Trentino, Italy (June 22, 2008)—
Elite women’s Olympic-style Cross Country racing capped off the 2008 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships Sunday as Georgia Gould
(Fort Collins, Colo.) recorded the top American finish. Gould finished ninth to lead the women’s squad.
Margarita Fullana of Spain captured the world title in the 29-kilometer women’s race, besting now two-time silver medalist Sabine Spitz (GER) by +1:43. The reigning world champion, Irina Kalentieva (RUS) was left with the bronze in 2008, 2:20 behind Fullana’s mark of 1:39:01.
Although the victim of a mid-race crash, Gould rode consistently throughout to equal her ninth-place finish at the 2007 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Fort William, Scotland. Taking the seventh start position, Gould rode near the front on the first lap until the powerful trio of Fullana, Spitz and Kalentieva were able to get away on the second of the five-lap affair.
The U.S. women continued to illustrate the depth of American off-road racing, placing three riders in the top 20 – more than any other country. Twenty five-year-old Lea Davison (Jericho, Vt.) was able to move up 27 spots from her 46th-place start position to finish in 19th, while Mary McConneloug (Chilmark, Mass.), the 17-ranked rider in the UCI World Cup standings, crossed the line just over a minute behind Davison in 20th. Davison used consistently faster lap times to steadily move up throughout the 29-kilometer contest.
“I felt stronger and stronger as the race went on,” said Davison. “With its steep climbs and fast descents that course suited me well. My goal was top 20, so I’m pumped.”
Heather Irmiger (Boulder, Colo.) crossed the line inside the top 30, 13:16 behind the winner, while Willow Koerber (Asheville, N.C.) placed 40th, 18:42 back. Kelli Emmett (Colorado Springs, Colo.) placed 47th, making up 16 spots from her assigned start position, to round out the U.S. contingent.
With most of the six American women starters near the front of the pack on the first lap, the steep climbs and temperatures nearing the 90s helped to quickly sort out the contenders. By the end of the first lap Fullana, Spitz and Kallentieva had opened up a small lead which continued to grow as the trio rode together out front. It wasn’t until the fourth lap that Fullana was able to break away for the more than one minute victory.
At the end of the third lap, with Davis surging and McConneloug in the 17th spot, it looked as though the U.S. might place three riders inside the top 15, but McConneloug was ultimately passed by three riders, including Davis, during the last lap.
Gould, the top American mountain biker in the world rankings, gave the U.S. its sixth consecutive top-ten finish at the world championships. Ranked amongst the top nations in the world on the heels of the 2008 Olympic Games, a deep and experienced U.S. women’s team was ultimately kept off the podium at the world championships for the seventh consecutive year. Since Alison Dunlap captured the world title in 2001, the top results have been a pair of sixth-place efforts courtesy of Sue Haywood in 2003 and McConneloug in 2006.
With no top-three finishes by Americans at the World Championships or in a World Cup this season, two athletes have met the automatic nomination criteria for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team as a result of collective performances throughout the season.
Gould met the criteria for an automatic nomination to the women’s squad as the athlete with the best cumulative placing in her three best 2008 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup performances. Gould had a pair of fifth-place finishes in the season’s first and third World Cups respectively in Madrid and Houffalize. Her next best finish was an 11th-place effort at the most recent world cup in Fort William.
The U.S. National Team concluded the 2008 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships with a sole medal which came in the form of a gold by Melissa Buhl (Chandler, Ariz.) in Saturday’s Women’s Four Cross competition.
Click here for complete results from the 2008 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships.
2008 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships
Elite Women’s Cross Country
1. Margarita Fullana (ESP) 1:39:01
2. Sabine Spitz (GER) +1:43
3. Irina Kalentieva (RUS) +2:20
9. Georgia Gould (Fort Collins, Colo.) +6:18
19. Lea Davison (Jericho, Vt.) +10:03
20. Mary McConneloug (Chilmark, Mass.) +10:26
29. Heather Irmiger (Boulder, Colo.) +13:16
40. Willow Koerber (Asheville, N.C.) +18:42
47. Kelli Emmett (Colorado Springs, Colo.) -1 Lap