Swiss mountain bikers swept the Olympic women’s mountain bike race, with Jolanda Neff taking gold, Sina Frei silver, and Linda Indergand bronze. This is the first gold medal for the Swiss women in the Olympics.
Neff led the race from the beginning and kept her lead through all five laps. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot was on Neff’s wheel early in the first lap, but slipped heading into an uphill rock garden when she lost traction. Rain overnight left the course greasy in spots, making many of the climbs tricky, especially in the forest where riders struggled with tight switchbacks and off-camber roots. Course workers added gravel to some of the particularly wet sections, but the wet course conditions played in Neff’s favor as she’s an excellent bike handler.
After the first lap, Neff led Evie Richards by just 0:23, followed by Loana Lecompte, Frei, Indergand, and Ferrand-Prevot 0:31 back. By the second lap riders were clearing the wooden ramp at the “Sakura Drop” that returned to the course following Van der Poel’s crash in the men’s race the day before. Lecompte appeared to drop her chain on the second lap, costing her time.
By the end of the second lap, Ferrand-Prevot moved into second place, followed by Frei, Indergand, and Richards. Despite overcast skies, the riders appeared hot and sweaty, many including Neff dousing themselves with water bottles through the support zone.
Frei slid into second place at the end of the third lap 1:09 behind Neff, riding nearly neck and neck with Indergand. The three Swiss mountain bikers would finish the race in the same positions after just two more laps.
Ferrand-Prevot slid on course again during the fourth lap, losing grip on a set of greasy, off-camber roots. However, the moderately technical course didn’t seem to give the riders too much trouble aside from the slick conditions. Most competitors chose to run full suspension bikes with dropper posts to deal with the steep climbs and descents, and to help with the boulder sections and a creatively designed pair of logs, stripped of bark, known as the chopsticks.
Heading into the bell lap, Neff had a massive, nearly minute and a half lead, with Indergand momentarily riding ahead of Frei. Lecompte, Anne Terpstra, and Kata Blanca Vas of Hungary were part of a second chase group 2:15 back.
Neff crossed the finish line in 1:15:46. She took gold after placing sixth in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
American rider Haley Batten finished ninth and Kate Courtney placed 15th. Defending Olympic gold medalist Jenny Rissveds suffered a rear flat tire during the race and finished in 14th place overall.
- Jolanda Neff (Switzerland)
- Sina Frei (Switzerland)
- Linda Indergand (Switzerland)
- Kata Blanca Vas (Hungary)
- Anne Terpstra (Netherlands)
- Loana Lecompte (France)
- Evie Richards (Great Britain)
- Yana Belomoina (Ukraine)
- Haley Batten (USA)
- Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (France)
- Anne Tauber (Netherlands)
- Caroline Bohe (Denmark)
- Jenny Rissveds (Sweden)
- Kate Courtney (USA)