FRANCE'S Julie Bresset capped an extraordinary year by storming to victory in the women's mountain bike cross country to claim her maiden Olympic title yesterday.
Germany veteran Sabine Spitz claimed the silver to complete her Olympic collection with Georgia Gould of the United States winning the bronze as British gold contender Annie Last finished in eighth.
Julie was among an early group of fast pace-setters on the Hadleigh Farm course and their punishing rhythm thinned out the field over the first two of the race's six laps.
By the end of the third lap the 23-year-old Frenchwoman had opened up a slight lead on Sabine and the rest.
A lap further on, she increased her advantage to 33secs after Sabine and Georgia were momentarily held up when the German came off her bike on a rocky downhill section.
"I wanted to be at the front, to be in control of things in the technical parts so as not to lose any precious time," said Julie.
"I was really concentrated from start to finish. I knew when I had to drink and to eat, I wanted to have every angle covered." It was only last year Julie won the under-23 world title but since then she has claimed victory in the 2012 World Cup series.
Yet she admitted beating a strong field which contained Canada's world champion Catharine Pendrel and Last to the Olympic title was the last thing on her mind.
"To be quite honest, I never thought I'd be capable of achieving what I've achieved today," she said.
Only a mishap on one of the several technical sections on the course looked likely to threaten Julie's charge towards the gold medal.
But she avoided the potential dangers in the 'Rock Garden', 'Dean's Drop', 'Snake Hill' and the 'Rabbit Hole' to leave her rivals playing a desperate game of catch-up.
Julie went on to finish the race in 1hr 30min 52sec, with defending champion Sabine coming over the finish line at 1min 02sec and Georgia crossing at 1:08.
At 40 years and 228 days old, Sabine became the oldest medal winner in an individual cycling event since Jeannie Longo won time trial bronze in Sydney 2000 at the age of 41. AFP