• Australia's Kye A'Hern in action at the UCI MTB World Championships. (Rob Jones)Source: Rob Jones
Australia won its only medal of the 2018 Mountain Bike World Championships in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, on Sunday, in the Junior men's Downhill, with a silver medal from Kye A'Hern. Tracey Hannah was fifth in Elite women and Troy Brosnan ninth in Elite men.
Robert Jones

Cycling Central
10 Sep 2018 - 5:18 PM  UPDATED 10 Sep 2018 - 5:19 PM

Over 20,000 fans came out to watch Rachel Atherton of Great Britain win her fifth Elite title and Loic Bruni of France repeat as the Elite men's champion, for his third title. Total attendance over the five days of the Championships reached 65,000, a record for Mountain Bike.

A'Hern was fourth in the first three splits, before jumping up to second in the final section. He finished 4.410 seconds behind Great Britain's Kade Edwards, the new Junior world champion. Elliot Jamieson of Canada took the bronze medal.

"The run started well, but about halfway down in some of the loose turns I lost some speed, and struggled to get back up to speed," A'Hern said. "But once I was back up to speed I hit all my lines perfect. I'm stoked to walk away with the silver."

The Elite women's competition was expected to be a battle between British team-mates Atherton and Tahnee Seagrave, who battled all season on the World Cup circuit and finished 1-2 in qualifying. Morgane Charre of France set the first sub-3min 40sec time, which stood until Swiss rider Emilie Siegenthaler knocked three seconds off.

Two French riders, Marine Cabirou and Myriam Nicole, took the lead in quick succession, with Nicole taking the lead time down to 3min 26sec. Seagrave knocked another seven-tenths off, and it was down to Atherton, who was clearly riding at a different level. She was three seconds ahead at the first split, six seconds up at the second, and a staggering 9.983 seconds by the finish.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet," Atherton said. "I knew it was going to be a hard race and that I had to be fast. All the way down I thought I was going to crash.

"Coming into the finish, I could hear the announcer saying I was the 2018 world champion, and I just had to push right to the end. It's hard because we train earlier in the day when the light is different, so it was hard to see the lines during the race."

The lead time for the men's field went down slowly until three-time world champion Greg Minnaar of South Africa became the first to go under three minutes. After missing much of the season due to injury, Minnaar started early, but once he was in the Hot Seat, he stayed there through 27 riders, until Belgium's Martin Maes displaced him by 2.4 seconds.

Maes was beginning to look untouchable, as rider after rider failed to match his time. It wasn't until defending champion Bruni came down with five riders to go, that Maes was bumped from the lead; and only by a slim 0.213 seconds. The top two spots on the podium were set, with Danny Hart (Great Britain) taking the bronze.

"I had a really good weekend and everything clicked," Bruni said. "I didn't do any mistakes today and the times were super close, so I guess that is what made the difference.

"It was dusty and slippery, but still wet in the woods, so it was hard to know where to push because there were a lot of places you could crash. I'm so happy because it's been a year with a lot of bad results and a few good ones. Couldn't finish the season in a better way."