September 2/10 13:56 pm - MTB World Championships: U23 Women XC report and photos
Posted by Editoress on 09/2/10
Mont Ste Anne World Championships - Under 23 Women
Our coverage of the 2010 World Championships brought to you with the support of Shimano
Under humid and hot conditions, Sweden's Alexandra Engen claimed the Under 23 Women's cross-country world title. British rider Annie Last was second and Paula Gorycka from Poland placed third. The best Canadian, Emily Batty, finished fifth.
The women raced 4.5 laps (21.4 km) of the technical and dusty cross-country course. From the start, Engen imposed a fast pace, leading the group through the start loop, where everyone just tried hang on. Vivienne Meyer (SUI) had the lead after the short loop, but Last took control and led at the end of the first lap. By lap two, the British rider had opened a 38 second gap on Meyer, 2008 U23 champion Tanja Zakelj (SLO) and Engen. Gorycka was alone, 42 seconds down on the chase group, with Batty sitting in ninth place, two minutes behind the leader. The top Canadian contender has been suffering from a head cold all week, and the humidity and dust did not help.
By mid-race the chase group had exploded under the pressure put on by Engen, who was now posting the fastest lap times every lap, and closing the gap on Last. Zakelj, Meyer and Gorycka followed individually, each separated by approximately 20 seconds. Batty was still sitting in ninth, but starting to look a little better and beginning to close in on the riders in front of her.
The focused Engen was relentless in her march towards the front and by lap three she had caught up to Last, who was looking tired. Zakelj was still in third but Gorycka had increased her pace and was closing in fast on the Slovak rider.
Behind, Batty had found another gear, her demeanor had changed and she was riding more aggressively. The Canadian champion started catching riders one by one. Engen opened a 30 second lead over Last in the final lap, and Gorycka caught Zakelj to move into the bronze medal spot. Batty was starting to motor, and moved in fifth place.
The last time through the feedzone, an all smiles Engen high-fived a member of her pit crew on her way to the finish. Batty came across the line looking good for another lap, running out of real estate to catch the Slovack rider. Her first comment was 'Can we do another lap!'
"I did leave everything out there today," commented Batty to a crowd of reporters, as she was mobbed after the race. "I'm still quite sick, but it is what it is, we all have our hard days and we just have to deal with what we're given. So I'm happy with how it went, and thanks to everyone."
"I look forward to racing next year with the Elite women and slowly making my way back into the top five. I'm happy with my race and I can't thank my family and sponsors enough."
In other Canadian results, Mickaela Kofman had a good race and finished 14th in a sprint with Chinese rider Ye Zhuanzhuan; while Andreanne Pichette was the last one to be counted on the same lap as the winner, finishing in 26th place.
"It's fabulous getting the jersey ... I had a good season and ended up with a World Championship, unbelievable," said Engen, who was second in 2009. "I said I always wanted to improve [on my last year's results] so yah I did. It's always a dream to be World Champion and I wanted to finish in a good way and hopefully better than last year," she added.
"I had a clear plan for my race before I started, and it involved having not a slow start but a focussed start ... and I knew that even though it isn't that sunny when you come from the snow country like Sweden, it's hard riding in that heat. So I knew I could do two laps really really hard and, luckily, for me I was in good position at that point."
"I am pleased, very happy with my race," said Last. "I slowed down a bit with two laps to go but I did as good as I could."
"I crashed in the first lap with the Swiss rider but I felt strong in the third and fourth lap" said Gorycka. When asked about the course and the heat she answered: "very hard, very technical and physical, you must be very strong to do well here."
"It was awesome," commented Mikaela Kofman. "Well, the girls they went out really hard, and I was 'holy cow they all had engines in their tires or something'. I decided to let them go and then pick them off. On the last lap everything is going very well and in the [Perdix single track section] I got taken out, and my bike hit me pretty hard. But you know every race has ups and downs, and I think there were more ups then downs today, so it's awesome."
"People were yelling so loud, at some points I felt overwhelmed. I thinking 'oh my God, I can't go any harder', but it was awesome to see the Canadian flag, it didn't matter who you were, just 'cause you are wearing a Canadian flag everybody was yelling for you, and had your back so it was nice support."
"I tried just to stay with it, it didn't matter if I was way far back as long as I was top 20, it was ok. With the heat and the weather conditions and the technical conditions, I knew this would favor people's weaknesses, so I decided to race my own race and not let the craziness get to me, [and] did it once step at the time."
"I really had no expectation, I raced the World Cup last year but I crashed, so this is the first World Championship that I completed. It's my first year really racing the World Cup so it is all a new stepping stone."
Andréanne Pichett: "I didn't have any objectives going into the race. I don't have much of a background on the international circuit. I just wanted to give my all. I was very aggressive at the start because I'd participated in the World Championships once before, and fallen behind because I didn't expect such a fast start. So I gave it all I had today at the start to get a good position and then tried to keep it as long as possible. I tried to stay on the wheel of other girls and ride with them."
"During the third lap I started to feel the effects of my aggressive start. I tried to stay strong mentally and told myself that it didn't hurt that much, so I was able to continue hard to the finish. I realized I probably won't do the World Championships two times at home so I gave it all I had. I really wanted to finish the race and I'm really proud that I was able to."
Report by Claire Bonin and Rob Jones