The 27-year-old was seeded 45th out of a field of 77 and had to push hard initially to close the gap between her and the leaders.
She also had to contend with a few other factors that worked against her.
“Firstly, the course didn’t suit me at all as it was essentially a road race with loads of tar, district roads and grass with about 2km of single-track.
“Secondly, I was riding a heavier dual-suspension bike because that’s the only one I have.
“All the girls ahead of me were on hardtails, which were perfect for that course,” said McDougall, who added that her form and mental attitude were in her favour.
“I knew that no matter what, I’d be able to turn myself inside out mentally and physically.
“I told myself that if all else failed, it would be a great learning experience. I was pretty chilled going in; I knew that all I could do was my best.”
With no neutral zone, the pace was hard from the start as riders raced through the streets of Singen.
A climb shortly after the start dispersed the group, something McDougall was glad about.
“I made my way up the field and stayed with the leading bunch for about 6km, but my legs were killing me and I lost touch with them. Nevertheless, I chased as hard as I could.”
The Johannesburg local encountered a slight hiccup when she missed her chance at the first feed zone, 11km in. Equipped with only a small pre-race bottle, McDougall pressed on and caught the lead group shortly afterwards.
The attacks came hard and fast on the climbs before easing up on the flat sections but McDougall sat at the rear of the group “hanging on for dear life”.
“I got dropped a few times but managed to fight back. Then, at about 55km in, I got dropped for good and just time-trialled to the end.”
Knowing she had achieved her goal, McDougall said she could barely talk and felt faint from her efforts.
“I obviously know there is a lot of room for improvement and I want to do better in the future. I will have bigger goals, but I am chuffed for now.”
McDougall will remain in Europe for the next two UCI MTB World Cup cross country events, which take place in Andorra (July 1 to 2) and Switzerland (July 8 to 9).
“For those two particular events I’d say my goal is to make up as many positions as possible and once again to put it all out there and give it 110 per cent.
“In the future I think I can start looking at position results like maybe a top 20 or 30 and work my way up from there, maybe even making it to a top five, but that may take a while.”