A beaming Julie Bresset (France) was all smiles after defending her elite women's cross country world championship title on Saturday afternoon in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
"It was amazing to have good legs today, and it was a pleasure to race this track," Bresset told Cyclingnews. She seemed to fly through all the steep, downhill and rocky sections where others sometimes struggled on the fast, challenging course.
Bresset is well known for her skillful technical riding, and Saturday's race was a chance to put them to use. "I was very confident coming into this, and my skills were good in the technical sections," she said.
It wasn't just a rocky race at times for Bresset, but it has also been a rocky season. The Frenchwoman finished off 2012 with a double victory in both the Olympics and the Worlds, taking her first such elite title in Austria as a then first-year elite rider.
"For me, it was a pleasure to win the Olympics and Worlds. It was a dream, but this year was difficult because I had lots of obligations all winter. My motivation was ok in the spring, but then I had an accident and crashed and broke my collarbone."
"I came back to mountain bike competition in June. It was very hard. I had no good feelings." Bresset struggled visibly in the following races, clearly not yet back to full fitness nor full confidence.
"Then in July, I turned the corner, and I started to focus on the Worlds. I wanted to be fit for this."
At the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup in mid-August, Bresset didn't win, but she started to look more like her old self on a bike.
Bresset, who has only raced three World Cups this year due to her injury, is looking forward to the World Cup finals in two weeks in Hafjell, Norway, which will also host the 2014 world championships.
"Then, I will head home to ride for fun and spend time with my family," she said.