Denmark's Annika Langvad wrapped up a hat-trick of women's world titles at the UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday, entrenching her status as one of the best female endurance mountain bikers in the world.
The result was especially pleasing for the Dane who came to South Africa putting a lot of pressure on herself to win.
"This win is just awesome!" Langvad said. "My previous two wins I wasn't really expecting at all, but this time I knew I could win and so I put a bit more pressure on myself around so to have come here and got the win despite that little bit of added pressure, is really pleasing!"
"I didn't expect to win so comfortably in the end though!" she said.
Familiar with the local conditions after having raced in South Africa previously, Langvad looked to stamp her authority on proceedings early on, especially after the non-participation due to illness by Great Britain's Sally Bigham and early withdrawal by fellow title hopeful Milena Landtwing.
It took Langvad until just after the first tech zone to make her decisive move and her lead was soon a significant one.
"I think riding a full suspension made things a lot easier for me with this terrain and allowed me to recover a lot more," she said.
"I also did the Cape Epic, an extremely hard stage race, leading up to world champs, and I came here today in a very similar mood to my Cape Epic mood, so I managed to get into a rhythm and just keep pushing and all of a sudden the 74km actually counted down quite quickly!"
"As I got closer to the finish line and I got told I had a good gap, I just said to myself 'Okay, no mistakes now. Just get down safely and you've got the world championships title again!' and it was just amazing! I loved every minute of it!"
Germany's vastly experienced Sabine Spitz showed her pedigree once more as she overcame the rest of the world class field to clinch second place while recently crowned European Champion Tereza Hurikova finished third.
"Early on I tried to go to front so I could keep the speed high because I've been involved in two crashes before when the speed was too slow but then Annika made her move between tech zone 1 and 2 and once she opened up a gap, it just continued to grow and grow and grow!" said Spitz with a wry grin.
"Annika was just stronger than me, you have to accept just it when someone is stronger than you and she is a deserved world champion!" she said.
The renowned competitor also had some high praise for Nick Floros' widely anticipated course.
"I really liked the course! My first impression of the course when I got here on Monday was very good and it didn't change at any stage. It was different to the marathon courses we get in Europe, where you ride mainly on gravel and can be quite boring. Here the landscape was so different and the course was just great!" said Spitz.
With the podium in a class of their own, 40-year-old legend of the sport Esther Süss and fellow Swiss star Arian Kleinhans - who now calls Stellenbosch home after marrying South African Erik Kleinhans - were left to battle it out for the remaining top five positions.
South African national marathon champ Robyn de Groot had the ride of her life as she compiled her solid sixth place yielding effort while birthday girl Jeannie Dreyer finished eighth and was the second local lass across the line.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Annika Langvad (Denmark)||3:50:44|
|2||Sabine Spitz (Germany)||0:05:27|
|3||Tereza Hurikova (Czech Republic)||0:08:57|
|4||Esther Süss (Switzerland)||0:16:13|
|5||Ariane Kleinhans (Switzerland)||0:20:38|
|6||Robyn De Groot (South Africa)||0:21:37|
|7||Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden)||0:23:01|
|8||Jeannie Bomford (South Africa)||0:31:17|
|9||Alice Pirard (Belgium)||0:37:16|
|10||Regina Genser (Germany)||0:37:57|
|11||Fanny Bourdon (France)||0:39:10|
|12||Jennifer Fay (Ireland)||0:43:47|
|13||Candice Neethling (South Africa)||0:47:43|
|14||Aurelie Halbwachs (Mauritius)||0:49:26|
|15||Yolandi Du Toit (South Africa)||0:53:26|
|16||Melissa Anset (Australia)||0:53:35|
|17||Carla Van Huyssteen (South Africa)||0:53:50|
|18||Eszter Dosa (Hungary)||0:54:37|
|19||Janine King (South Africa)||0:58:28|
|20||Samantha Sanders (South Africa)||0:58:32|
|21||Gabriele Stanger (Germany)||1:00:13|
|22||Chiara Eberle (Germany)||1:05:01|
|23||Maria Teresa Abumohor (Chile)||1:11:22|
|24||Irene Steyn (Namibia)||1:13:52|
|25||Leona Kadir (Great Britain)||1:17:15|
|26||Ashleigh Moffatt (South Africa)||1:22:10|
|27||Diana Carolin (South Africa)||1:46:42|
|28||Nicola Giliomee (South Africa)||2:04:26|
|29||Laura Herd (South Africa)|
|30||Amanda Hawke (South Africa)||2:15:47|
|DNF||Nina Sender (South Africa)|
|DNF||Theresa Ralph (South Africa)|
|DNF||Milena Landtwing (Switzerland)|
|DNF||Amy Mcdougall (South Africa)|