Italy won the first gold medal at the 2009 mountain bike World Championships in Canberra, Australia during the cross-country team relay.
In the team relay 19 nations each entered four riders – one elite man, one Under-23 man, one junior man and an elite woman. Each rider contested one lap of the 6.47km course in the order determined by their coach and at the end of the lap tagged the next rider on their team.
The Italian team of Marco Fontana (elite), Gerhard Kerschbaumer (junior), Eva Lechner (elite) and Cristian Cominelli (U23) won the team relay in a time of 1hr14min02sec, narrowly beating Canadians Raphael Gagne (U23), Geoff Kabush (elite), Evan Guthrie (junior) and Catharine Pendrel (elite), who finished six seconds behind in second place. Defending World Champions France were represented by Alexis Vuillermoz (U23), Cedric Ravanel (elite), Hugo Drechou (junior) and Cecile Rode Ravanel (elite) and finished two seconds further back in third place.
Finishing 12th at 3:52 back were Americans Heather Irmiger (elite), Russel Finsterwald (junior), Colin Cares (U23) and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (elite).
The Italians went into the final lap in third place, trailing France by 1min28sec and Canada by 1min21sec. But U23 rider Cominelli performed well to reel in and overtake both teams who had opted for their female riders to contest the last lap.
“It was a really exciting last lap for all of us between Italy, France and Canada,” said Canadian Pendrel, who outsprinted France in the final meters to clinch the silver for her team. “I had a good position going into the final stretch so I was hoping I could hold onto that.”
Next up in Canberra are the Junior Women’s and U23 Women’s cross country events. Jill Behlen and Essence Barton will toe the line for the junior women’s event Wednesday morning while Amy Dombrowski and Chloe Forsman will represent the U.S. in the U23 women’s contest in the afternoon.