For Poland's Maja Wloszczowska, the world championships are the most important race of the year. The cross country mountain bike racer wasn't able to defend her 2010 world title at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Champery, Switzerland, last weekend, but she had the next best result: a silver medal.
"It's ok to have silver. I'm happy with it. I feel like a winner," said Wloszczowska. "I'm happy that Catharine (Pendrel) won."
Wloszczowska was battling with eventual winner Pendrel (Canada), but lady luck was not on her side. She flatted about halfway into the race and lost significant time - between 1:00 and 1:30 - and while she made up much of it before the end of the contest, there were still 28 seconds between her and Pendrel at the finish.
"I think somebody out there wanted me to have a flat tire because Catharine deserved the rainbow jersey like nobody else. I know I was strong to ride with her, but it's life and sport. I'm glad I could get the tech zone, get a wheel and still get on the podium. That was the greatest battle of my life today."
Wloszczowska described why the Worlds are so important to her. "Everyone in Poland was looking at the Worlds. There's not much focus on the World Cup there, but there is a lot of attention on the Worlds. It's important to have a medal at the main event of the year."
Wloszczowska was well prepared for the big day. She'd come to Champery twice beforehand to train and she also attended a high altitude camp. "Everything was done just for the Worlds," she said.
"A lot of other races are important, but nothing like the Worlds."
Remarking on her last year in the rainbow stripes after winning her first world title in Mont-Sainte-Anne in 2010, she said, "Definitely, it's something special to be world champ. I'm lucky to have had the opportunity to ride in the rainbow jersey for a year."
She joked that the jersey was still in her family, even with Pendrel winning. "My mom's company makes the clothes for Luna, so the rainbow jersey is still in the company."