Spaniard Margarita Fullana claimed her third world championship title in the women's cross country, attacking at the half way point and dropping defending World Champ Irina Kalentieva and German Sabine Spitz.
Fullana, who won the title in 1999 and 2000 rode at the front of the race from the gun, with only Spitz and the Russian Kalentieva able to hold her pace. Marie-Helene Premont put in a strong second half to take fourth.
Spitz took the initiative from the start and was seen at the front at almost every opportunity during the first few laps. She pulled Fullana, Kalentieva, and Blaza Klemencic (Slovenia) off the front with her.
Before the end of the first lap, Klemencic fell off the pace of what became the lead trio. In between her and the leaders, Premont chased alone in fourth while Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) rode alone a further 12 seconds back. She was cheered by numerous fans dressed up with Viking helmets, decorated with face paint and wearing "Gunn-Rita" jerseys.
Halfway through the second lap, Kalentieva was seen dropping off the pace of the ever-charging Spitz and Fullana hanging tight in second. The tenacious 2007 World Champion was clearly fighting a mental and physical battle to hang on. She was as far back as 12 seconds, but kept chasing back on to the two leaders.
At the front, Spitz conducted the train until the first major climb after two laps to go. That's when Fullana moved to the front and gapped Spitz. In less than half a lap, she opened up 14 seconds on Spitz and 27 seconds in Kalentieva. Behind them, Majra Wloszczowska (Poland) made a bid and moved into fourth ahead of Premont in fifth and Dahle-Flesjaa in sixth.
With one to go, Fullana came through the finish line spinning effortlessly at a high cadence. She appeared to be a woman on a mission. Spitz was still riding well but appeared to be working harder behind the leader by 48 seconds.
The order would remain the same until the end – only the gaps would grow. Fullana crossed the line celebrating in a time of 1'39"01. Spitz followed for silver at 1'43" while Kalentieva secured bronze at 2'20".
"The race was really different than a World Cup," said the new World Champion Fullana. "It was really difficult for me." Under other circumstances the Spaniard might have been celebrating her second consecutive worlds victory; however, she had to sit out last year after she was given an "unfit to race" suspension just 24 hours before the 2007 worlds.
Spitz earned her second silver at the World Championships after her first in Fort William in 2007. "I have to accept that she was stronger than me today, and I have to be satisfied. I tried my best." After a long spring, Spitz is looking forward to a brief holiday at home in the Black Forest of Germany, where she will take a week off her bike.
"I am maybe a little disappointed. I am looking forward to the next World Cup and World Championships. The heat didn't help me today," said third placed Kalentieva, keeping it all in perspective, "I'm happy with third considering how I felt."
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