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UCI Mountain Bike World Championships 2011: Elite women cross country

Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the elite women's cross country race at the UCI mountain bike championships in Champery, Switzerland.  The race starts at 1:30 pm local time.  We'll be bringing you updates from alongside the course.

It's bright and sunny here in Champery today.  The weather is great for bike racing.  Lots of fans seem to be here with more streaming in constantly on foot and via the shuttle.

69 women will take to the start, and we expect call-up to begin shortly.

Favorites include defending world champion Maja Wloszczowska (Poland), past world champions Irina Kalentieva (Russia) and Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) and Catharine Pendrel (Canada).  Look out also for Eva Lechner (Italy), Lisi Osl (Austria) and Marie Helen Premont (Canada) to name a few favorites.

Note that we're going to refer to defending champ Maja Wloszczowska simply as "Maja" for the rest of this live because we'd rather bring you more updates than spend our time typing "Wloszczowska" over and over again.

The Americans are without Willow Koerber this time around because she is out this season due to pregnancy.  We'll miss the bronze medallist from the past two Worlds.   The top US riders in her absence are Georgia Gould and Lea Davison.  Davison has been riding well lately with career bests of sixth and seventh at the last two World Cups of the season.

Julie Bresset will not be racing today because she is an U23. The 2011 World Cup winner won the U23 world championship title two days ago.

The women will begin with a 3km start loop which includes a good portion of one lap.  Then they will undertake six more laps.

The course includes a drop in the Hell's Gate section.  Catharine Pendrel told us she wasn't worried about the drop and that everyone knew it would be in the course and had therefore elevated their skill set so they will all be riding it.  With the disclaimer that I haven't ridden either drop, it looks like this one is much tamer than the drop/jump A-line option on the US Pro XCT finals course in Missoula, Montana earlier this summer.

Sadly, former Worlds medallist Lene Byberg (Norway) will be missing from the action today after breaking her leg the other day in training.  Byberg cracked her fibula when she stepped down wrong during a practice lap.

Call up is under way. There are people all along the starting straight. Final to 10 riders are getting introduced.

They are underway. On the start lap climb, Maja and Pendrel apply pressure at the front.

Sorry for the gap in the coverage.  Interweb is clogged here.    To bring you up to speed, we had Maja and Pendrel off the front together, working well with a 12 second gap 

However, late on lap 2, Maja suffered a flat and Pendrel took advantage and pulled away.  Maja got to the tech zone, riding gingerly, and just got her wheel changed.

So now we have Pendrel in the lead on her own.  She looks very good.

Other top five women are Kalentieva and Lechner and Dahle Flesjaa

Dalhle Flesjaa dismounts and runs briefly through a rooty section.

Lechner is currently in second place at 43 seconds after Pendrel.  Dahle Flesjaa is third at 1:07. Maja, after her wheel change, is in fourth at 1:16.  And Kalentieva is a bit behind her.

Emily Batty of Canada is looking great out there.  She is riding well and currently is in sixth place ahead of Sabine Spitz (Germany) and Rosara Joseph (New Zealand).

Lea Davison is riding as the top American at the moment.  She is in about 14th.  Not too far back are fellow Americans Georgia Gould, Mary McConneloug and Heather Irmiger, all together.

The women are 52 minutes into the race.

Maja rounds the bend at the top of the climb, she is followed immediately by Kalentieva and Dahle Flesjaa.  They are battling for second place as Pendrel continues comfortably off the front near the end of lap 3.

Pendrel rolls through the start lap finishing off her third lap in the lead.  She takes a drink on this smooth, paved section.

Slight correction to what we wrote earlier. Eva Lecher is still in second place.  We missed her in the last section of singletrack.

So to summarize, we have Pendrel, Lechner, Maja, Kalentieva and Dahle Flesjaa in that order for our top five.  Pendrel and Lechner are on their own while the others are together racing for third.

Dahle Flesjaa takes a bottle at the feed/tech zone.

Pendrel is spinning a nice gear up to the top of the climb before the Hell's Gate descent.  She looks good.  Then flies downhill off the A-line jump.

It looks like Nathalie Schneitter, who won here at the World Cup last year, is riding as the top Swiss.  She is cheered on loudly by spectators every time she goes by so you always know where she is.

Maja is riding like she is on a mission.  She looks good after her flat and is working diligently to regain the lost time.

Kalentieva hits a gnarly root section and takes a fall, but she's up again quickly and going.  Ouch!

The singletrack looks like it's in great shape today.  A bit damp, but not too wet and certainly not too dry.  Dust is not an issue.  The roots will still be slippery, of course, but not as treacherous as the other day in the junior men's race.

Pendrel dabs for a second.  This course is tricky.  Even the best women in the world are making mistakes.

The riders who have won medals thus far have said how important good concentration is on this course.  MIstakes can cost you and lots of little mistakes can add up to significant time very quickly.

Pendrel continues on in first with a one-minute lead over her chasers.  She's over one-hour into the race and closing in on the end of lap 4.

Maja has caught Lechner and the two chase together.

Kalentieva rides in fourth ahead of Flesjaa.  Both of those two riders are on their own.

Maja is setting the pace for Lechner.  The latter is know for her very fast starts, and sometimes she fades later in the races.  It will be interesting to see if she can hack this pace throughout.

The major climb of the race is a steep grinder of a climb.  It's mostly gravel, with a bit of pavement at the bottom.  At the top, they do a sharp (slow speed) u-turn into a technical section of the course called the Snake.  Think of lots of downhill roots and some rocks.

Of course, Pendrel is making it look easy although the junior women struggled quite a bit in this section earlier in the week.

On the climb, Lechner is setting the pace ahead of Maja and she enters the singletrack Snake section first.

The last time a Canadian woman won the elite women's XC was in 1996 in Cairns, Australia.  That was thanks to Alison Sydor.  She also won in 1994 and 1995.

Dahle Flesjaa took a fall on the Snake downhill, but she was up again quickly and seems ok.

To summarize, we have in order Pendrel, Lechner & Maja (1:02), Kalentieva (1:22), Dahle Flesjaa (2:24) for top five.

They should have seen two laps to go when they crossed the line.

Home crowd favorite Schneitter is riding in sixth place, on her own at 2:52.

Rosara Joseph (New Zealand) and Emily Batty (Canada) are having great rides.  They are together at 3:33 in seventh and eighth.

In the battle for second, Maja seems content to let Lechner set the pace for now.

Dahle Flesjaa is putting in a great ride.  It's nice to see her back among the top contenders after having a baby and some issues with illness.  She won the world title in 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Pendrel is pushing on ward during her fifth lap.  It has to be lonely out there in the front and a bit nerve-wracking as she will be hoping not to have any mechanicals or crashes.  She has shown great form lately, with a win at the Olympic test event in Hadleigh Park and a few late rounds of the World Cup, in which she finished second overall to Julie Bresset.

Halfway through the lap five, the gap is holding pretty steady between Pendrel and her chasers Maja and Lechner: at about one minute.

We can expect a finish time of around 1:45 for the winner today.

Lechner and Maja roll through the tech/feed zone with no incidents.  Both seem to need little support at the moment.  Riders see the tech zone twice per lap.  They pass it in both directions.

Pendrel is on the main climb.  It's lined with spectators cheering her on.  She looks like she is working but is pretty relaxed and smooth.

Emily Batty runs a short rooty section of the course, but is quickly back on her bike.  Sometimes it's better to run for a second than to risk falling.

Maja has gapped Lechner in the battle for second.

Guess she was just biding her time the past lap or two.  Though she may also have been recovering from her flat tire change and subsequent effort to catch up.

Pendrel comes through in 1:29:37 at the end of lap 5.  One lap to go for the leader.  She's laying it all out there.

Wow, Maja is on the attack!  She has closed the gap to Pendrel to just 36 seconds. It had been at about a minute for awhile.

Lechner is still riding the same pace.  She's in third, at 1:00 as she has been.  It's Maja who is making the big push

The question is whether the defending world champion will be able to catch Pendrel on this last lap.

Former world champ Kalentieva is in fourth at 1:10 while Dahle Flesjaa is in fifth.

Pendrel nails the A line on Hell's Gate for the final time.

Maja takes her final turn over the jump.

Approximately one-half lap to go for the leaders.

Lechner rides in third through some technical singletrack. in the woods.  It's cloudy now, so it's rather dark in the woods.

Schneitter rolls off the jump.

At the split out on course, Pendrel leads Maja by 34 seconds.  So the gap has come down by 2 seconds in the last half lap.

It makes you wonder what would have happened in Maja had not had the flat early in the race.

But that is bike racing.

Schneitter has passed Dahle Flesjaa on this final lap for fifth place.

Pendrel is on the final climb, still in the lead, but hotly pursued by Maja.

It hurts just watching them ride up this steep climb.

Pendrel rounds the bend at the top and drops into the snake.

Now Maja does the same.

If Pendrel can keep it clean on the last downhill and flat section, she can have the rainbow stripes.

Lechner enters the Snake section in third.

Note: We'll also be bringing you coverage of the men's race starting at 16:30 CET later today.

Pendrel is cruising through the final singletrack.

Pendrel wins her first world title in 1:46:14!

Maja takes silver at 28 seconds.  What a great late race effort.

Bronze goes to Lechner at 1:36

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