Greg Minnaar (South Africa), and Morgane Charre (France) won the senior downhill titles at the mountain bike world championships in Leogang Austria Sunday.
Nine years after he last won the title, South Africa’s Greg Minnaar is once again men’s downhill world champion after beating Britain’s Gee Atherton by just over half a second in Leogang. Steve Smith of Canada was third.
Steve Smith put himself in the leader’s hot seat with nine riders to go and held the top spot till Gee Atherton took almost a second off his time with just two riders still to come down the hill.
Those riders were danger men greg Minnaar and Aaron Gwin, and Minnaar took the lead by 0.581 sec.
With a record of nine wins in 13 World Cup races in the last two years, this was expected to be Aaron Gwin’s World’s, but Gwin was plagued by mechanical problems and ended up 83rd. According to his team manager, Gwin’s brakes ‘exploded’.
After his win was confirmed, a delighted Minnaar told reporters, “It’s been nine years and, man, this run was tough.
“I had a lot of pressure today. I sat in my hotel room and I was super nervous. I got to the track and I calmed down, which is normally the reverse.
“You know my run to be honest, I tried to nail that top section and I slid off a bridge and I lost a lot of speed onto the pedalling and I just knew I had to pedal hard, same as in Maritzburg, and I managed to come back. I couldn’t believe I crossed the line in first.
“I’m a bit bummed for Gwinny. He seemed to have a mechanical out there. I’m not quite sure what happened. It’s not exactly the best way for me to win, although I like to win. We’re all out there trying our best, we all have mechanicals from time to time, but it’s been nine years [since my first World Championship win], man!”
Next year, Minnaar’s home town, Pietermaritzburg, hosts the World’s so Minnaar will be defending the title on home soil. “It would be a nice way to end it, going onto my home track, to win there would be amazing.” he said. “This is a track that I wanted to do well on as well, but I was thinking about that today.
“Three in Maritzburg would be great, but right now I hardly can believe I won this today.”
France and the UK divided up the honours in the women’s event, with Morgane Charre and Emmeline Ragot (both France) taking the top two spots ahead of Great Britain’s Manon Carpenter.
Her previous best performance at World Cup level was fifth at Val di Sole in June, so Charre’s victory was a surprise even to herself.
“I did not expect this,” she said. “I thought that Emmeline [Ragot] would beat me for sure, or Atherton. I had a very good run and pedalled a lot, with only little mistakes, but I have never had a result like this before.”
Charre was seventh-last woman down the hill and the first to go under four minutes. Six more riders attempted to eclipse her time, but only Carpenter, Ragot and her compatriot Morgane Charre could get within two seconds.
Rachel Atherton was last down the hill after setting the fastest time in qualifying, but a back problem she described on Twitter as “having a cheese string for a spine” caused herto fade after a quick start and eventually finish fifth.
1 Greg Minnaar (South Africa) 0:03:21.790
2 Gee Atherton (Great Britain) 0:00:00.581
3 Steve Smith (Canada) 0:00:01.214
4 Michael Hannah (Australia) 0:00:02.140
5 Samuel Hill (Australia) 0:00:03.406
6 Damien Spagnolo (France) 0:00:03.859
7 Florent Payet (France) 0:00:04.227
8 Brook Macdonald (New Zealand) 0:00:04.861
9 Markus Pekoll (Austria) 0:00:05.774
10 Marcelo Gutierrez Villegas (Colombia) 0:00:06.064
12 Sam Dale (Great Britain) 0:00:06.504
14 Marc Beaumont (Great Britain) 0:00:07.101
24 Matthew Simmonds (Great Britain) 0:00:08.904
34 Joseph Smith (Great Britain) 0:00:11.099
36 Steve Peat (Great Britain) 0:00:11.971
75 Josh Bryceland (Great Britain) 0:00:26.763
1 Morgane Charre (France) 0:03:50.654
2 Emmeline Ragot (France) 0:00:01.199
3 Manon Carpenter (Great Britain) 0:00:01.490
4 Floriane Pugin (France) 0:00:01.617
5 Rachel Atherton (Great Britain) 0:00:05.894
6 Micayla Gatto (Canada) 0:00:09.537
7 Casey Brown (Canada) 0:00:09.611
8 Miriam Ruchti (Switzerland) 0:00:12.558
9 Claire Buchar (Canada) 0:00:13.920
10 Tracy Moseley (Great Britain) 0:00:14.145