Switzerland got off to a good start at the mountain bike world championships held on its home soil in Champery with a gold medal in the first race of the week. Linda Indergand rode to a solo win in 57:30, and she had plenty of time to wave a small flag and celebrate her victory. Lena Putz (Germany) and Julia Innerhofer (Italy) finished second and third.
"I was amazed and excited by my performance," said Indergand. "Of course, I dreamed of such an achievement, but to be able to win a gold medal in front of my home fans is a dream come true." Indergand lives in central Switzerland and was competing in her first world championship.
At the start and much to the delight of the fans, it was the two Swiss favorites at the front together: Indergand and Jolanda Neff. After the end of the start lap, the pair had a 20-second lead over top chasers Johanna Techt (Germany) and Innerhofer. Putz raced in fifth another 10 seconds back.
"In the races leading up to the Worlds, I didn't feel so confident, and I wasn't sure how I'd do, but yesterday, I came out and rode and felt good. I felt very confident and strong physically today," said Indergand. "I knew I had a chance to have a good race today, but I was surprised to be able to go at such a pace in the beginning that I could build up a lead so early."
On the first full lap of the three that followed the abbreviated start loop, Indergand rode away from Neff, who struggled throughout the race after admitting beforehand that she'd been ill and was not feeling well.
As the race progressed, Neff fell back to an eventual fourth place by the finish
Putz had the opposite experience, with a very strong final lap and moving up into second place at 2:24.
"I went for a tactical race," said Putz. "I knew it would be difficult in the beginning to follow the pace of the Swiss. I planned on a strong last lap, which turned out to be a success. In Val di Sole, my last lap was my best lap, and I didn't know I'd also have a lap like that here at Worlds."
Putz overtook Neff after the latter crashed going over a root.
"It wasn't just the last lap," said Neff. "It was all the laps. I knew I wasn't feeling well and I was hoping I could still do it, but I couldn't."
As the youngest competitor in the junior women's race, the 17-year-old Putz said, "This is the most exciting result of my career. It's a great way to start out on the international level."
Innerhofer kept it steady throughout and earned the bronze medal at 2:44.
"I am delighted by my result. I was dreaming of being in the top four or top five," said Innerhofer. "This is an exciting moment, and it means a lot to me. It's the biggest success of my junior career, and I hope it's just a start."
After Neff, Techt rounded out the top five.
- The winner Indergand also races the road and will compete in the upcoming road world championships, but she said she will mostly continue to focus on mountain bike racing.
- The technical course was a challenge for many of the junior women. Even the medallists had to work up the confidence for the steep drops and roots and rocks. "The uphill was steep but on the downhill, I felt good because it was technical. At first I thought they were too steep for me, but I became more confident as I rode the course more," said the gold medal winner Indergand.
- The top North American finisher was Frederique Trudel of Canada in 12th place.
- The only American to finish the race was Alicia Rose Pastore in 26th. "It was hard. I raced her last year at a Swiss Racer Bikes Cup, but I'm from Colorado and the riding is very different there. It was challenging but I thought it was fun."
Her teammate Grace Alexander was as high up as fifth on the first lap, but she crashed hard and likely hit her head. Bad luck continued for her with a flat tire and Alexander eventually DNFed.
This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.