This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Alessandra Keller (Switzerland) brought home Switzerland's first medal of the 2013 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships when she won the junior women's cross country race on Thusrday morning in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Emilie Collomb (Italy) finished alone in second while Sarah Bauer (Germany) rode in on her own for third.
"I believed in victory the whole race, but I can't really believe it now," said Keller. "This is the first time I've had a victory like this."
Collomb set the pace at the front on the first of the four laps in hot, dry and dusty conditions. Bauer, a motivated Bianca Haw (South Africa), and Keller followed.
The eventual winner struggled a bit to get to the front on the first lap.
"Near the start, I had to walk a little bit because there were too many riders and there was a traffic jam," said Keller. "Afterward, I had a rider with a flat in front of me and she was too slow. I wanted to pass her, but then I crashed. Once I got back up, I did pass her."
By the end of the first lap, Keller had moved up from fifth into third as Haw faded and the top three lead group including Collomb, Bauer and Keller were set for the duration of the race.
Keller appeared to do a good job of pacing herself and seemed to get stronger as the race progressed. Eventually, she and Collomb rode away from Bauer, then Keller also dropped Collomb.
For the final three laps, the order stayed as such with Keller on her own leading Collomb, also on her own, and then Bauer. All three women were often in sight of each other, but none of them faltered or had any mechanical issues.
"You don't get the victory until you cross the line," said Keller. "I always believed in me, and I thought if I could ride like this until the end, I could be the world champion."
Runner-up Collomb said, "This podium is a big reward for a lot of effort from the whole year, and I'm very happy with the result."
Bronze medallist Bauer said, "My start was really good and it was good to get to the front. I stayed there for a long time. On the last lap, I was near the second position, but I didn't get the chance to catch her."
Behind the top three women, the remaining places shuffled considerably during the race. Sofia Wiedenroth (Germany) and Nadja Heigl (Austria) rounded out the top five.
American Kate Courtney had worked herself up to fifth place with one lap to go, but dropped one position on the final lap when the Austrian Heigl overtook her on a technical section.
"It was a tough one out there," said Courtney. "I got a pretty good start, staying with the main girls, but then I wasn't feeling good and dropped back a bit. On the third lap, I started fighting for it and got as high as fifth. I'm stoked with sixth - a top 10 finish!"
Courtney noted that her race went much better than the previous year when she had had a concussion. "Then I raced one lap and was dizzy and couldn't see straight, so I didn't end up finishing."
For the junior women's race, several of the "A" lines were closed by the UCI in the interest of rider safety. The changes cut some of the very steep, technical sections out.
"I liked the course at is was," said Keller. "I could do all the A lines, but it was good like this because not every athlete is technically so good, and there can be accidents. It was good for the others."
Bauer said that for her, the hardest part of the course was the Rapid Rocks downhill, rocky technical section near the start/finish.