LONDON (VN) — It wasn’t the major international win she’s been so frustratingly close to taking, but American Georgia Gould will leave London pleased with an Olympic medal.
“I can’t even describe it,” Gould said. “I’m still a little bit in shock.”
On June 30, Gould was seen crossing the finish line at the Windham in tears after a flat tire cost her an what would have been her first World Cup win. That incident came one week after she’d lost a chance at a World Cup win in Mont-Ste-Anne, after devastating cramps took her from the lead in the final half lap.
Fast forward six weeks and Gould was again in tears at a finish line, this time as an Olympic medalist.
“It’s hugely emotional,” she said. “You put so much work into it. It is just another race, but at the same time, it’s not another race. It’s a race everyone is shooting for and everyone is peaking for. You just hope that the preparation that you’ve done is enough to give you what it takes on the day. I’m just glad I could not just have the opportunity to represent my country, but to bring home a medal, too.”
It was a hard-earned medal for the 32-year-old Baltimore native, who started poorly on the Hadleigh Farm course and had to fight her way from mid-pack on the first lap to make the select front group, which contained eventual winner Julie Bresset of France as well as Sabine Spitz (Germany), Irina Kalentieva (Russia) and Annie Last (Great Britain).
“I picked the wrong side to line up on and I just sort of went backwards at the start,” Gould said. “Through the first rock sections it was stringing out, so I lost a lot of time in the beginning. I tried to be patient and move up where I could.
“I could see up ahead that there was some cat-and-mouse going on, they weren’t just drilling it, and thought maybe I had chance to make it up to the front group. Once I made it up there, I was actually feeling pretty comfortable.”
The crucial moment of the race came on the fourth of six laps. Bresset had opened a slight gap on Spitz and Gould, with Kalentieva and Last chasing. Spitz bobbled on the rocky Deane’s Drop descent, forcing Gould to stop and dismount in order to get through. Instead of the chasers closing in on the lone leader, the gap went the other direction; they wouldn’t see the French rider again.
When Spitz crashed, Gould said, “I kind of hesitated. I didn’t want to have to jump off and run down it, but there wasn’t enough room to ride around her, and that was that little bit Julie needed to just punch it. That’s where she got the gap. I went back and forth a few times with Sabine, but in the end she got better of me.”
And while Gould was trying her hardest to come to terms with Spitz up ahead, she was also cognizant that Kalentieva was only 20 seconds behind her — in an instant she could find herself fighting to defend bronze instead of striving to win silver.
“Irina is a savvy racer and a strong rider. I never count anybody out of any race. I’m always conscious of that stuff,” Gould said. “I have had some races recently where I was having a good race and on the last lap ended up not winning. I had that in my mind a little bit. I didn’t want to take any risks on the last lap. I still can’t believe nothing (bad) happened to me on the last lap.”
After the emotions of what she’d accomplished had passed, Gould was all laughs while speaking with the press, discussing the entourage of family and friends who had come to London — including a grandmother, who was celebrating an 80th birthday — as well as those who woke up before sunrise to watch the race online in the U.S.
“I’m glad I didn’t let them all down. Or maybe I did. Maybe they were hoping for gold,” she joked. “If so, sorry guys.”
Gould will now reset her focus onto the world championships next month, where she will hope to end her drought of international victories with a rainbow jersey. But first, she’ll be back at Hadleigh Farm on Sunday, to cheer for her USA teammates Sam Schulz and Todd Wells.
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