French cross-country phenomenon Julie Bresset has won the Olympic mountain bike race ahead of defending champion Sabine Spitz (Germany) and Georgia Gould of the USA. Team GB’s Annie Last was 8th after leading for much of the first lap.
Bresset made her move on the fourth of the race’s six laps, pulling away from the early lead group and maintaining her lead all way to the finish in a display of speed and dominance.
Spitz and Gould worked together to attempt to chase down Bresset, but the Frenchwoman never looked threatened.
By the end of lap five, Bressett’s relentless rhythm had stretched her lead to a minute and it was clear the race was for silver as Spitz worked to shed Gould and Gould hung on with grim determination.
With daylight between her and her rivals, Bressett had time to blow kisses to the crowd and grab a French flag as her approach to the finish turned into a lap of honour.
Britain’s Annie Last gradually dropped back from her early lead as her older and more experienced rivals duked it out at the front. She nevertheless kept her head and hung on for a top ten finish.
Afterwards, Last told the BBC that her strategy had been to stay out of trouble. “I wanted to get a good start to make sure I got a clear run on the first lap” she said.
A lead group of Last, Spitz, Bresset, Catherine Pendrel of Canada and Russia’s Irina Kalientieva formed early but Last gradually slipped back and away from the leaders.
“Towards the end of the race I started to slip back a bit and I came today wanting to get the best out of myself and that is what I did,” said Last.
Last paid tribute to the winner, but reminded everyone her own mountain bike racing career is just beginning. ”Julie Bresset is an amazing rider, but the rest of the field are a lot older than me,” she said. “I still have a long way to go and I am looking forward to moving upwards in the next few years.”
1 Julie Bressett (France) 1:30:52 2 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 3 Georgia Gould (USA) 4 Irina Kalientieva (Russia) 5 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 6 Alexandra Engen (Sweden) 7 Aleksandra Dawidowicz (Poland) 8 Annie Last (Great Britain) 9 Catherine Prendrel (Canada) 10 Tanja Zaelj (Slovenia) 11 Lea Davison (USA) 12 Qinglan Shi (China) 13 Yana Belomoyna (Ukraine) 14 Katerina Nash (Czech Republic) 15 Elisabeth Osl (Austria) 16 Adelheid Morath (Germany) 17 Eva Lechner (Italy) 18 Karen Hanlen (New Zealand) 19 Katrin Leumann (Switzerland) 20 Rie Katayama (Japan) 21 Janka Stevkova (Slovakia) 22 Paula Gorycka (Poland) 23 Blaza Klemencic (Slovenia) 24 Emily Batty (Canada) 25 Rebecca Henderson (Australia) 26 Pauline Ferrand Prevot (France) 27 Barbara Benko (Hungary) 28 Candice Neethling (South Africa)