Georgia Gould (Fort Collins, Colo./LUNA Pro Team) on a warm, but windy Saturday finished third to earn the bronze medal in the Olympic mountain bike cross-country race at Hadleigh Farm in Essex, United Kingdom.
Gould finished third, 1:08 behind gold medalist Julie Bresset (FRA) and only six seconds behind Sabine Spitz (GER), who earned the silver medal. Lea Davison (Jericho, Vt./Specialized Racing) placed 11th, 4:22 behind Bresset. Gould completed the 29.26-kilometer, fast and technical course in 1:32:00 while Davison finished in 1:35:14.
Gould, who started the race in the second line got off to a rocky start in the race as she chose a desired line and was caught behind slower traffic. It wasn’t long, however, before Gould moved up through the field. Gould completed the 440-meter start loop alongside her American teammate, Davison, in 16th and 17th positions, only 23 seconds behind the lead group of riders. On the first of six larger laps, Gould began passing riders and moved from 16th place into seventh, only nine seconds behind the leader, Bresset.
“At the beginning I was kind of in the back,” Gould said. “It took me a while to get up to the front and I had a really bad start, and then I finally caught up to that lead group. I was lucky that they were playing cat and mouse a little bit because it took me a while to move up.”
Gould continued to pick off riders, overtaking all but the defending gold medalist, Spitz, and Bresset as she clawed into third place at the completion of second large lap. Just before the midpoint of the race, Spitz crashed in a rock garden and Gould was unable to find a safe line to pass the German rider and was forced to stop momentarily. Bresset took the opportunity to attack and ride away with the gold medal.
Spitz and Gould continue to battle for the remaining two podium spots. Soon after Spitz started riding again, Gould attacked and held second place as they completed their third large lap, but the 40-year-old German quickly regained her rhythm and overtook Gould on their fourth lap.
The leaders of the race maintained their pace as the hard-charging field were unable to gain significant ground on the third-place Gould. In the end, Gould was 33 seconds ahead of the fourth-place finisher, Irina Kalentieva (RUS). Gould becomes the first American to earn a medal in mountain bike since Susan DeMattei earned a bronze in the event’s Olympic debut at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
After completing the start loop in 17th place, Davison quickly passed four riders, moving into 13th place. She remained in 13th place for the first three of the larger laps before making a move late in her third circuit. Within five kilometers, Davison passed a pair of riders, climbing into 11th place where she finished the contest.
“I mean obviously it’s the Olympics, and you want to be top three,” Davison said. “But it’s my first Olympics and I think I had a solid performance. I didn’t have the legs today. I know I can be up there. I think it was a solid ride.”
Gould’s bronze medal marks the seventh medal earned by an American cyclist at the 2012 Olympic Games. All seven of America’s cycling medals have been earned by women. On the road, Kristin Armstrong (Boise, Idaho/Exergy TWENTY12) repeated as the gold medalist in the time trial. On the track, the Americans earned five silver medals, including the four women comprising the women’s team pursuit (Dotsie Bausch (Irvine, Calif./OUCH Pro Cycling), Sarah Hammer (Temecula, Calif./OUCH Pro Cycling), Jennie Reed (Seattle, Wash./OUCH Pro Cycling) and Lauren Tamayo (Asheville, N.C./Exergy TWENTY12)) and Hammer’s silver medal in the women’s omnium.
The Olympic Games close Sunday as cycling culminates with the men’s mountain bike cross-country race at Hadleigh Farm at 1:30 p.m. BST. The men’s race is slated to span just over 34 kilometers on the same course used by the women today. The race is slated to be shown live on MSNBC and streamed live on www.nbcolympics.com. For more information on cycling at the Olympic Games, visit www.usacycling.org/olympics.
2012 Olympic Games – Mountain Bike Cross-Country
Aug. 11-12, 2012
1. Julie Bresset (FRA) 1:30:52
2. Sabine Spitz (GER) 1:31:54, +1:02
3. Georgia Gould (Fort Collins, Colo./LUNA Pro Team) 1:32:00, +1:08
11. Lea Davison (Jericho, Vt./Specialized Racing) 1:35:14, +4:22