Despite a stomach upset in the leadup and her first puncture at a major event, New Zealand's Karen Hanlen still managed a big smile and a wave as she crossed the line 18th in the Olympic women's mountainbike cross-country today.
Hanlen, the Whakatane physiotherapist and mother-of-two, was 18th of 28 finishers at the lightning fast course at Hadleigh Farm in Essex, 7min 2sec behind the winner, Julie Bresset of France. Bresset won in a time of 1hr 30min 52sec for the six-lap course.
Cheered on by her parents, workmates, her husband Mark and children Caleb, five, and Aramia, three, Hanlen loved the experience but was rueing some hiccups along the way.
Hanlen was unwell during the week which hampered her buildup but said she woke up fit and healthy on another warm London day. From the third row of the start line in the 30-woman field, the world No 21 started well and was in 14th spot for the first lap.
But she crashed on one of the tricky downhill sections, costing her one or two places, before she felt her back tyre flatten on lap five.
"Luckily I had the mechanic there who put my other wheel on for me. I dropped about a minute and six places. I felt it [puncture] and I thought 'oh no'. It's my first puncture in a big event so it had to be on this one. But that's part of it."
Hanlen, who only purchased her first bike on two years ago on TradeMe, felt confident on race morning and a strong start raised her hopes.
"I wanted a good race and I did get a good start which was what I was after. Just the rest of the race didn't go quite as planned.
"The New Zealand support was brilliant all the way around, and a lot of the British were cheering me on. You could hear them and it was so nice, the atmosphere was awesome. It was a better experience than I expected, just the placing wasn't what I wanted."
Germany's Beijing Olympics gold medallist Sabine Spitz claimed silver and the United States' Georgia Gould won bronze.
- © Fairfax NZ News