France’s Julie Bresset capped an extraordinary year by storming to victory in the women’s mountain bike cross country to claim her maiden Olympic title on Saturday.
Germany veteran Sabine Spitz claimed the silver to complete her Olympic collection with Georgia Gould of the US winning the bronze as British gold contender Annie Last finished in eighth.
Bresset was among an early group of fast pace-setters on the Hadleigh Farm course and their punishing rhythm thinned out the field over the first two of the race’s six laps.
By the end of the third lap, the 23-year-old Frenchwoman had opened up a slight lead on Spitz and the rest.
A lap further on, she increased her advantage to 33 seconds after Spitz and Gould were momentarily held up when the German came off her bike on a rocky downhill section.
“I wanted to be at the front, to be in control of things in the technical parts so as not to lose any precious time,” Bresset said. “I was really concentrated from start to finish. I knew when I had to drink and to eat, I wanted to have every angle covered.”
It was only last year Bresset won the under-23 world title, but since then she has claimed victory in this year’s World Cup series.
However, she said beating a strong field was the last thing on her mind.
“To be quite honest, I never thought I’d be capable of achieving what I’ve achieved today,” she said.
Only a mishap on one of the several technical sections on the course looked likely to threaten Bresset’s charge toward the gold medal.
Bresset went on to finish the race in 1 hour, 30 minutes, 52 seconds, with defending champion Spitz coming over the finish line at 1:02 and Gould crossing at 1:08.