Salem Radio Network News Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Sports

Olympics-Cycling-Neff leads Swiss sweep in women’s mountain bike

By Martyn Herman

IZU, Japan (Reuters) – Jolanda Neff led a Swiss clean sweep of medals in the Olympic women’s mountain bike event with a masterful solo ride to gold on a slippery Izu circuit on Tuesday.

Former world champion Neff got ahead early as several favourites made mistakes in a chaotic start and barely put a wheel out of place to win by one minute 10 seconds.

She grabbed a Swiss flag as she crossed the line to land her country its first gold medal of the Games.

Sina Frei crossed in second place and Linda Indergand completed the Swiss dominance as she took the bronze medal.

It was the first time Swiss athletes had filled a podium at the Olympics since their artistic gymnasts did so in 1936.

Nineteen-year-old Kata Blanka from Hungary, the youngest rider in the race, beat some of the world’s top mountain bikers to claim fourth place after a storming finish.

There was disappointment though for world champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot, who lost time early on after falling off and despite battling back she ended up in 10th spot.

Torrential morning rain had drenched the hilly 3.8km circuit in the Izu cycling centre in the lush hills close to Mount Fuji.

And it caused mayhem in the first lap as some of the steep section became impossible to pedal up — riders becoming log-jammed as they resorted to pushing their bikes up the slopes.

Things did settle down, however, with gravel being added to some sections for the subsequent laps, allowing more traction.

Ferrand Prevot led early on lap one but after she slithered off her bike and then watched it slide back down a mound, Neff took charge and built a 19-second lead after one lap.

By the end of the second lap that advantage was 45 seconds and from the on it was just a matter of avoiding risks and praying to avoid a puncture or mechanical.

Neff had won the test event on the course in 2019 and it showed as she made it look like a ride in the park.

The battle behind her was intense with France’s pre-race favourite Loana Lecomte, winner of all four World Cup events before the Olympics, looking well-placed to perhaps launch a pursuit of Neff before she dropped a chain and slipped back.

Frei and Indergand then stretched clear of the pack to battle it out for silver.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond and Pritha Sarkar)

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