A brief look at the three biggest contenders for the Women race. I will also save some words for the host nation - Team GB. Here we go:
Catherine Prendel (Canada, 31 years old)
She was raised on a horse farm in News Brunswick and her first sport was actually dressage! Her brother,a professional downhiller, introduced her to MTB and how we thank him for that. At 31 years old, the current Elite Women World Champion and winner of the Olympic Test event is one of the favourites to take gold at London. Climbing and technical ability are her biggest assets. It's not the best of the courses to show that. But her quality is such that she can win anywhere really. She comes to the race with 3 World Cup wins and as as Overall World cup leader.
Olympic Results: 4th at 2008 Beijing
Gunn Rita Dahle (Norway, 39 years).
This is one of my top riders. Ever. In any discipline. She has been racing at the World Cup since 1995 and has gathered along the way a multitude of World and European titles at XCO and Marathon. My favourite story about her was how she won the 2009 Marathon European Championship...just six months after being mother of Bjornar! Even though she he's not as dominant as before, two world cup wins in 2012 show she still has what it takes to compete at this level and take the gold. The less technical course is a plus. It allows her to reduce the gap for other contenders in the figth for the medals.
Olympic Results: 4th at 1996 Atlanta 1st in Athens 2004, DNF at 2008 Beijing.
Julie Bresset (France, 23 years)
Even though she is young, Bresset has a plamares that many MTB'ers would kill for. She was THE rider of 2011. Consistency was key to get the Overall World Cup win, among the Elite. A performance she concluded at the end of the season when she got the World Championship title in Women U23. Since then, Prendel, Dahle and the polish Wloszacska upped their game and brought a bit of balance to the competition, so she comes to the Olympics with "only" one World Cup win, at Nove Mesto. Another rider that would like the course to be a bit more technical.
Olympic results: none.
The Weight of a Nation
Being one of the top U23 riders in the circuit, Team GB Hopes lies with the lady in the picture. At 21 years old, one thing we know about Annie Last is that her determination is as big as her skills when it comes to XCO. She decided to put a hold at Med School to tackle the goal of being the first GB Women in the XCO Olympics since Sydney 2000.
Alone in the fight for a place at the Olympics , she had to race hard in order to get those coveted points. This means she hadn't much freedom to prepare the Olympics as a sole objective of the season. Theories one would say. Last July, at the last event of the World Cup, she had her best result yet, getting on third place in the difficult track of Val d'Isère. So keep an eye on her.
In addition to the mentioned riders. Make sure you keep an eye on Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (France) , Emily Batty (Canada), Irina Kalentieva (Russia) and Sabine Spitz (the current Olympic Champion). Unfortunately time is running out to talk about all of those. But I believe they can also step up and play their cards in a good day.
Sorry for the delay. Enjoy