Olympic hopefuls Rosara Joseph and Karen Hanlen were out of the major contenders in the third round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in the Czech Republic.
Joseph, the Rabobank Biant Team professional, finished 22nd and Hanlen 26th in the womens crosscountry race on a testing and technical course through the forests at Nove Mesto na Morave, the Czech nordic and biathlon centre.
Brilliant 22 year old Julie Bresset (FRA), last years under-23 world champion, moved to the top of the world cup rankings with a superb victory. Local hope Katerina Nash made the early running before she was caught by a group of five riders. They remained together until the final lap when Bresset attacked on the long climb to win for the first time this year. Russian Irena Kalentieva, the two-time world champion, finished runner up while Nash broke out of the chasing group to grab a well-earned third place.
Joseph (Wellington) made a strong start from 24th, moving up four places in the starting loop and was 17th after lap one. She edged back to 22nd on lap two and held that spot for the remainder of the race, finishing 5min 26sec down on the winner.
I'm feeling disappointed with my race, said Joseph. I really liked the track, and I think it suited me well with the steep climbs and technical descents.
I had a pretty good start and was in decent position but just didn't have the spark needed to have a great race. A slow leak in my front tyre slowed me down for a bit too.
But I tried hard and am feeling spent now, so I guess I couldn't have done much more.
It was the first time Joseph has bettered Hanlen this year as they battle for Olympic
selection. The Whakatane rider won the domestic national series and also finished ahead in the opening two rounds of the world cup, with an eighth placing in South Africa and 18th in Belgium.
Hanlen had her problems on the starting loop, despite her front draw, after being held up with a crash on the first lap and then with mechanical issues.
She fell back to 22nd place on the start loop and dropped back to 44th at the end of the first lap. The 32 year old, who rode splendidly for runner-up in the BMC Swiss Cup last week to finish ahead of the likes of Bresset and Kalentieva, gradually worked her way through the field to finish 26th, more than a minute behind Joseph.
Unfortunately I got caught up in a crash on my first lap and had problems with my chain, which lost me a lot of time, Hanlen said.
I tried to get back in the race but kept getting stuck behind slower riders on the single track to allow any real gains. I also dropped my chain again on the last lap, but I guess that's mountain bike racing. So its not a great result today.
The battle moves to the fourth round of the World Cup moves to France this weekend which is the final round for Olympic qualification. New Zealand presently has just one spot available for women for London.
Results: Rocky Roads Mountain Bike World cup, round 3, Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic:
Elite women: Julie Bresset (FRA) 1:29.17, 1; Ireni Kalentieva (RUS) at 29 secs, 2; Katerina Nash (CZE) at 48s, 3; Georgia Could (USA) at 59s, 4; Blaza Klemencic (SLO) at 59s, 5.
Also: Rosara Joseph (NZL) at 5:26, 22; Karen Hanlen (NZL0 at 6:44, 26.
Full results: www.uci.ch