RIO DE JANEIRO – Lea Davison (Jericho, Vt.) fought her way to seventh place in the Olympic mountain bike race on Saturday while Chloe Woodruff (Prescott, Ariz.) crossed the finish line in 14th.
“This course is really, really challenging,” Davison said. “It’s very technical. It’s really bumpy. You literally have to hold on in those rock gardens or else your hands will get blown off the handlebars. And there is literally only one place for recovery so it’s relentless.”
Jenny Rissveds (SWE), 22, rode off with the gold medal after being a powerful force for all six laps of the challenging course. She formed an early lead with Maja Wloszczowska (POL) and Jolanda Neff (SUI). Neff was eventually dropped and passed by a chase group as it became a two-woman battle for gold, but Rissveds picked up the pace in the final lap and soloed over the line for victory. Wloszczowska was second and Catharine Pendrel (CAN) held off teammate Emily Batty (CAN) for the bronze.
Picking off riders
After the start, Davison got held up a little on some of the descents but fought the entire way, picking off riders one by one. At the midpoint, she was in 10th, about a minute and 15 seconds back from the lead trio. With one lap to go, she had moved up into ninth and then managed to pick off a few more places during the final lap to finish seventh.
“It came down to the last kilometer; there were crashes,” Davison said. “I passed one girl, and then she passed me. Literally from the last feed zone, I took the lead and didn’t look back so I was able to get a little bit of space on the group I was riding with. It was a great experience. It’s the Olympics. All you can ask for is to do the best you can and put forth your best effort on the day, which I did. I fought the entire time so I have to be happy.”
For Woodruff, a mechanical in the first lap put her in a difficult position from the get-go. After losing a couple of minutes in the tech zone, she chased back from last place and still managed to finish in the top half of the field.
“That’s the way things go sometimes,” Woodruff said. “There are some things that are out of your control and you just have to race hard, but what an experience to be out here today. I was just trying to be in the present. When you’re in that kind of position, you’re just focusing on the ride in front of you. There are a lot of carrots out there and you kind of work on picking them off and staying smooth.”
Woodruff said she planned on riding a hard tail, but after the first day of training, she switched to full suspension.
“It’s such a tricky course out there, and I realized it’s tough to ride everything perfect,” Woodruff said. “You have a little more room to take different lines and be more creative when you’re on a full suspension bike. That was a great choice. It played to my favor today. Honestly, I had fun. It wasn’t the way I expected my race to play out but I did have a great day.”
Cycling competition will conclude at the Rio Olympics on Sunday with Howard Grotts (Durango, Colo.) racing for the USA in the men’s cross-country mountain bike race which begins at 11:30 ET.