Kate Courtney, the youngest mountain biker in the 67-rider cross-country field at the world championships, became the first American to win a world title since Alison Dunlop in 1991.
“Kate has arrived and represents a new generation of American mountain bikers,” Scott Schnitzspahn, USA Cycling Vice President of Elite Athletics, said in a press release.
Courtney, 22 and in her senior worlds debut, passed 2016 World champion Annika Langvad of Denmark on the seventh and final lap in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, and won by 47 seconds in 1:34:55.
In March, Courtney and Langvad teamed to win the Absa Cape Epic in South Africa, a brutal eight-day, 400-mile stage race with more than eight miles of climbing.
“Racing in the national team kit in front of a spectacular Swiss crowd and, most importantly, in front of my friends and family, made this moment really magical,” Courtney said, according to USA Cycling. “To come away with a gold medal and the rainbow stripes for Team USA and Specialized [her bike sponsor] was beyond my wildest dreams.”
The U.S. used to dominate mountain biking, sweeping the men’s and women’s golds at the first two UCI-sanctioned world championships in 1990 and 1991, but has not fared as well since it joined the Olympic program in 1996.
Its best finishes were bronze medals for Susan DeMattei in 1996 and Georgia Gould in 2012.
Courtney has been mountain biking since age 6, sharing the back of a tandem bike with her dad to get pancakes on Sunday mornings.
She competed for the U.S. national team while in high school in California and turned professional, signing with Specialized, after two years at Stanford. She graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in human biology.
Courtney earned the 2017 World U23 silver medal and has also picked up 122,000 Instagram followers.
Swiss Nino Schurter won the men’s race Saturday for his seventh world title and fourth in a row, adding to his Rio Olympic gold.
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