One woman was conspicuously absent from the line-up at the opening round of the cross country UCI World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. That was American Willow Koerber (Trek World Racing), bronze medallist at the past two mountain bike world championships.
Koerber had discovered her pregnancy just one day before the race. After finishing second in last week's South African national series race on the World Cup course, Koerber knew something was not quite right.
"I had two positive tests for pregnancy the day before the World Cup in South Africa. I am six weeks along," wrote Koerber in her blog.
"With my team's support, I chose not to start the World Cup. At his point in my life, I could never forgive myself if something happened to this little soul who obviously has some wonderful reasons for choosing me as his mother. The timing doesn't seem perfect, but in the case of new life, the timing is somehow always perfect isn't it?"
Koerber had not felt well the previous two weeks was was lacking in overall energy. After obtaining the pregnancy test results, fiancé and former downhill world Champion Myles Rockwell was the first to get the call, and shortly thereafter Koerber spoke to Trek World Racing Team Director Martin Whiteley.
"Obviously this is a bittersweet development for Willow who on one hand was ready to take on the world in season 2011, yet on the other hand, is now expecting her first child with all the joy and excitement that brings," said Whiteley.
"One thing is clear, we as a team are fully supportive of Willow in this new development and while this was not the plan, life is not predictable and all the team members have been so supportive since she spoke with everyone last night at dinner."
Koerber was headed home to the US starting on Monday and said she is now aiming to return to racing next spring.
"If you were to ask me my plan now, it starts with shifting from overwhelmed to excited, from bittersweet to full of joy and from doubt into trust," wrote Koerber. "I plan to continue to ride and exercise day to day, to write the book I have been talking about, to nurture myself, my baby, Myles and his son, and to be back in World Cup action next spring."
While still at the World Cup, Koerber spoke with Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa, a many time World Cup winner and former World Champion, who offered words of encouragement. Dahle Flesjaa has a two-year-old son and is back racing at the elite level.
She is due on December 22.