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2012 Olympic Games 2012

Date range:
July 28 - August 12, 2012

August 11, Olympic Women's Mountain Bike Race: Essex

Complete Live Report

Live commentary by:
Sue George

Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' 2012 Olympic Games live coverage of the elite women's mountain bike race.  We'll bring you all the action from Hadleigh Farm near London today.

  1. 12:19:49 BST

    The women's cross country will start in about 10 minutes.  Stay tuned!

  2. 12:25:44 BST

    The women are being introduced, one at a time for call-up to the start line.

  3. 12:28:15 BST

    There are huge crowds out here at Hadleigh Farms.   The sun is out and it's a beautiful day to watch a mountain bike race.  This 4.7km course is unusually open for a mountain bike race - you can see a lot of it because it is on a farm and not in the woods.  It also doubles back on itself a bit and is fairly densely packed in a small area.

  4. 12:30:11 BST

    Racers will do a short start loop before heading out into lap 1.  Defending Olympic champion from 2008, Sabine Spitz (Germany) gets to wear the #1 bib.  There are 30 women total on the start line.

  5. 12:31:02 BST

    It feels a little strange to see the ladies in their national team kits instead of their usual trade team jerseys, which they wear at the World Cups and other international races.

  6. 12:31:36 BST

    The gun fires and they are off.  Six laps to go

  7. 12:32:33 BST

    The pace is high from the start.  Initially, they are on a gravel road type track. Looks like Annie Last (Great Britain) is setting the pace early on.

  8. 12:32:50 BST

    Then Sabine Spitz (Germany) joins her at the front.

  9. 12:33:50 BST

    Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) goes down in the rock garden.  Not a good way to start.

  10. 12:34:30 BST

    Another rider crashes further back - no doubt they are all at their limit from the start and it's easy to make mistakes.

  11. 12:35:15 BST

    There are lots of places on the course where riders can chose between two obvious lines.  One is usually harder than the other and often requires more technical skills.  Riders who can make those moves often get a slight time advantage there.

  12. 12:36:38 BST

    Georgia Gould leads Julie Bresset (France), then one of the Swiss ladies.    The leaders are a group of five with a slight gap to the chasers.

  13. 12:38:18 BST

    Julie Bresset sets the pace on the climb which zig zags up the hill back and forth.  Gould is immediately behind her.   Then Sabine Spitz

  14. 12:40:37 BST

    Now there is a group of about 11 riders all strung out in a row at the front.  World champion Catharine Pendrel is in there.  She's not right at the front, but as we've seen in recent World Cups, she is often not the fastest starter and ends up working her way back up.

  15. 12:42:24 BST

    Emily Batty (Canada) is riding injured today. According to her partner Adam Morka, she took a crash on the fastest downhill section of the course Tuesday, August 7. Its a small rock table top on the fastest downhill near the very end of the course. She essentially came in with too much speed and the back wheel bucked her over the bars, she got launched over the handlebars at 40+KPH.

    "She has a insignificant cracked/broken clavicle (right side) . The way it is broken, it is quite stable. Its bone against bone and has very little chance of displacing itself because they are both pushing on each other. She saw one of the best orthopedic doctors at the Olympic Village. The doc said, 'if I didn't see the x ray, I would have gave you a pat on the back and told you to get back on your bike' her strength and range of motion blew him away. However she is really sore everywhere and will need some serious tape to feel confident riding. The doctors visited Emily August 9th. They did thorough physical testing and also watched her riding on the Olympic course. August 9th she was given the green light by Doctors to go ahead and race on August 11th. Ultimately the decision was up to Emily."

    "She is really banged up both shoulders really bad, ribs are bad, most likely broken rib right side. Hands cut up, leg abrasions everywhere and also on her hips."

  16. 12:44:11 BST

    Much to the delight of the British fans fans, Annie Last is at the front setting the pace as Julie Bresset sits on her.  These two young ladies, one a U23 rider and one a first-year elite are the future of the sport.

  17. 12:46:42 BST

    As we expected, Catharine Pendrel is back up there in the mix.  She and Sabine Spitz are third and fourth, right behind Julie Bresset and Annie Last.

  18. 12:47:27 BST

    Catharine Pendrel bobbles a bit on a rock on the course and has to dab, as does Sabine Spitz, but they are right back up there.

  19. 12:48:09 BST

    Katerina Nash (Czech) is chasing in 5th.  The top American is her Luna Teammate Georgia Gould (USA) in 9th.

  20. 12:49:02 BST

    The women are onto lap 2.  Now Julie Bresset takes a turn at the front.

  21. 12:49:56 BST

    This rock garden is more like a rock trench.  It is a definite advantage to be at the front as the leader gains a few seconds on each follower in it.

  22. 12:50:31 BST

    Lea Davison (USA) is getting some big cheers from an enthusiastic spectator as she passes, 18 minutes into the race.

  23. 12:51:43 BST

    So we have lead group: Annie Last, Julie Bresset, Annie Last, Sabine Spitz.  Then chasers Katerina Nash, Katrin Leuman Irina Kalentieva, Georgia Gould

  24. 12:52:23 BST

    The four leaders are constant changing up their places.  No one wants to be at the back of that group and risk getting gapped if someone in front of her makes a mistake.

  25. 12:52:51 BST

    The gap between leaders and chasers is small - maybe five seconds.

  26. 12:53:52 BST

    It's interesting to see Sabine Spitz (Germany) in there.  The veteran racer is a great champion and will want to defend her gold medal, but she has not been at the front as much this year in World Cups.  Though if anyone knows how to pull off a good ride on a big day, it's her.

  27. 12:55:06 BST

    Canada's Catharine Pendrel was the favorite going into the race.  As World Champion and World Cup champion, she is probably the most consistent rider on the circuit - both in terms of showing up for all the races and doing well at them.

  28. 12:56:13 BST

    In 2008, the medals went to Sabine Spitz, Maja Wloszczowska and Irina Kalentieva.  Sadly for Wloszczowska, she had to sit out this Olympics after breaking her foot a few weeks ago in a training crash in Italy.

  29. 12:56:46 BST

    Prior to the race, the riders were saying what a fast course it would be, and indeed it is. They are flying around this course. 

  30. 12:58:01 BST

    Julie Bresset and Sabine Spitz punch it on the climb.  Catharine Pendrel shows her excellent descending skills by moving back up into second in a rock garden that's slightly downhill.  Spitz is leading at the moment.

  31. 12:59:09 BST

    27 minutes into the race - that's about a third of the expected total time of about 1:30.

  32. 13:00:15 BST

    Annie Last is struggling to hang with the three leaders and is slightly gapped off. We have seen this before ... where Last is able to be at the front early on, but can't quite hold the pace throughout the race. No doubt that ability will come with a bit more age and experience.

  33. 13:00:42 BST

    The leaders fly through the feed/tech zone. All three do bottle hand-off.s

  34. 13:01:44 BST

    Julie Bresset (France) is back at the front, setting the pace on the climb.  She is clearly riding strong today, especially uphill.

  35. 13:02:28 BST

    Julie Bresset has opened up a slight gap on Sabine Spitz and Catharine Pendrel.

  36. 13:03:27 BST

    Georgia Gould is the top chaser now, just ahead of Annie Last., then Irina Kalentieva.  Katerina Nash and Katrin Leumann follow across the line at the end of Lap 2.

  37. 13:04:28 BST

    We've seen Julie Bresset at the front of many World Cups.  Even when she was a U23 racer last year, she was winning elite women's World Cups.

  38. 13:04:56 BST

    Sabine Spitz is riding in second, just behind Julie Bresset.

  39. 13:05:34 BST

    Georgia Gould (USA) has caught her Luna trade teammate Catharine Pendrel (Canada) and passed her. It's likely the two will work together now, assuming they both have the legs.

  40. 13:06:57 BST

    Georgia Gould has bridged up to Julie Bresset and Sabine Spitz.  Catharine Pendrel is just a little behind them.

  41. 13:08:29 BST

    Georgia Gould has never won a World Cup, but she is motivated. She came so close twice this summer.  She led in Mont-Sainte-Anne until fading on the last lap.  In Windham, she was on track to win until a flat tire just before the finish... there her two teammates caught and passed her right at the end. 

  42. 13:09:39 BST

    Julie Bresset is still looking like the strongest climber on the day.  The three leaders - Bresset, Gould and Spitz - have 10 seconds on the chasers as they go back through the tech zone.

  43. 13:10:05 BST

    Irina Kalentieva, Catharine Pendrel and Annie Last are riding in fourth through sixth - together.

  44. 13:11:14 BST

    Such a fast start has taken its toll on some of the riders.  It will be interesting to see how the leaders hold up.

  45. 13:12:09 BST

    With it being bright and sunny, the course conditions are nice and dry today, making the track quite fast.

  46. 13:13:27 BST

    Julie Bresset is riding with some bandages on her arm and leg.    Looks like she must have gotten some "road rash" during practice on the course this week.  So far, it doesn't seem to be slowing her down.

  47. 13:15:44 BST

    Julie Bresset, Sabine Spitz and Georgia Gould have been staying together in that order - no lead changes.  They have about 18 seconds on the three chasers.  Gould probably has it the hardest ... at the back of the three, she constantly has to close the gaps that keep opening up naturally on this very dynamic course.  Psychologically, it's so much easier to be setting the pace at the front because you can gun it and back it off exactly at the places that suit you.

  48. 13:16:56 BST

    Despite the rocks placed throughout this man-made course, all three leaders are on hardtails.


  49. 13:18:22 BST

    Julie Bresset has gapped her two companions no the climb again at the end of the lap.  She crosses under the line with three laps down with a four second advantage.

  50. 13:19:25 BST

    Irina Kalentieva and Annie Last are next at 32 seconds.

    Esther Suss (Switzerland) is with Catharine Pendrel and Katrin Leuman at about 50 seconds

     

  51. 13:19:50 BST

    It'll be interesting to see if Spitz and Gould can close back on Bresset.

  52. 13:20:19 BST

    Sabine Spitz goes down hard in the rock garden.  That holds up Georgia Gould and both riders have to walk and carry their bikes to the end of the garden.

  53. 13:21:15 BST

    Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa is seen walking her bike up a hill, with a flat rear tire.  She looks over across the course at the leaders.  No medal for the Norwegian this time around. 

  54. 13:22:18 BST

    Sabine Spitz's crash was good for one person: Julie Bresset, who extended her lead.  Both Spitz and Gould are back riding again together.

  55. 13:23:02 BST

    In the chase group, a tired looking Annie Last is struggling to hold onto Irina Kalentieva. Esther Suss and Catharine Pendrel are just behind her.

  56. 13:24:14 BST

    The thing about mountain bike racing is that anything can happen any time, especially mechanically or crash-wise.  No matter how comfortable your lead seems, a flat tire or crash can quickly erase an advantage.  So it's a fine balance between riding conservatively enough to not puncture or crash, but fast enough to maintain your lead.

  57. 13:25:04 BST

    Julie Bresset rides alone through the tech zone, 3.5 laps in, in first place.

  58. 13:25:51 BST

    Georgia Gould has come around Sabine Spitz and is riding in second place, 20 seconds back.  Sabine Spitz is in third at 23 seconds.  Irina Kalentieva is not much further back at 41 seconds while Annie Last is at 56 seconds.

  59. 13:26:39 BST

    At the moment, Georgia Gould is looking like she is feeling better than Sabine Spitz.  That crash may have shaken up Spitz a bit, ruining her momentum.

  60. 13:27:51 BST

    In addition to her gold medal in Beijing, Sabine Spitz also won a bronze medal in 2004 in Athens.  She is 40 years old.

  61. 13:30:45 BST

    Georgia Gould has got to be amped to be riding in medal contention.  The US has won just one mountain bike Olympic medal since the sport was included in the Olympic Games in 1996 in Atlanta.  That one was courtesy of Susan DeMattei... you can read a recent interview with her as she looked back and remember her achievement.  www.cyclingnews.com/features/olympic-moments-1996-mountain-biking-comes-of-age-1

  62. 13:32:11 BST

    Sabine Spitz has caught back up to Georgia Gould.  We'll see if the two women are able to stay together and possibly even work together. 

  63. 13:32:57 BST

    Sabine Spitz catches and passes Georgia Gould.  Sometimes it can take a little while to recover from a crash like she had.  You have to get back into your groove again and get your confidence back.

  64. 13:34:02 BST

    Julie Bresset takes a drink as she crosses under the finish line with two laps to go.  At one hour into the race, she is exactly on a track for a 1:30-length race. 

  65. 13:34:20 BST

    Sabine Spitz comes in at 33 seconds.  Georgia Gould crosses the line at 38 seconds.

  66. 13:34:58 BST

    Irina Kalentieva is fourth at 56 seconds.  Annie Last and Esther Suss are together at 2:22 and 1:25 in fifth and sixth.

  67. 13:36:07 BST

    Poland's Aleksandra Dawidowicz is having a great line and rolls across with World Champion Catharine Pendrel in seventh and eighth.

  68. 13:37:43 BST

    It's a great ride for Esther Suss of Switzerland.  She was marathon world champion in 2010 and seems to be able to race fast in both short and long distances.  Earlier this season she raced to a win with Sally Bigham at the 8-day Cape Epic mountain bike stage race.

  69. 13:39:43 BST

    Irina Kalentieva (Russia) may be the most dangerous rider in the race from the perspective of Sabine Spitz and Georgia Gould.  If anyone has proven she can ride strong all race and catch them and take away a medal, it's Kalentieva, who won bronze in 2008.  The Russian is also a former world champion and looks like she is still riding strong. 

  70. 13:41:40 BST

    At the front, Julie Bresset is making it look easy.  She has 40 seconds on Sabine Spitz and 48 seconds on Georgia Gould.  She is spinning effortlessly up the climb.   Kinda reminds us of another stellar French rider... two-time Olympic gold medallist Julien Absalon, who will race tomorrow in the elite men's race.

  71. 13:42:11 BST

    Irina Kalentieva is still on her own at 1:08, chasing.  Esther Suss and Annie Last follow.

  72. 13:43:09 BST

    Aleksandra Dawidowicz (Poland) is just behind them. She was also 10th in Beijing.

  73. 13:44:44 BST

    With this course being so exposed to the sun and the race being at mid-day, cramping will be a real concern of the riders.  Unlike on most mountain bike courses, there are no significantly shady sections to give breaks from the sun.

  74. 13:46:17 BST

    Another well known mountain bike race, the Leadville 100, is happening a bit later today in Colorado.  That's where all the marathon / endurance mountain bikers are today while the cross country top stars are all here. Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage.

  75. 13:47:04 BST

    Lea Davison (USA) is riding in 11th place.

  76. 13:48:12 BST

    The injured Emily Batty (Canada)  is also still in the race, very near to the back.  She must be suffering hugely to be hanging in there with at least one broken bone.

  77. 13:49:18 BST

    One lap to go for Julie Bresset, who crosses the line in 1:15:45, 24.24km into the race.

  78. 13:49:55 BST

    Sabine Spitz (Germany) leads Georgia Gould (USA) across the line with one to go. They are 57 and 58 seconds behind Bresset, respectively.

  79. 13:50:22 BST

    Irina Kalentieva (Russia) is still in no woman's land, chasing at 1:23.

  80. 13:54:24 BST

    Sabine Spitz and Georgia Gould are both still together, with Spitz generally setting the pace and looking stronger.  Should it come down to a sprint, it will be interesting to see who is faster.

  81. 13:57:17 BST

    Barring catastrophe, Julie Bresset (France) should ride to her first-ever Olympic medal, a gold, in just a matter of minutes.

  82. 13:57:50 BST

    Sabine Spitz and Georgia Gould are at 57 seconds and 1:00.  Irina Kalentieva is chasing at about 1:23.

  83. 14:00:00 BST

    Sabine Spitz is stretching the elastic on Georgia Gould.  Gould looks visibly tired in her body language through a rock garden.  We'll see if she can close back in on Spitz.

  84. 14:01:05 BST

    Even Julie Bresset is starting to look a little tired, based on her upper body language.  But at this point, she will be riding on adrenaline.

  85. 14:01:44 BST

    Georgia Gould (USA) is gritting her teeth as she tries to keep Sabine Spitz from getting further way.

  86. 14:03:19 BST

    Julie Bresset zips up her French team jersey, with the finish line in sight.

  87. 14:03:52 BST

    She coasts toward the finish, savouring the cheers of fans and with a big smile on her face.

  88. 14:04:20 BST

    A jubilant Julie Bresset wins gold, crossing the line holding a French flag.

  89. 14:04:47 BST

    1:30:52 is the winning time for Bresset.

  90. 14:05:20 BST

    Sabine Spitz (Germany) rolls across the finish for a silver medal in 1:02.  Now she has one Olympic medal of each color - quite a collection.

  91. 14:05:32 BST

    Georgia Gould (USA) wins bronze at 1:08.

  92. 14:06:01 BST

    Irina Kalentieva (Russia) is fourth at 1:41.  Esther Suss (Switzerland) is 5th at 1:54.

  93. 14:06:27 BST

    Alexandra Engen rides into sixth for Sweden at 2:16. 

  94. 14:06:51 BST

    Aleksandra Dawidowicz (Poland) is seventh at 2:28.

  95. 14:07:05 BST

    To large cheers, Annie Last finishes 8th at 2:55

  96. 14:07:37 BST

    World champion Catharine Pendrel (Canada) finishes it off in ninth at 3:36.

  97. 14:08:08 BST

    Tanja Zakelj (Slovenia) rounds out the top 10 at 3:49.

  98. 14:09:04 BST

    American Lea Davison finishes 11th at 4:22. She is followed by Qinglan Shi (China) in 12th.

  99. 14:10:08 BST

    Racers continue to roll in one by one.  We'll have full results posted on our race report page as soon as all are done.


  100. 14:11:11 BST

    That wraps up our live coverage for the Olympic elite women's cross country race.  Thanks for joining us, and we hope you'll be back for one final Olympic cycling event tomorrow - the elite men's cross country race, which will start at 1:30 pm local London time.