By Karen Price | Sept. 08, 2019, 4:35 p.m. (ET)
Kate Courtney celebrates at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup on Sept. 8, 2019 in Snowshoe, W. Va.

 

The number 17 is beginning to take on more and more meaning for Kate Courtney – and so is the date Sept. 8.

On Sept. 8, 2018, the mountain biker became the first American in 17 years to win a cross-country world title since Alison Dunlap had done so in 2001.

One year to the day later the 23-year-old from Kentfield, California, ended another 17-year drought by becoming the first U.S. rider to take the overall cross-country world cup season title since Dunlap did it in 2002.

Cross-country is the sole mountain bike Olympic event contested at the Olympic Games.

Closing her second season as an elite rider, Courtney finished fifth in the season-ending world cup race in Snowshoe, West Virginia, but that was enough to secure the title on home soil in front of a crowd that cheered her the whole way.

“I think it’ll sink in over time,” she said in a post-race interview on redbull.tv. “It’s a battle for this. Every race you can’t make a big mistake. You have to fight every stop, every race, because it’s not over till it’s over. (Sunday) was about going out as hard as I could and holding it together and hoping it would be enough. I’m so, so proud. This win means a lot to me.”

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Courtney started the season with a win in short track and then went on to become the first American to win an elite UCI cross-country world cup race since Dunlap in 2001 in Albstadt, Germany. She followed that up with another cross-country win in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, and would go on to have another perfect weekend, winning both the short track and cross-country races, in Les Gets, France.

She entered Sunday’s final race, though, trailing Switzerland’s Jolanda Neff – a three-time overall world cup champion – for the overall title by 73 points. Neff dropped off early in Snowshoe and finished in 11th place. Courtney finished with 1,772 points for the season and Neff was 30 back with 1,742.

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.