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.
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.
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.