This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Richard Rude brought the United States its first medal of the 2013 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on Friday morning, when he won the junior men's downhill race. Top qualifier Loris Vergier (France) finished second at 5.726 seconds, ahead of Michael Jones (Great Britain) at 7.402 seconds.
Reflecting on his run, Rude said, "I wasn't thinking too much. I knew I had to get to the middle with the pedalling section and give it all there. I was thinking that there wasn't many people out on course - it was kind of dead. Otherwise, I wasn't thinking too much and was trying to stay focused."
Forty-nine junior men took to the start on a sunny, windy, cool Thursday morning. As the first few dozen racers sped down the mountain, the hot seat regularly changed occupants.
The first rider to break 4:20 was American Luca Shaw with a time of 4:19.625, which knocked 3.837 seconds off the previous best time.
Five riders later, Noel Niederberger (Switzerland) bumped Shaw from the hot seat, logging a time of 4:14.424, thus setting the bar another 5.201 seconds faster.
Six more riders later, Dean Lucas (Australia) came close to the best time, but had to settle into the second spot at that time.
But the next man down the mountain was Michael Jones (Great Britain), who went 0.381 seconds faster for a new best time of 4:14.083.
"Pedalling is not really my thing," said Jones. "I was really driving the pedals coming into this race. I tried to make up as much time as I could up top. I found myself getting wild in the technical stuff to make up time ahead of the pedalling. I couldn't do much more."
Rude, the second fastest in the official timed session that was used for seating, blazed down the mountain to beat Jones. Rude clocked a 4:06.640 and stepped nervously into the number one spot.
"I definitely think I made up my time on the pedal section to bottom," said Rude. "It's one of those things you have to train for. I knew if I gave it all there, there wasn't too much at the bottom left except for jumps. Then you'd just have to hang on." A look at the race splits confirmed Rude's thinking that he did well through the pedalling. He was 22nd, the fourth, then first at the three splits.
"I've always ridden cross country and road. I had less time on my downhill bike than I had wanted before this, and this track was different from other tracks we rode earlier in the year. We used different tires, cut them down a bit to get better rolling resistance. We didn't change suspension much, just wanted to keep it supple."
Frenchman Vergier was the last to go and a real threat to Rude, but he couldn't pull off the win and finished in a time of 4:12.367, good enough for second place, but still 5.725 seconds slower than Rude. He was first as of the second split but lost time at the very end.
"The wind was too much in one section where it was not fast," said Vergier. "The pedalling was so hard just after that - maybe because the wind slowed you down before it. At the finish on the jump, I was feeling so tired."
Jones' time was good enough for a bronze medal.