Three times the cross country mountain bike event has been in the Commonwealth Games (introduced in 2002, it didn’t feature on the programme in Dehli four years ago) and three times Canada have topped the womens’ podium.
This time it was the turn of Catharine Pendrel, who took control of the race midway round the first of five laps and wasn’t challenged again, soloing to a 70 second win over her teammate Emily Batty, with Australian rider Rebecca Henderson third a further 12 seconds back, after a race-long battle with Batty.
“That wasn’t really the game plan”, said Pendrel afterwards. “I didn’t expect to find myself alone at the front so early, but when you get some space at the front you just have to go for it.”
The race began in the warm sunshine Glasgow has enjoyed pretty much since the Games began, with the usual gridded and seeded start allowing the riders with a good sprint to get off the line quickly, the initial once-only 800m loop providing a chance for the riders to sort themselves out before hitting the narrower trails and the five longer laps around the Cathkin Braes.
New Zealander Karen Hanlen was the fastest of her mark, but she didn’t pull a gap and just after the technical and fast descent of ‘Double Dare’ Pendrel took control with a surge on an uphill grassy section past the four riders in front of her, building a lead over the field which at one point reached over two minutes, Hanlen falling back through the front group to eventually finish sixth.
Batty and Henderson traded places in second and third, as they fought to stay in touch with Pendrel and to distance the English women Alice Barnes and Annie Last in fourth and fifth spots.
Batty was the stronger of the two on the hills, and on the last lap the second of her powerful digs saw her able to distance the Australian and secure the silver medal.
Last rode a superb last two laps to slot into fourth place, over her compatriot Barnes, with the third English rider Bethany Crumpton starting well and eventually finishing ninth.
Popular Scottish rider Lee Craigie rode well, in the front group for much of the first lap and slotting into a comfortable seventh place, 80 seconds ahead of Kiwi Kate Fluker but only five seconds off catching Hanlen by the finish.
The other Scottish riders Jessie Roberts (11th) and triathlete-turned MTB-er Kerry MacPhee (13th) accounted for themselves well, and as all the riders did, enjoyed racing in an event with such a large and generous crowd.
The three Kenyan riders were somewhat out of their depth, and after the fast start were already out the back, with none of them able to complete the course. Both Joyce Nyaruri and Mary Muchina suffered awkward crashes.
Cross Country Mountain Bike, Elite Women
2 Emily Batty (Canada) 0:01:10
3 Rebecca Henderson (Australia) 0:01:22
4 Annie Last (England) 0:03:05
5 Alice Barnes (England) 0:03:58
6 Karen Hanlen (New Zealand) 0:04:02
7 Lee Craigie (Scotland) 0:04:07
8 Kate Fluker (New Zealand) 0:05:27
9 Bethany Crumpton (England) 0:06:35
10 Mariske Strauss (South Africa) 0:07:48
11 Jessie Roberts (Scotland) 0:08:03
12 Peta Mullens (Australia) 0:09:37
13 Kerry Macphee (Scotland) 0:10:19
14 Tory Thomas (Australia) 0:13:03
15 Claire Oakley (Nir) 0:18:58
16 Vera Adrian (Namibia)
17 Retha Harding (Swaziland)
DNF Aurelie Halbwach (Mauritius)
DNF Joyce Nyaruri (Kenya)
DNF Mary Mburu (Kenya)
DNF Mary Wanjiku Muchina (Kenya)