Day six was downhill day at the UCI World MTB and Trials Championships in Rotorua, New Zealand, with the rainbow jerseys being contested on a steep 2.2km course on the slopes of Mt Ngongotaha. First up were the Junior Women, who found themselves racing in strong winds at the top of the course. Last year’s winner, Rachel Atherton, was racing in the Elite category, so whatever happened there’d be a new World Champion. As it turned out, the crown was passed from one downhill family to another, with the rainbow jersey going to Tracey Hannah, sister of Mick Hannah.
In the Junior Men race, Britain’s Brendan Fairclough was up there as one of the favourites – he’s European Champion and has had some great World Cup results this year. Alas, it wasn’t to be – he could only manage 17th. It was left to the host country to fill the top two spots on the podium, with New Zealand’s Cameron Cole coming in just over a second clear of Sam Blenkinsop. France’s Antoine Badouard was third and Britain’s Ralph Jones fourth.
There was guaranteed to be a new World Champion in the Elite Women event, with so-many-times-winner-we’ve-lost-count Anne-Caroline Chausson having retired. Competition was always going to be stiff, though. 2004 World Champion Vanessa Quin, the only other woman to win a world title for about the last decade, had the home advantage. Then there was World Cup Champion Tracy Moseley and previous Junior World Champions Rachel Atherton and Scarlett Hagen. But it was perhaps only fitting that it was Sabrina Jonnier, second so many times to Chausson, who finally stood on top of the podium. It was still a good day for Britain, though – Moseley was second and Atherton third, despite dislocating her shoulder in practice the previous day.
Inevitably, the highlight of the day was the Elite Men DH, and with with everyone who’s anyone there (the only exception being twice World Champion Fabien Barel, out through injury) it was looking likely to be a close race. British hopes were raised early on, when Dan Atherton set a 3:25.58 – he’d crashed in qualifying, so had an early run in the finals. His time stood for a fair while, but eventually people started knocking chunks off it. Filip Polc edged it by a second, Andrew Neethling took off another three and then the big guns came out – Chris Kovarik lopped three and a half seconds off the top time. Kovarik’s 3:18.04 looked good, but Sam Hill wasn’t having any of it. He put together the run of a lifetime and hacked a massive seven seconds off the leading time. No-one else could get near it, with second-placed Greg Minnaar being over four seconds down. Nathan Rennie was third, Steve Peat fourth and Kovarik held on to fifth.
- 1. HILL Samuel AUS 3:11.03
- 2. MINNAAR Greg RSA 3:15.25 +4.22
- 3. RENNIE Nathan AUS 3:17.16 +6.13
- 4. PEAT Steve GBR 3:17.92 +6.89
- 5. KOVARIK Chris AUS 3:18.04 +7.01
- 9. ATHERTON Gee GBR 3:20.91 +9.88
- 12. BEAUMONT Marc GBR 3:22.78 +11.75
- 16. ATHERTON Dan GBR 3:25.58 +14.55
- 1. JONNIER Sabrina FRA 3:50.32
- 2. MOSELEY Tracy GBR 3:53.83 +3.51
- 3. ATHERTON Rachel GBR 3:57.80 +7.48
- 4. BUHL Melissa USA 4:00.40 +10.08
- 5. RAGOT Emmeline FRA 4:01.03 +10.71
- 6. GRIFFITHS Fionn GBR 4:02.22 +11.90
- 12. GASKELL Helen GBR 4:09.88 +19.56
- 1. COLE Cameron NZL 3:28.29
- 2. BLENKINSOP Samuel NZL 3:29.45 +1.16
- 3. BADOUARD Antoine FRA 3:29.84 +1.55
- 4. JONES Ralph GBR 3:30.14 +1.85
- 5. MALTMAN James AUS 3:36.12 +7.83
- 17. FAIRCLOUGH Brendan GBR 3:44.54 +16.25
- 1. HANNAH Tracey AUS 4:07.07 200.0
- 2. PUGIN Floriane FRA 4:11.74 +4.67
- 3. GATTO Micayla CAN 4:40.91 +33.84