Catherine Pendrel (Canada) soloed to victory in the elite women's cross country race at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Hafjell, Norway on Saturday. Former world champion Irina Kalentieva (Russia) took second place while American Lea Davison won her first world championship medal by finishing third place.
"It feels good to win my second world championship title," said Pendrel, who also won in Champery, Switzerland in 2011. "You go through so many changes in confidence going into a race like this. I came into this wanting to have a good race because my last few world champs haven't been great. I wanted to perform to the best of my ability. I was ecstatic to see what that was on the day."
Many of the favorites, even Pendrel on the last lap, flatted during the race and it cost several of them their chance at medalling.
How it happened
Eliminator world champion Kathrin Stirnemann (Switzerland) led out the start followed by last year's World Cup champion Tanja Zakelj (Slovenia) and Pendrel, but by halfway through the first lap, Pendrel had taken over at the front, a spot she would hold until the finish.
"That's the way I like to race. When there's an opportunity to take the lead, you have to go for it," said Pendrel. "That's always the kind of racer I've been. If you want to win Worlds, you have to go out hard and take chances. When I saw I was 20 seconds faster on my first lap than during the team relay, I was surprised."
"I knew it would be an advantage on this course to be ahead of people because there are a lot of opportunities to make mistakes out there. It played out even better than I expected and I couldn't believe I got the gap as soon as I did. I thought 'I'm leading the world championships' and then I knew I shouldn't think about that."
At first, Zakelj led the chase with Kalentieva, Maja Wloszczowska (Poland) and Blaza Klemencic (Slovenia), but Zakelj took a bad line and crashed and lost several places.
"I crashed in the rocks - it was totally my mistake," said Zakelj. "Then I noticed that my front tire was low on pressure and I had to stop and change it."
By the end of lap two, Pendrel had over 30 seconds on Wloszczowska and Kalentieva, who raced together. Meanwhile behind them, Davison, who had a good start, moved up a few spots into fourth another five seconds back.
"I got a great start," said Davison. "It was my goal to be up there - typically I've started slower and I was nervous because I didn't have the best start position."
With Pendrel well off the front and looking strong, the race appeared to be for second place. Unfortunately for Wloszczowska, she got a flat and had to stop for a wheel change. which cost her time and several places, dropping her into sixth. That left Kalentieva on her own in second chasing Pendrel. Davison pushed on, then in third place.
"I had a flat after the second feed zone so I had to ride and run a little the last part of the lap," said Wloszczowska. "I had less than two laps to go when I got my new wheel and resumed chasing. I had motivation for one lap of that, and then my morale was low and I just wanted to finish the race." She ended up seventh.
Davison said, "For the first half of the race, I was maintaining 10-15 seconds off the podium and with three laps to go, I was closing on Maja on the climb and I thought maybe one of these two girls would crack, then Maja flatted. I passed her on the downhill going into the finish."
"I moved into the bronze medal position and had to fight hard to maintain that. I'm happy because I had hip surgery in January and didn't race until the Nationals in July. For me to earn a medal at the world championships is so special."
On the final lap, Pendrel had a scare when her tire went flat and she had to stop for a wheel change, but it was a smooth one, and she had built enough of a cushion to maintain her lead.
"I knew Irina was coming up behind me and had won here the year before, so I had to stay on it," said Pendrel. "There was too much drama on the last lap. I punctured coming out of the woods after I hit a sharp rock with my front tire. [My mechanic] Dusty did the fastest wheel change ever. It was kind of fun because the team mechanics from all the teams were telling me to relax and that it'd be ok. They were all supporting me - it was a neat experience. Then it was good to be able to hold the lead into the finish."
Kalentieva rode uneventfully into second place, finishing 21 seconds after Pendrel.
"I'm happy with this silver medal. I won the World Cup finals here last year year which motivated me extra for today. Silver medal is great for me," said Kalentieva, who also put in a appeal for a new sponsor for next year since her current contract is ending. "I hope this will help me find a good sponsor."
A motivated Zakelj was closing on Davison in the final lap and the American knew it, but she had a bronze medal in her sights and held off the charging Slovenian, who ended up fourth ahead of Klemencic.
After the race, Zakelj was disappointed with her crash, but happy with how she rode overall.
Home crowd favorite Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) didn't have a great day, but still managed to finish ninth. After showing recent good form, she was disappointed to have an off day at Worlds.
"I'm a little disappointed," said Dahle Flesjaa. "It's obvious the result was not like I wanted, but I just had a terrible heavy day. Fortunately that doesn't happen often, but it's a shame that it happened during the world championship on home soil. I could feel it during the first lap already that it would be a day when I would fight with my head and not with my legs. But it was fantastic to race inf ront of so many fans on what turned out to be such a good course."
- Both Catharine Pendrel and Lea Davison rode full suspension bikes. Both often ride a hardtail but chose the dually for the rocky course. "It helped me relax and make fewer mistakes in the early woods sections," said Pendrel. "If you could stay smooth, it was an advantage and I think I saved energy and got my gap more quickly."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Catharine Pendrel (Canada)||1:31:30|
|2||Irina Kalentieva (Russian Federation)||0:00:21|
|3||Lea Davison (United States Of America)||0:00:43|
|4||Tanja Zakelj (Slovenia)||0:01:12|
|5||Blaza Klemencic (Slovenia)||0:01:46|
|6||Emily Batty (Canada)||0:02:09|
|7||Maja Wloszczowska (Poland)||0:02:12|
|8||Sabine Spitz (Germany)||0:03:05|
|9||Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway)||0:03:20|
|10||Julie Bresset (France)||0:03:26|
|11||Eva Lechner (Italy)||0:04:12|
|12||Annie Last (Great Britain)||0:04:17|
|13||Ekateryna Anoshina (Russian Federation)||0:04:58|
|14||Daniela Campuzano (Mexico)||0:05:37|
|15||Rebecca Henderson (Australia)||0:05:46|
|16||Anna Szafraniec (Poland)||0:05:53|
|17||Lene Byberg (Norway)||0:06:10|
|18||Annika Langvad (Denmark)||0:06:34|
|19||Katarzyna Solus-Miskowicz (Poland)||0:07:08|
|20||Githa Michiels (Belgium)||0:07:23|
|21||Katerina Nash (Czech Republic)||0:08:00|
|22||Qinglan Shi (People's Republic of China)||0:08:50|
|23||Janka Keseg Stevkova (Slovakia)||0:09:07|
|24||Georgia Gould (United States Of America)||0:09:15|
|25||Kate Fluker (New Zealand)||0:09:26|
|26||Esther Süss (Switzerland)||0:09:29|
|27||Katrin Leumann (Switzerland)||0:09:37|
|28||Nina Wrobel (Germany)|
|29||Alice Pirard (Belgium)||0:10:11|
|30||Elisabeth Osl (Austria)||0:11:03|
|31||Chloe Woodruff (United States Of America)||0:11:17|
|32||Heidi Rosasen Sandsto (Norway)||0:11:21|
|33||Chengyuan Ren (People's Republic of China)||0:11:29|
|34||Sandra Walter (Canada)||0:11:33|
|35||Tereza Hurikova (Czech Republic)||0:11:50|
|36||Serena Calvetti (Italy)||0:12:31|
|37||Raiza Goulao-Henrique (Brazil)||0:12:40|
|38||Erin Huck (United States Of America)||0:12:50|
|39||Kathrin Stirnemann (Switzerland)||0:13:23|
|40||Agustina Maria Apaza (Argentina)||0:14:13|
|41||Anne Terpstra (Netherlands)||0:14:42|
|-1lap||Karla Stepanova (Czech Republic)|
|-1lap||Adriana Rojas (Costa Rica)|
|-1lap||Mary Mcconneloug (United States Of America)|
|-1lap||Mikaela Kofman (Canada)|
|-1lap||Kajsa Snihs (Sweden)|
|-1lap||Laura Lorenza Morfin Macouzet (Mexico)|
|-1lap||Anna Oberparleiter (Italy)|
|-1lap||Evelyn Dong (United States Of America)|
|-1lap||Paula Gorycka (Poland)|
|-1lap||Isabella Moreira Lacerda (Brazil)|
|-1lap||Lucie Vesela (Czech Republic)|
|-2laps||Rocio Martin Rodriguez (Spain)|
|-2laps||Barbara Benko (Hungary)|
|-2laps||Erika Fernanda Gramiscelli (Brazil)|
|-2laps||Maaris Meier (Estonia)|
|-2laps||Jitka Skarnitzlova (Czech Republic)|
|-2laps||Alexandra Gabriela Serrano Rodriguez (Ecuador)|
|-2laps||Sonja Kallio (Finland)|
|-2laps||Eri Yonamine (Japan)|
|-2laps||Peta Mullens (Australia)|
|-2laps||Elisabeth Sveum (Norway)|
|-3laps||Mio Suemasa (Japan)|
|-3laps||Esra Kurkcu (Turkey)|
|DNS||Adelheid Morath (Germany)|
|DNS||Mariske Strauss (South Africa)|
|DNS||Semra Yetis (Turkey)|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|3||United States Of America||137|
|12||People?S Republic Of China||75|
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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews. She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.
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