• The women's podium at the UCI MTB World Championships downhill. (Getty)Source: Getty
Australian riders came close, but there were no world titles for the host country in the Downhill competition on the final day of the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Cairns.
By
Rob Jones

Source:
Cycling Central
11 Sep 2017 - 10:36 AM 

The Cairns-native brother and sister team of Tracey and Mick took bronze and silver respectively, in the elite women's and men's categories. Four titles awarded in the Downhill; two for France and one each for Canada and Great Britain.

The 1.9km run through the rainforest of Smithfield Park was extremely dry and dusty, making crashes and mechanical problems an ongoing issue throughout the races. From the technical top sections with the Rock Garden that caught a number of riders out, to the long straightaway to the finish that required fitness and endurance, the course was a true championship test.

The elite women's field suffered a blow when defending champion Rachel Atherton broke her collarbone in training. However, this left the door open to a new world champion to be crowned, and it was Miranda Miller of Canada, having the ride of her life, who took the rainbow jersey.

Starting eighth from last, Miller had a clean run, and that proved to be the key when the favourites ran into problems. Tahnee Seagrave (Great Britain) had the fastest top split before crashing lower down. Tracey Hannah, the local favourite racing in her home town, crashed off the course but still managed to get back on her bike to take bronze, while World Cup champion Myriam Nicole of France, the final starter, admitted to a mistake at the top of the course, and finished 0.097 seconds behind Miller.

"It's pretty crazy," Miller said. "I don't think it has sunk in yet. I feel like I had some luck on my side, but I'll take it. It's pretty cool. I'm sure in a couple days it will feel a bit different. I thought Tahnee (Seagrave) was going to knock me out. But I had some luck on my side for sure. When Myriam (Nicole) came down I thought 'Oh, this is real'. For Canada, we haven't had a [downhill] medal since Stevie [Smith, 2013] and Claire [Buchar, 2011], so it is cool. We got a medal in the Junior XC as well, so it's great for Canada."

"I thought Tahnee (Seagrave) was going to knock me out. But I had some luck on my side for sure. When Myriam (Nicole) came down I thought 'Oh, this is real'. For Canada, we haven't had a [downhill] medal since Stevie [Smith, 2013] and Claire [Buchar, 2011], so it is cool. We got a medal in the Junior XC as well, so it's great for Canada."

The elite men's race saw five time world champion Sam Hill (two Junior, three Elite) of Australia the first to start, and he showed he is still a force by setting a time that stood up for over half the field before Mick Hannah bumped him down to second - Hill would eventually finish a strong sixth. 

Hannah would remain in the Hot Seat until France's Loic Bruni, the 2015 world champion, bumped him by a third of a second, and Bruni won the second Elite title of his career when none of the remaining riders could come close to his time. World Cup champion Aaron Gwin of the USA was the only one who came close, taking the bronze medal. Australia put three in the top-5 and four in the top-10.

"It's unbelievable," Bruni said. "I worked so hard all year and luck was on my side. Today Miranda did it for the [Specialized] team, she's World Champion and I just followed that path. The run was crazy. It was loose, I made mistakes. I didn't know what to expect. I knew Mick [Hannah] was super fast. When I came down in front of him I was happy, but still really stressed about all the guys to come at the end. It's insane.

"It is a big relief. Last year at World Champs I broke my wheel and I couldn't do anything. This year I missed a few races, so I was not stoked about my season. Being able to pull it off at the last race of the season is the most important thing could have done this year. So now I am super happy about my year."

In the Junior categories, France took their second title of the championships with Melanie Chappaz in Junior women, while Matt Walker of Great Britain became the Junior men's champion after favourite Finnley Iles of Canada crashed twice on his run. Australia's Benjamin Zwar Kvist finished sixth.