Mountain Bike Olympics – Day One – Women’s Race

Today, 15,000 or so fans cheered the world’s best women mountain bike racers as they raced round a great looking course in glorious sunshine in Essex.

 

Well, what a day. I was at the Hadleigh Park venue soon after it opened to the public this morning at 10am and already the atmosphere was already thick and warm and syrupy. There were some obvious cyclists in the crowd, but also plenty of general Olympic fans and even some Essex locals who wanted to see the world class event happening on their doorstep.

 

The day was warm and sunny all day, with a bit of breeze kicking up at the start of the race, which helped add to the atmosphere, with spectators spreading blankets out and breaking out the picnics. The rocky, spectator-friendly features soon filled up with people keen for a good view of this challenging course.

Next to Deane’s Drop, there was a mountain bike version of ¬†Wimbledon’s Murray’s Mound, with the big grassy hilllside full of cheering fans, flags and tartan blankets.

Move over Murray's Mound...

 

 

People everywhere...

First lap lead by Britain's Last.

The women were gridded up just after noon, with every rider getting a big round of applause. The biggest, obviously went to Britain’s Annie Last, looking very focussed with number five on her bike. At 12.30pm, the race started, with riders doing a 400m pre-lap before six full laps.

The pace out of the gate was fierce, with Annie Last getting the holeshot and leading the charge, ahead of Julie Bresset, Pendrel, current Olympic champ Sabine Spitz. These four riders started working together and started a gap on the field.

 

The tech support/feed zone

 

It was like 'Zulu'. Spectators everywhere!

 

 

Showing scuffs from practice crashes (like many riders...) Bresset calmly rode away to a win.

Spitz leads Gould down the rock garden.

 

As the race approached halfway, Annie Last visibly started to fade, allowing Georgia Gould to bridge the gap and put herself into a potential Bronze position.

 

Last, riding 26in Dugast tubulars on her Boardman carbon hardtail.

 

There are 6,000 of those pink frilly course markers out there. All put in by hand.

 

 

Despite there only being 30 women racing today, there was plenty of racing action.

 

Annie Last, who rode her heart out today, did the crowd proud.

Bresset on one of the last climbs, with the 'Deane's Drop' crowd in the background.

 

 

Canadian (and current world champ) Catherine Pendrel rode well to start with, but faded to finish an eventual ninth.

Emily Batty didn't do as well as predicted, after a training crash this week. Only after the race was it revealed that she raced with a broken collarbone and a couple of bust ribs. Chapeau!

Last's final lap gurn.

 

The huge crowd enjoyed being able to see a lot of the course from wherever they were on it.

 

The race finished with skydivers, who get credit for nailing the landing in strong winds...

 

 

 

 

 

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