September 03, 2012 (Leogang, Austria) – It was a banner day for Canada at the 2012 World Champions of MTB in Leogang, Austria. Holly Feniak (BC) won the Junior Women’s event by an astounding eight seconds, while fellow BC rider, Steve Smith, took home the bronze medal in the Elite men just 1.2 seconds off of the pace.
In the Elite women’s competition, Micayla Gatto and Casey Brown were 6th and 7th respectively. The women’s event was won by newcomer Morgane Charre of France while South Africa’s Greg Minnaar won his second world title for the Elite men.
Steady rains fell earlier in the week, and turned the once smooth track into a rutted, brake-bump-filled mess by race day when the sun came out and started to bake the ruts in. The faces of some of the jumps looked more like they had just seen a Supercross final rather than a downhill race. Despite less than fantastic track conditions, thousands of fans made the sloppy trek up the mountain to cheer on their favorite riders, and none were louder than the Kiwis, going hoarse chanting for their new hero, Brook Macdonald who won the last World Cup round in France a few short weeks ago.
Feniak was over the moon with her victory. “This feels amazing. I was really upset at first because I thought I’d only won by a second, and I was two seconds back from my time yesterday. I felt like I had a bad run and made a bunch of mistakes and almost crashed twice. I found out 15 minutes ago that I won by 8 seconds and shaved off some time from yesterday…so I’m really happy that I was able to do that.”
Minnaar got emotional in the finish corral mere minutes after winning his second championship. “When I saw [Aaron] Gwinny’s mechanical and knew he coudn’t beat my time, I started to get very emotional. I wanted to come here and win, but you don’t expect it. I was counting all those years… it’s been 9 years since I won worlds and I have way too many bronze and silver medals in between. It feels like I’ve got what I really wanted for the last 10 years. I was thinking today, it’d be a nice way to top things off with a win at home for world champs next year.” The 2013 MTB World Championships will be held in South Africa next year.
Canada’s Smith has a superb run making up almost one second in the lower wooded section and was in the hot seat for quite a while before being dropped to 3rd place as first Gee Atherton (Gbr) and then Minnaar came down the mountain just a bit faster.
“I was a little worried, I had a big mess up at the top. I had to push it pretty hard at the bottom to make it up. I wasn’t on top but glad to be on the podium if I’m not winning. I had no idea. I knew the last four guys would step it up, and I knew it wasn’t a perfect run, and to win at worlds you need a perfect run. To be on the podium, I’m stoked.”
Morgan Charre of France stunned the women’s field with a win, seemingly out of nowhere as she doesn’t regularly compete on the world cup circuit. “I had a super run, I just pedalled as hard as I could wherever I could. It’s fantastic.”