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Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the 2009 International Cycling Union (UCI) Mountain Bike World Championships, from Australia's sunny capital Canberra. We'll be bringing you two events today, starting with the Elite Women's Olympic Cross Country race from 10 AM Australian Eastern Standard time. Once the dust has settled from the women's race, we'll bring you the Elite Men's Olympic Cross Country from 2 PM AEST.
After some patchy weather early yesterday the skies have cleared for today’s racing, although riders will face a light, chilly breeze if current conditions continue over the coming hours.
The women's race is about to get underway, with Maja Wloszczowska (Poland) the only rider not to start.
The women's race has started. They will complete five laps today, starting with a 6.4 kilometre opening lap followed by four laps at 6.2 kilometres.
The entire peloton is together on the early sections of the track, which is a more open fire road leading towards the first singletrack section of the day.
Eva Lechner (Italy) is leading the women as they enter the cardiac climb.
Eva Lechner (Italy) has gone over the handle bars, but it hasn't caused the field behind her too many issues.
Lene Byberg (Norway) has had a little push from Sabine Spitz to help her get through a tricky rock section, where she was caught up.
Cécile Rode Ravanel (France) has taken the lead through the tricky hammer head section of the course, which features a steep, sudden drop.
Cécile Rode Ravanel (France) is followed by Eva Lechner (Italy) and Irina Kalentieva (Russian Federation) at the front of the race, with a gap starting to form back to fourth place.
Eva Lechner (Italy) is sticking close to the leader, but Kalentieva is falling back from the pair.
Jodie Willett (Australia) had a small fall on the top of the course, but is back on her bike.
Eva Lechner (Italy) has closed the few bike length gap Cécile Rode Ravanel (France) had over her and is now leading up a short climb.
Sabine Spitz (Germany) is leading the chase which includes Lene Byberg (Norway), but the Russian seems to be dropping further back.
Sabine Spitz (Germany) has done a fantastic job driving the chase group, with it now sitting just four bike lengths behind the leaders as the race enters a fast, sweeping section of the course.
Catharine Pendrel (Canada) is also in the five women chase, which Spitz continues to lead.
Cécile Rode Ravanel (France) has taken back over at the front, but the chase group has caught the leading duo heading down towards the start/finish line.
Willow Koerber is wearing the United States Of America jersey in the lead group as they reach the start/finish line.
Blaza Klemencic (Slovenia) is the seventh rider in the lead group. The leaders have crossed the line in 20:58 minutes.
Willow Koerber won the USProXCT finale in Windham, New York, in mid-August. She was also on the podium at US Nationals in July behind her teammate Heather Irmiger. She's been getting stronger all season long.
Katie Compton finished the first lap in ninth position, 29 seconds behind the leader, while Marie-Helene Premont (Canada) was a further 15 seconds back in 10th place.
Spitz is leading the front group as it reaches the first climb again. Eva Lechner (Italy) has dropped off the back of the group slightly.
Pendrel dropped her train, holding up Koerber - who is riding a 29er - slightly.
Spitz has broken clear of the lead group at the top of the course, making the most of Pendrel's issues and its impact on the women behind her.
Cécile Rode Ravanel (France) has mounted a chase of Spitz, with Willow Koerber (United States Of America) able to stay on the Frenchwoman's wheel with a sharp acceleration.
Lene Byberg (Norway) is riding comfortably in second place.
Byberg has clawed back some time on Spitz down the descent.
Byberg is back on Spitz's wheel, with the French and USA rider about 15 bike lengths behind.
Willow Koerber (United States Of America) has taken to the front of the chase group.
This could be the big day for Lene Byberg (Norway). Though she doesn't win the big races often, she is one of the most consistent riders on the circuit - racing well all season long. Just a few weeks ago, she won the World Cup in Bromont - in some very difficult, muddy conditions.
Byberg has started to pull away from Spitz in the fast flowing section that leads down towards the start/finish area,
Lene Byberg is carrying on the tradition of strong female, Norwegian cyclists. Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa, a Cyclingnews diarist, has won several world titles - mostly recently the marathon world championship in 2008, but then she took nearly a year off to have a baby.
Byberg finished 13th at the worlds last year. Unlike Spitz, she tends to stick to cross country racing - whereas Spitz makes regular marathon race appearances.
Wloszczowska was the only rider not to start today's race, she broke her jaw in a training accident earlier this week on the course.
Willow Koerber (United States Of America) is sitting in a medal winning position at the moment, with the riding managing to shake off early leader Cécile Rode Ravanel (France).
Byberg has led the race as they start the third lap, with Spitz five seconds behind and Koerber 14 seconds back.
Anna Szafraniec (Poland) rounded out the top five, behind Rode Ravanel. Pendrel is still hanging in there in sixth place, 30 seconds behind the leader.
Cécile Rode Ravanel, riding in fourth place, was part of the bronze medal winning Team Relay squad for France on Tuesday.
Defending champion Margarita Fullana Riera (Spain) crossed the line nearly two minutes down in 13th place.
Katie Compton (USA) is riding in eight place. It's a good day for Compton, who has medalled at the cyclo-cross World Championships twice. Compton has raced a few mountain bike races this year and done well when she's not been suffering from asthma. Fortunately, just a few weeks ago she got her Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) all sorted out with the UCI. That should prevent withdrawals like the one she had to do in Birmingham, Alabama at the US ProXCT race - there she ended up in the hospital with an asthma attack.
Rowena Fry (Australia) is the top Australian in 21st place. She managed to pick up two places on the second lap.
Byberg has slipped up the cardiac climb, she got back on and in control quickly, but lost valuable bike lengths over Spitz.
Current world champion Margarita Fullana Riera (Spain) clearly doesn't like the technical sections on this tough Australian course, with the rider clearly cautious and visually slow during these sections.
Esther Süss (Switzerland) made the most of being off her bike to run straight past the Spanish defending champion.
Katherine Compton (United States Of America) had the crowd's breath as she descended a section only on her front wheel. The rider managed to get the rear back down, but ran slightly off course.
Anna Szafraniec (Poland) is riding in sixth, just behind Catharine Pendrel (Canada). We heard that Maja Wloszczowska (Poland) isn't racing today, so Szafraniec is Poland's best hope for a medal. She'll be looking to add to the gold won by Aleksandra Dawidowicz in the Under 23 women's cross country.
If you have any questions during our coverage day, feel free to shoot us an e-mail at cyclingnews@cyclingnews and we'll do our best to answer them.
We catch a glimpse of US National Champion Heather Irmiger. She is flowing through the course although not making it look quite as effortless as her Subaru / Gary Fisher teammate Koerber, who riding in third. In fact, Irmiger is both the US national marathon and the US national cross country champion.
Byberg looks comfortable with the pace she's riding, yet she's managed to increase her gap - by a good margin - over Spitz.
Willow Koerber (United States Of America) is continuing her amazing effort and has now caught Spitz. The American looks set to take over second place with two laps remaining.
This year's course is a shorter version of that riders faced during last year's World Cup. It has been reduced by 1.6 kilometres to 6.2 kilometres in length.
Yesterday was sure an exciting day for Australian mountain bike fans. Aussies won both the elite men's and the elite women's four cross worlds. Jared Graves won the men's race, and Caroline Buchanan, a native of Canberra, won the women's race.
We've seen Byberg ride well in a variety of conditions. She's also really consistent throughout races and doesn't tend to fade. It must be such a thrill for her to be at the front during the World Championships - she's never been in this lead position before at this point at worlds.
Byberg has a 20 second lead heading in to the fourth lap. Willow Koerber (United States Of America) is in second place, ahead of Sabine Spitz (Germany) in third.
Irina Kalentieva (Russian Federation) has had a stormer of a lap. After going out hard then dropping down to 10th place, she's fought back with the quickest lap of the race to claim back five places.
Spitz has taken back second place from Willow Koerber (United States Of America), who is still on her wheel. The pair are about 120 metres behind Byberg on the cardiac climb.
Byberg still has most of two laps to go. She's been riding on her own for a little while now - that's a tough place to be mentally. Especially when her two chasers have her in sight on the climbs. Spitz has decided she doesn't want to let Byberg get too much time. In mountain biking, "out of sight, out of mind" is an important concept. As long as Spitz and Koerber keep Byberg in sight, she is not safe in her lead.
If anyone will know how fast or slow to burn her matches in a big race, it'll be current marathon world champion and Olympic champion Sabine Spitz.
Spitz has managed to put a significant gap on Willow Koerber (United States Of America) as she tries to claw back Norway leader Byberg.
The Swiss fans are really getting behind Germany's Sabine Spitz, cheering her on up the technical climb, with their best rider back in 12th place.
Irina Kalentieva (Russian Federation) is continuing her fight back. She might not win the race overall, but Spitz and Koerber have reason to be concerned. The Russian is nearly on their wheel.
Willow Koerber (United States Of America) has re-caught Spitz, now she's trying to get away from the German who has Russia's Kalentieva on her tail. Kalentieva has been the quickest woman on the track over the last two laps, however an issue on the second lap has left her on the back foot.
Irina Kalentiva knows how to win the world championships. She's done it before - in 2007 when the worlds were in Fort William, Scotland. The Russian lives and trains in Germany.
Our race leader, Byberg, is the only rider in the top four riding a full suspension bike. The three riders behind are all on hardtails, with Koerber on a 29er.
Spitz has just had her medal position taken away from her with Kalentieva passing her.
The race is going to be close entering the final lap. Koerber is close to Byberg, but Kalentieva is continuing her charge so the American will need to be mindful of preserving her position as well as fighting for the lead.
Kalentieva has crossed the line 29 seconds down, which sounds like a lot, however the Russian made up an impressive 40 seconds on the leader during the last lap. A shot at victory - if she can continue at the same pace - isn't out of the question.
Koerber is riding the world championships race of her life. She's got to be hungry for that silver medal. Last year, she was 40th at the worlds. In 2008, she was 15th. She's putting the moves on Kalientieva in third and Spitz in fourth.
For you Canadians following along, Catharine Pendrel is riding in sixth at 1:13 behind leader Byberg.
Katie Compton (USA) has dropped back to 10th place after lap four, while Marie-Helene Premont (Canada) picked up one more place on the last lap to take 13th.
Byberg is showing some signs of fatigue. A little bobble here and there - a little more body language in her upper body that we saw earlier.
Kalentieva is looking stronger with every minute that passes. The Russian has already caught, and passed, Koerber who looks like she will have to settle for a bronze medal this year. It's still an incredible performance from the rider, but no doubt dis-heartening to see the Russian's speed at this late stage of the race.
Kalentieva is closing down the margin to Byberg. Any slip from the Norwegian will cost her the world title at this point.
Kalientieva just rode very well over the Hammerhead descent. She floated over many rocks and drop offs where we've seen other riders struggle.
Kalentieva is just a few bike lengths off Byberg's wheel now.
It'll be interesting to see how much Byberg has left. Will being caught give her a second wind or will it just underscore the fatigue she must be feeling at this point?
Irina Kalentieva (Russian Federation) and Lene Byberg (Norway) are now together on the open road section after the feed zone. Neither rider were interested in taking a new bottle, with a world championship on the line and half a lap remaining.
Kalentieva is just sitting on Byberg. She's biding her time, looking relaxed. Byberg keeps standing up - maybe stretching the legs.
The two riders are side by side as they approach the single track.
Kalentieva has surged ahead to take the single track first and has immediately pulled out a few bike lengths over Byberg.
Kalentieva has continued the surge. Byberg tried to fight back, but the Russian is just far too strong, just pulling further and further away.
Kalentieva's body language through the downhill, switchback turns is beautiful to watch. She is just flowing around turn after turn after turn. Koerber is still in third as far as we can tell.
Sabine Spitz (Germany) looked as though she was fading fast after losing the lead. However she's managed to stay in fourth place.
Anna Szafraniec (Poland) is in fifth, trying to catch Spitz before the finish.
With less than two kilometres remaining, Kalentieva is proving dominate. Fighting back from 21st place, she's riding away with the race and looks almost certain to take her second world title - joining that which she claimed in 2007 at Fort William.
Irina Kalentieva (Russian Federation) has crossed the line to take victory with her hands high.
Lene Byberg (Norway) has taken second place, clearly upset not to have held on, but congratulates her foe on the way through.
Willow Koerber (United States Of America) had a little wobble as she started celebrating her third place. A bronze medal is fantastic for the American rider.
Saine Spitz (Germany) took fourth place from Anna Szafraniec (Poland). Catharine Pendrel (Canada) has finished up in sixth place.
After starting the race strong and leading the early laps Cécile Rode Ravanel (France) has taken seventh place. Esther Süss (Switzerland) has taken eight place from Eva Lechner (Italy), who was also leading the race earlier on. Heather Irmiger (United States Of America) has rounded out the top 10, capping an amazing race for the North American riders.
Marie-Helene Premont (Canada) has taken13th place.
Katie Compton (USA) has taken 14th place, while Georgia Gould (USA) out-sprinted defending champion and current world cup leader Margarita Fullana Riera (Spain) to take 15th.
Kate Potter has come through as Australia's top finisher after Rowena Fry dropped a number of places on the final lap.
The winner was clearly delighted with her fight back from 21st place today, as she should be: “It’s unbelievable. The first lap I had a problem with my chain. But anyway, I gave my best today and I cannot believe it. I think all of my race I could come back to take a top three. It was my dream before the race to win here, I wanted to be world champion. I’m so happy.”
And that's it for this morning's coverage of the women's olympic cross country race. Join us later today for the men's event, starting at 2 PM AEST.