Here's a report from Jim Morris of The Canadian Press on today's mountain bike events at the Laoshan Cycling Complex in Beijing.:
By Jim Morris, The Canadian Press
BEIJING -- There was frustration and disappointment, mixed with a little pride, as Canada's Catharine Pendrel finished fourth Saturday in the Olympic women's mountain bike race after medal hopeful Marie-Helene Premont was forced to withdraw due to breathing problems.
Pendrel of Kamloops, B.C., battled Russia's Irina Kalentyeva for the bronze medal throughout the race, but a mistake at the end cost her a spot on the podium by nine seconds.
"It was an awesome race,' said Pendrel, 27, who received congratulations from her husband and family in the finish area.
"I had a bit of trouble shifting on the last climb and Irina was right on my wheel. I had to put a foot down. She got by me and that was bronze.
"But coming to your first Olympics, getting fourth, that was awesome."
The race was held in searing heat on a course full of bone-rattling rocks, knee-burning climbs and white-knuckle downhills.
Premont, 30, of Chateau-Richer, Que., was considered a serious gold-medal contender but completed only one of the race's six laps.
"It's the worst thing that could happen, having to stop at the Olympics," she said. "I've never stopped any race since I began. Even when I fell or broke something I always finish.
"Here it was a physical problem. I couldn't do anything else."
Premont, who won the silver medal at the Athens Olympics, grabbed an early lead among the field of 30 riders. But on the second lap television showed her stopped on the course, having an animated discussion with her coach. A few minutes later she was out of the competition.
Premont said she felt good early but then had to come to a grinding halt after Spain's Margarita Fullana stopped in front of her at the top of a downhill. That forced Premont to walk her bike down the hill.
"When I got back on my bike my pulse and my breathing just went very high," she said. "I couldn't keep it down.
"Even if I slowed down I was unable to feel better. I stopped one time completely but it didn't work. I stopped again and then I had to stop."
Germany's Sabine Spitz won the race, which was six laps around a 4.5-kilometre course, in one hour 45 minutes 11 seconds. Spitz celebrated by jumping off her bike after crossing the finish line and lifting it over her head. Poland's Maja Wloszczowski was second in 1:45:52 while Kalentyeva beat Pendrel for the bronze in 1:46:28.
Things also didn't go well for the Canadians in the men's race.
Geoff Kabush and Seamus McGrath, both of Victoria, each battled flat tires. McGrath also tore his front tire off its rim going over a jump.
France finished one-two in the race with Julien Absalon taking the gold in 1:55:59 and Jean-Christophe Peraud second in 1:57:06. Nino Schurter of Switzerland was third in 1:57:52.
Despite his problems Kabush finished in 20th place and the top North American in 2:03:55. McGrath was 44th but was not given a time because he was lapped on the course.
"I needed a perfect race and it didn't happen," said Kabush. "I had a few mechanical problems early on. I just kept fighting.
"Mountain biking is a difficult sport. A lot of things can happen. It happened to me today."
Pendrel was disappointed about missing out on the podium but still happy with her finish.
"It was awesome just being at the Olympics," Pendrel said. "It gives me confidence. I can be top-three in the world. To come in and do it at the Olympics, when everyone else is trying to be top three, is pretty spectacular.
"I made the decision that whatever happened I wasn't going to feel like I lost third, I won fourth. It's an awesome result."