The good weather that has blessed these Championships continued, but the dry conditions made the Downhill track rough and full of loose gravel sections, with many riders flatting or crashing.
American Jill Kintner set the first sub-four minute time for the women, which would be good enough for fifth. Kintner’s time stood up through one rider before Tahnee Seagrave (Great Britain) knocked four seconds off it to take the Hot Seat. Seagrave held the lead until Manon Carpenter came down second from last and took the lead below 3:50. However, the defending champion, Rachel Atherton (Great Britain) was setting new fast times at each split and looked to be on her way to another win, until a mistake near the bottom of the course cost her the win by a mere 88-thousandths of a second.
“I didn’t expect this win,” said Carpenter, “I was struggling to go fast on this track. But I wanted to do my best, and I expected it to be a close race. I had an almost perfect run, so I knew that I had done the best that I could. It was really close, and I had resigned myself to being second, even as Rachel was crossing the line, so it’s pretty bonkers to win.”
The men’s race saw a steady drop in the leading time as rider after rider chipped away at the top time. Australian Bryn Atkinson was the first to go under 3:30, but faster riders were coming. Brook MacDonald (New Zealand), with 15 riders to go, set a time that stood until American Neko Mulally came through nearly a second faster, despite having to ride the entire course with no chain after his broke in the start house. Mulally finished fourth, but surely would have been in the medals without his mechanical problems.
Former champions Sam Hill (Australia) and Danny Hart (Great Britain) crashed, as did defending champion Greg Minnaar (South Africa), who also flatted. Gee Atherton, riding fourth from last, managed to avoid the mistakes made by others to knocked 2.2 seconds off the leading time.
Second from last, Troy Brosnan (Australia) managed to finish within 0.566 seconds of Atherton, leaving Josh Bryceland (Great Britain), the World Cup champion, as the only rider who could possibly beat Atherton. Bryceland was faster at both time splits, but mistimed a landing on the final jump, fracturing his foot but, remarkably, still managing to cross the finish line second to Atherton.
“World championships is always a special race, and everyone steps their game up,” commented Atherton. “You can’t afford to do a steady and smooth run, you have to keep pushing faster and faster. My run was okay, it was messy, there were some mistakes, but I think it’s that kind of track. I wasn’t pleased with the run, but I made it to the bottom, and that’s all you can ask for. I wasn’t confident, but you couldn’t tell until the other riders came down. Sure enough, it was fast enough to take the win.”
Bryceland was eventually brought to hospital to undergo surgery.
France topped the nations table with 12 medals, followed by Switzerland (8) and Great Britain (7).
Next edition of the UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships will be in Vallnord, Andorra, between 23 and 27 August.