This past weekend, American mountain biker Heather Irmiger (Boulder, Colo.) won the first gold medal of the 2011 Pan American Games. Irmiger finished the 24.8 km cross-country mountain bike course with a time of 1:34:09.
“The people and town of Tapalpa were incredible hosts for our event and the course was perfect for me. I enjoyed the technical sustained climb and navigating my way through the cobbled streets lined with yelling fans. I found out after the race that my win was the first medal for the games – what an exciting victory!” said Irmiger.
The race, held in the sub-site of Tapalpa, Jalisco, saw Irmiger in the lead from the first lap. Taking silver was Lorenza Morfin (Mexico) and Amanda Mae-Ling Sin (Canada) won bronze.
“I am so honored to have been given the opportunity to ride for Team USA at the Pan American Games – it’s an event that I have always wanted to be a part of,” Irmiger said. “Thanks to everyone with Team USA who helped make this possible!”
Amanda Sin (Canada) grabbed the first medal for her country winning bronze.
“I feel very excited to win a medal here at the Pan-American games. It’s really exciting to win the first medal at these Games, so I am happy to do that for Canada,” said Sin after the race.
On the men’s side, the United States also claimed a medla in the men’s cross country mountain bike race when Jeremiah Bishop (Harrisonburg, Va.) crossed the line third, behind 2008 Olympian Hector Paez Leon (Colombia) and Max Plaxton (Canada) in 1:32:41. The men’s course was 31.5 km.
“It was an aggressive race,” said Bishop. “I went full gas right from the start to put pressure on the others. Team USA and Cannondale Factory Racing support was excellent and allowed me to put together a hard fought bronze medal ride at the Pan American Games.”
Bishop placed fourth in London’s Olympic Mountain Bike test event earlier this summer and won gold at the Pan American Games in 2003.
“Since my gold medal ride in 2003, I have a new found respect for the magic of Juegos Pan Americanos, it was an awesome feeling to be back on the podium!” Bishop said.
Max Plaxton stayed amongst the leaders for the entire race, and managed to gain spots lap after lap, even leading in the last lap at one point, to eventually finish in second place and grab the silver medal for Canada.
“It was a great experience, my first major Games. I think I can take a lot from this event and hopefully help me in the future, whether it’s another Pan-American games, World Championships or even the Olympic Games,” said Plaxton, the 2011 Canadian Champion and the 2011 USA ProXCT Champion.
Thousands of local residents gathered all along the course to cheer on the riders. The downtown core was buzzing with musical groups in true Mexican style. Clowns were everywhere, accompanied by manufacturers displaying their products and local arts shops showcasing Mexican culture.
There were a total of 16 cyclists from the United States competing in this years’ Pan American Games.
October 17th – 20th will see seven American athletes racing the track events at the Pan American Velodrome. Cari Higgins (Boulder, Colo.) is the only endurance rider from the United States, and she’ll compete in the women’s omnium. Dean Tracy (Portland, Ore.), Michael Blatchford (Cypress, Calif.), and Jimmy Watkins (Bakersfield, Calif.) who took silver at the continental championships last spring in Bogota, will again team up for the team sprint. Elizabeth Carlson (Jim Thorpe, Pa.) and Madalyn Godby (Louisville, Colo.) will race the team sprint on the women’s side and Dana Feiss (Telford, Pa.) is set to compete in both the women’s sprint and keirin.
October 21st, at the CODE San Nicolas, BMX, the penultimate cycling event for the United States, will take center stage as the top-ranked woman in USA Cycling’s BMX Power Rankings, Arielle Martin (Spanaway, Wash.) will lead a foursome that also includes Amanda Carr (Punta Gorda, Fla.), Connor Fields (Henderson, Nev.), and Nic Long (Lakeside, Calif.)
Competition will wrap up for American cyclists on Saturday, October 22nd, with the women’s road race. The United States will not be entering riders in the men’s road race or time trial.
The Pan American Games are second only to the Olympics in magnitude, number of participants and number of sporting events.
For more information on the Pan American Games, including complete competition schedules, please visit www.guadalajara2011.org.
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