It was a strong start for the South African women riders at the UCI MTB Masters World Championships on Friday morning as they claimed three of the five World Championship jerseys and eight of the fifteen medals that were on offer in favourable riding conditions at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg.
The women’s 30-34 category was a monumental showdown with South African Nedene Cahill and Hungarian Eszter Erdelyi battling it out for the first two and a half of the three laps. It was a head to head encounter right up until the final half a lap where the South African opened up a significant lead to take the World Championship title.
“I am unbelievably happy with the win,” the Durban resident said. “I knew that Eszter was going to be strong and it was always going to be neck and neck between us but I knew that in the technical sections if I got ahead I would be ok and I had the confidence to get ahead of her. My whole season has been building up to this and in the end I just had to make sure I did my best and I did so thankfully it was enough.
It was then the turn of Pietermaritzburg regular and Coffeeberry/Momsen rider Natalie Bergstrom to claim the second South African win at the Cascades MTB Park when she claimed the 40-44 category two minutes ahead of the second placed Lyn Van Breda from South Africa.
It was a popular victory amongst the local fans with Bergstrom swamped by her supporters after she crossed the finish line with the moment proving too much for her, as she could not contain her happiness.
“I am so happy with the win,” Bergstrom said. “I have worked so hard for this, from Nationals, to KZN Champs to African Champs this was what I was working towards and I was so hungry to win! My mind was in it – I wanted to get in the front and stay in the front and then open as much time on the others as I possibly could.
“I had so much support out there today and my friends have been a huge part in my success along with my husband, Neville, who has been my rock,” Bergstrom said.
The third World Championship winner for South Africa, but also riding under the banner of her adopted Namibia, was Genevieve Weber. It was a strong ride from the 35-39 competitor, who won her category with over a minute to spare over Venezuelan Marcia Carrasquel.
“I knew that when I went into the race I could nail the technical sections and I have been working really hard over the training period, but I wish that I had two or three more days to prepare. It was an absolute honour to race for South Africa and for Namibia and it got pretty emotional for me coming down the last section,” said a teary Weber.
It was Canadian Cathryn Zeglinski who was the first non-South African to scoop one of the World Championship awards following a stellar display in the 45-49 category, two minutes in front of defending champion Argentinian Maria De Bernardi.
“I came here to win, and I did, which is great,” the Whistler local said. “I got a really good fight from the Argentinean girl (De Bernardi) because I was a little stiff on the first lap but once I got into it I felt really confident.”
It was a successful day for defending champion Gjertrud Bø (Norway) in the women’s 50-54 year old category, who produced a dominant ride to win her section by a large seven minutes over South African champion Fran Ferreira.
Bø claimed her seventh world championships title of her career, proving her remarkable international pedigree. “I managed to take the lead at the beginning of the race and just kept up my speed and stayed ahead of the other girls the whole way through. It was difficult to see how well I was going to do but obviously I wanted to win it but it was tough because I had no idea about the other riders.”
Popular Maritzburg cycling character Sharlene McGilvray (Team Jeep) had her hopes of becoming the first South African to claim a world championship title in both BMX and MTB dashed when her efforts to claim victory in the 50-59 category came tumbling down as she crashed out at the bottom of Kim’s Corner and, after limping through to the start/finish line, sadly withdrew from the race after just one lap due to a back injury.
The UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships takes place at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg from 26 August to 1 September 2013, and will be preceded by the UCI MTB Masters World Championships from 21 to 25 August.
More information can be found atwww.mtbworldchamps.co.za
Summary of Results - UCI MTB Masters World Championships
XCO Women - 30-34 (3 laps)
1 Nedene Cahill (RSA) 01:32:02
2 Eszter Erdelyi (HUN) 1:33:35
3 Jeannie Dryer (RSA) 1:35:48
4 Graciela Vargas (ARG) 1:41:04
5 Mariela Scott (CHI) 1:50:19
XCO Women - 35-39 (3 laps)
1 Genevieve Weber (RSA) 1:43:20
2 Marcia Barrios Carrasquel (VEN) 01:44:40
3 Marie Walsh (USA) 1:45:19
4 Fabiola Tucci Ron (VEN) 1:48:24
5 Nicky Booyens (RSA) 1:51:50
XCO Women - 40-44 (3 laps)
1 Natalie Bergstrom (RSA) 1:39:57
2 Lyn van Breda (RSA) 1:41:46
3 Anna Persson (SWE) 1:42:37
4 Andrea von Holdt (RSA) 1:47:14
5 Anne Murray (GBR) 1:50:21
XCO Women - 45-49 (2 laps)
1 Cathryn Zeglinski (CAN) 1:06:53
2 Maria de Bernardi (ARG) 1:08:25
3 Ann Harrison (RSA) 1:11:10
4 Nataschka Mowat (RSA) 1:13:29
5 Monique Beattie (RSA) 1:19:38
XCO Women - 50+ (2 laps)
1 Gjertrud Bø (NOR) 1:10:00
2 Fran Ferreira (RSA) 1:17:40
3 Helen Gibbings (RSA) 1:19:00
4 Sharon Heap (NZL) 1:20:07
5 Pauline Cound (RSA) 1:21:34
Issued on behalf of 2013 UCI MTB World Champs – PMB
Photo: Hugely popular KZN-based 'pocket-rocket' Natalie Bergstrom successfully negotiates her through the rock garden and on to victory in the women's 40-44 cross-country event at the UCI MTB Masters World Championships 2013 at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg © Darren Goddard/Gameplan Media