Georgia Gould almost won her first World Cup on Saturday in Windham, New York. It was a heartbreaking finish for the American after she flatted on the final lap. She had been in the lead for most of the race and looked likely to win. Within sight of the finish line, her Luna teammates caught her: first world champion Catharine Pendrel and then Katerina Nash. Gould had to settle for third place.
"After my disappointing finish at Mont Ste Anne, I was very motivated to redeem myself at the World Cup in Windham," said Gould in her blog. One week earlier, she had led in Mont-Ste-Anne until the final lap when she faded and Pendrel caught and passed her. "I was focused, I was ready," said Gould about her mindset going into the only World Cup on North American soil.
"As I rounded the last downhill turn and headed up the last short hill to the finish, I could see Catharine and Katerina coming out of the woods and I knew I wasn’t going to make it. I couldn’t even cry (yes, I had the "I'm crying" face, but I literally couldn’t even cry). I had no traction on the climb [with the flat tire - ed.] so I jumped off and started running. Catharine and Katerina both passed me within sight of the finish line. I couldn’t believe it. I was so close. I was crushed."
Pendrel looked over at Gould, unsure of what to do as she caught her, then looked back and saw Nash charging to the line. Racing instincts took over and Pendrel sprinted Nash for the win.
According to Pendrel, it was the worst win. "I never thought winning a World Cup could feel crappy," she wrote on her blog.
"For the final climb she had to get off and run and I was left paralyzed with indecision," wrote Pendrel. "I actually pleaded with her to be able to do something, to somehow be able to jump back on her bike and kick my but to the finish, sitting up not wanting to take her win, but not knowing whether to stop. I looked back to Katerina to see what to do, but she was out of the saddle attacking the climb eyes on the finish. Indecision vanished and fight or flight kicked in and it was a wicked sprint to the line. That was my race, the sprint to the finish with Katerina that I had just spent the last 1h37 engaged in, but it should have been a sprint for 2nd with Georgia clearly having the better ride that day, just not the luck."
Pendrel clearly empathized with her teammate about this most unusual situation. "On Luna we have always been proud of what we do as a team, but we have also faced each other as our stiffest competition domestically and internationally for years. The idea of giving up a win or being handed a win does not sit well with any of us. We are good because we are all strong, competitive women that want to earn our results and aren’t afraid to fight for them. The only possible exception is winning your first World Cup at home and being caught by two teammates in the last seconds of racing - but I guess this scenario never came up in conversation."
After some time to reflect, Gould said she was glad her teammates didn't gift her the win. "I don’t hold anything against my teammates. It was a race, and I don’t want to win my first World Cup by having it handed to me. It was an awkward situation no matter which way you cut it, but I would have felt way worse if my teammates sat up and let me win. I’m hoping I can win one of those races soon."
"I will earn it, and I will win it straight up," promised Gould, who heads to Sun Valley, Idaho this weekend to defend her US National Champion's jersey.