Georgia Gould's fortunes took a turn for the better after two back-to-back tough UCI Mountain Bike World Cups in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec and Windham, New York. In both races, Gould had come close to winning, but she lost one due to cramping and another due to an untimely flat tire on the final lap. But on Saturday afternoon, Gould was back to being the golden girl when she won the US elite women's cross country national championships in Sun Valley, Idaho.
"I had a feeling of dread before the race," admitted the Luna rider after the finish. "I knew it was going to be so hard, no matter what and for everyone. I knew we'd all be going as hard as we could the whole time, even if we were trying to be going easy. You can't go easy on this course."
The Sun Valley elite cross country course is notorious with its very steep uphill climb on a fireroad in the sun followed by a long singletrack descent with no real passing. There is just a short flat section at the beginning of each lap.
Gould collected her third US cross country title in a row and the fourth of her career. "It's special to win," she said. "It never gets old. The national championships - to be able to wear the US national champion's jersey all year always makes me proud."
Gould had to chase down Heather Irmiger (Subaru-Trek), who took an early flier on the first climb. But Gould rode within herself at her own pace and reeled in Irmiger before pulling away and soloing the rest of the race toward victory.
"Heather dropped us all by 30 seconds immediately. She is super strong, and there are so many strong American women right now. I never discount anyone. I couldn't go with her at the start. I knew I needed to ride my own pace. I tried to keep her within a good distance and was able to catch up to her by the top of the climb."
She also held off Lea Davison (Specialized). Both Davison and Gould will represent the US at the 2012 Olympic Games in London on August 11.
The women's race started at 1:45 pm in the heat of the day, but Gould said that while it was hot, it wasn't too bad. "It was hot, but just on the climb. The whole downhill was in the shade, so it wasn't too bad." Overall, she described the race as "gruelling".