Heather Irmiger won the first gold medal of the 2011 Pan American Games, finishing the 24.8 km cross country mountain bike course today with a time of 1:34:09.
"The people and town of Tapalpa were incredible hosts for our event and the course was perfect for me," said Irmiger who also participated in the 2003 Pan American Games and is fluent in Spanish. "I enjoyed the technical sustained climb and navigating my way through the cobbled streets lined with yelling fans. I found out after the race that my win was the first medal for the games – what an exciting victory! “
The race, held in the sub-site of Tapalpa, Jalisco, saw Irmiger in the lead from the first lap. Taking silver was Lorenza Morfin (Mexico) and Amanda Mae-Ling Sin (Canada) won bronze.
“I am so honored to have been given the opportunity to ride for Team USA at the Pan American Games – it’s an event that I have always wanted to be a part of,” Irmiger said. “Thanks to everyone with Team USA who helped make this possible!”
The U.S. also claimed bronze in men’s cross country mountain bike when Jeremiah Bishop crossed the line behind 2008 Olympian Hector Paez Leon (Columbia) and Max Plaxton (Canada) in 1:32:41. The men’s course was 31.5 km.
“It was an aggressive race,” said Bishop. “I went full gas right from the start to put pressure on the others. Team USA and Cannondale Factory Racing support was excellent and allowed me to put together a hard fought bronze medal ride at the Pan American Games.”
Bishop placed fourth in London’s Olympic Mountain Bike test event earlier this summer and won gold at the Pan American Games in 2003.
“Since my gold medal ride in 2003, I have a new found respect for the magic of Juegos Pan Americanos, it was an awesome feeling to be back on the podium!” Bishop said.
Rounding out the U.S. cyclists in the mountain bike competition was Stephen Ettinger (Cashmere, Wash.) who finished 13th in 1:44:55. Earlier this year, Ettinger placed sixth at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Offenburg, Germany.