end was exciting. You never want to see people lose a medal because of a mechanical, but it was cool to see Lea and Emily rewarded for their perseverance,” said Pendrel.
Behind them, Walter finished 29th, Montambault was 36th, Beaumont placed 40th and Smith finished one lap down after being caught in the crash on the first lap.
“Today was a great day for the Canadian team. I’m so happy for Emily, achieving her first World Championship medal, and Catharine had a very good ride as well. It’s gearing up to be a very exciting Olympics,” said Walter. “I had a solid day, finishing 29th. It’s such a fun track and I think it really suits me.”
For Batty it was a finish she’ll remember for a lifetime. “I knew I had to leave it all out there for the bronze medal. I can’t even describe what this feels like…I’m ecstatic,” said Batty.
Full results here.