Austria’s Lisa Pasteiner claimed the silver while defending champ, Martina Berta (Italy), finished third. Team Canada’s Sophianne Samson placed 24th while Erica Leonard was 28th for three Canadians in the top 30 as Emily Handford suffered an unfortunate flat ending up 39th.
The junior women were in luck for their race that featured a 2.8km start loop + 3×4.1km laps as only a few clouds obscured the sky over Nové Mûsto for the opening XCO at the World Championship race on Canada Day. The temperature was also ideal at 24C, compared to the projected hotter temperatures coming on Saturday which are predicted to drop for Sunday’s final day of competition along with dire predictions of weekend rain.
Sweden’s Jansson took an early lead which she would never relinquish as Italy’s Berta settled into second with Pasteiner 3rd. Canada’s Handford was the top Canuck sitting in 13th following the start loop with McGill further back in the 20s.
By the finish, the top Canadian, McGill, retained her 21st place spot while Samson gained momentum and moved up significantly over the second half of the race to finish 24th with Leonard also gaining ground in 28th across the line. Handford was the final Canuck in 39th.
“It was a tough race as I was coming in already feeling sick but I was happy to finish strong and overall had a good time out on course,” commented McGill. “My main goal coming in was just to enjoy the experience and learn lots. As a first-year junior, I haven’t been to World Championships before and was just looking to learn as much as I could. It is really a different experience than I am used to back home in Alberta, between the amount of spectators and noise, and the intense and intimidating start. But it was awesome to race so many fast juniors from around the world, and with my Canadian teammates.”
Handford was hoping for more as this was her first flat. “I know at one point in the start loop I was riding in 9th which was incredible for me,” said Handford post-race hoping to improve on last year’s 35th at the Worlds. “I rode out the flat for the better part of the first lap but the change meant I dropped so many places,” she explained. “It was so discouraging for me to have gone from such a good start position and then have such bad luck—I’ve never flatted in a race before.”
Many riders spoke of the fabulous venue at Nove Mesto and the crowds including Leonard. “It was an amazing race – the energy and excitement from the crowd itself was enough to get my heart racing,” said Leonard. “The course was demanding, with almost 200 meters of climbing per lap, rock features and a blistering fast start loop. The start was a bit shocking for my legs, even though I expected the speed, but soon enough I settled into a good pace and felt as if I was gaining speed throughout the race!
“I finished sprinting against Olga Igoshina – legs feeling numb but content knowing I gave it my all,” she added. “It was such an amazing experience being able to race against the best in the world. It really is inspiring to be a part of such an elite level in my sport and to be able to compare myself to world-class athletes… I’m so proud of our team’s performance today, as well as my own!”