2017 UCI Mountain Bike Worlds conclude with downhill
The 2017 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships concluded on Sunday in Cairns, Australia, with four titles awarded in the downhill; two for France and one each for Canada and Great Britain.
The 1.9 kilometre 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 UCI World Champion to be crowned, and it was Miranda Miller of Canada, having the ride of her career, 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. Tahnée 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 UCI World Cup winner Myriam Nicole of France, the final starter, admitted to a mistake at the top of the course, and finished 0.097 second behind Miller.
"It's pretty crazy," admitted Miller. "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 Tahnée (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 UCI 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 fellow Australian and Cairns native Michael Hannah bumped him down to second - Hill would eventually finish a strong sixth. Hannah would remain in the Hot Seat until France's Loïc Bruni, the 2015 UCI World Champion bumped him by a third of 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 winner Aaron Gwin of the USA was the only one who came close, taking the bronze medal.
"It's unbelievable," said Bruni. "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 I 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.