It’s been a mixed Livigno World Champs for the Great Britain team. Some real medal hopes haven’t quite made it but we’ve got a couple of new World Champions and some strong performances. With Liam Killeen now racing in the Elite category, it was left to Philip Spencer to fly the flag in the Under-23 XC race. And he rode a blinder, outsprinting the Netherlands’ Rudi Van Houts for 5th place. He was just over three minutes down on the winner Yury Trofimov (Russian Federation), who just got the better of Swiss rider Lukas Flückiger on the line. Swiss Nino Schurter and Dane Jakob Fuglsang took third and fourth.
In the Elite XC races, defending Champion Gunn-Rita Dahle was the no-surprise winner of the women’s rainbow jersey, two minutes clear of Maja Wloszczowska (Poland) and three minutes clear of Petra Henzi (Switzerland). No Brits in that race, so we’ll move swiftly on to the men’s showdown. Going into the race, most people (ourselves included) would have had Liam Killeen down as highest placed Brit and possible medal hope, but it wasn’t to be. Instead it was Oli Beckingsale putting in a blinding ride to come in a comfortable 9th place. Killeen’s 16th wasn’t too shabby, though. Julien Absalon (France) successfully defended his World title ahead of Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) and Jose Antonio Hermida (Spain). Fredrik Kessiakoff (Sweden) was fourth, and Thomas Frischknecht showed that can still cut it in fifth.
It’s the Downhill events where we really expect British riders to shine, and we got off to a great start with Rachel Atherton winning the Junior Women category. She was 6.48 seconds down on New Zealand’s Scarlett Hagen in the seeding run, but the Kiwi couldn’t match her seeding time in the finals – Atherton won it by nearly ten seconds. Her winning time would have put her in the top ten in the Elite race, too… Over in Junior Men, Britain’s Brendan Fairclough went into the finals with the fastest seeding run, but there wasn’t much in it – he was less than a second quicker than Australian Amiel Cavalier. Unfortunately for the British fans, Cavalier managed to shave a second off his time in the finals while Fairclough lost a little time, so the rainbow jersey went to Australia. Fairclough was a solid second, though, and fellow Brit Matthew Simmonds was 5th with a comfortable gap ahead of the rest of the field. Liam Panozzo (Australia) and Antoine Badouard (France) were third and fourth.
British hopes in the Elite Women race rested with Tracy Moseley and Helen Gaskell, but with a strong French contingent led by the all-conquering Anne-Caroline Chausson it was never going to be easy. To the surprise of hardly anyone, Chausson took her ninth World Championship, although she had to work for it – Sabrina Jonnier came in just 0.37s behind. It was a French 1-2-3, with Emmeline Ragot talking third spot. And the Brits? Tracy Moseley was sixth, Helen Gaskell eighth.
It was looking good for Britain in the Elite Men – after the seeding run there were three Brits in the top five. Australia’s Sam Hill was on top spot, with Steve Peat, Marc Beaumont and Gee Atherton lining up behind him. The seeding times didn’t necessarily tell the whole story, though – defending champion Fabien Barel had been watching the weather, decided that it was going to rain during the finals and put in a conservative qualifier to get an earlier start time. It looked like his plan had backfired in the finals, though – it rained very briefly after his run and dried out almost immediately, leaving him sat in the hot seat watching thirty riders come down a dry track, chasing his time. But one by one they failed to match him. And then there was only Sam Hill left. It must have been distinctly uncomfortable viewing for Barel, especially when Hill’s split time was a whisker under his own, but his joy was unconfined when the Australian crossed the line 0.77s down. So Fabien Barel is DH World Champion for the second consecutive time, a feat only previously achieved by Nico Vouilloz. Greg Minnaar was second, Steve Peat was highest-placed Brit in fourth, Gee Atherton was fifth. Marc Beaumont just got into the top ten, which makes for a strong British performance in our book even if they were all out of the medals.
There’s another British World Champion, though. Step forward Ben Slinger, who not only won the Junior 20in Trials Championship but also won the Junior 26in event. Ben Savage was second in the 26in and fourth in the 20in. So that’s three British World Champions, even if two of them are in fact the same person… Full results from the World Championships at www.uci.ch.