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Bruni and Atherton Win DH Rainbow Jerseys – Canada Strong with Astle 4th, Brown 7th, Miller 8th and Wallace 12th + PHOTOS

by Fraser Britton
E M Podium [P] Michal Cerveny
September 06, 2015 (Vallnord, Andorra) – In what will be remembered as possibly one of the wildest Downhill World Championships ever, Loic Bruni (France) took home his first ever professional title in the Elite Men’s competition, while Rachel Atherton (Great Britain) added another win to her list of victories winning the Elite Women’s tltle again.

France took home a second rainbow jersey courtesy of Marine Cabirou in the Junior Women’s race while Great Britain doubled up with Laurie Greenland winning the Junior Men’s race.

For Canada the day began with bang as relative newcomer, Georgia Astle, laid down a strong run in the Junior women’s downhill to finish just off the podium in 4th for a stellar start. Jack Almond was the top Canuck for the Junior men in 19th. Two more top ten finishes were courtesy of Casey Brown in 7th and Miranda Miller in 8th in the Elite Women’s race while Mark Wallace earned his best Worlds result placing 12th in the Elite Men’s race followed by veteran Steve Smith in 18th with Matt Beer 34th.

Georgia Astle [P] pedalmag.com

The final day of the 2015 UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships saw the good weather which showed up on Saturday and continued on Sunday, drying the open sections of the course. The track here in Andorra is known among racers to be one of the steepest, roughest ad most challenging ones on the entire professional circuits. With two days of torrential rain and hail they went from difficult, to near impossible when the clay filled dirt turned almost instantly to grease early on in the week.

As the sun came out on Saturday, the track started to dry to the consistency of peanut butter by the time racing began Sunday morning. With gigantic braking holes, and massive ruts forming from the soft conditions earlier in the week, race day was filled with surprises as many of the favourites fell victim to the surprises the track had to offer and went down.

Elite Women

Alanna Columb (New Zealand) set the first sub-six minute time for the women, but she was quickly displaced in the Hot Seat by her team mate Sophie Tyas. Three riders later, Canada’s Miranda Miller took the lead, dropping the best time below 5:50. Miller was in the Hot Seat through seven riders before her team mate Casey Brown took the lead, only to be immediately replaced by Emilie Siegenthaler (Switzerland).

Casey Brown [P] Michal Cerveny

There were only six riders left, and next up was local favourite Myriam Nicole (France), who was on a good run until mechanical problems took her out of contention. Morgane Charre (France) knocked a few seconds off the leading time, but it was Tracey Hannah (Australia), with four riders to go, who smashed the leading time, knocking over 12 seconds off as she went below 5:20.

The final three riders were all from Great Britain, beginning with Tahnee Seagrave, who crashed and could only manage fifth. Defending champion Manon Carpenter then took nearly six and a half seconds off the best time, but there was still Atherton to come.

Rachel Atherton [P] Michal Cerveny

Atherton has been untouchable all season, winning six straight World Cups, and she proved once again why she is the best woman downhiller in the world, knocking over three seconds off of Carpenter’s time to become the only rider to go under 5:10.

“Wow, I can’t believe it,” exclaimed Atherton at the finish. “I’m really happy. I knew it was going to be hard today. The track is crazy. So dry now compared to in the week. It’s fast. You have to hang in all the way down. I wanted it this year. I wanted both titles back [world champion and World Cup overall]. It’s pretty sick. I’m so happy.”

“Getting beaten by Manon [Carpenter] last year kicks you in the ass a bit. You go into the winter thinking ‘I gotta train’. It’s amazing. Last year it was Brits 1-2-3 at the World Champs and this year 1-2. We are definitely holding our own.

E W Podium [P] Michal Cerveny

Sitting behind the podium Atherton was also reflective. “I have no emotion left. It’s funny when you win. I always get upset and you should be happy but it’s been hard work. It’s definitely been hard, I’m stoked. It doesn’t matter how many times you win world champs, it’s always awesome!”

Brown, considered a dark horse contender by the UCI announcer, ranked 9th in the world, pulled off a fine ride as she crashed but recuperated quickly. “It’s the big time, we are all here to make a point, do our best, go beyond what we hope to do – placing in the top ten was my goal of course. It’s been a good year and this is my best Worlds result so far and the most interesting course.”

Miranda Miller [P] Michal Cerveny

“I’m just glad to be here so this is a win-win getting in the  top ten,” said Miller. “We got lucky with the weather though riding it is still a bit  sketchy in some areas where the berms have fallen off – but that’s part of this race and I had a good time.”

Vaea Verbeeck [P]

One of the wildest rides today was from former Canadian DH champ, Vaea Verbeek, in 25th today, as she kept control after riding her chariot like a wild horse for the second half of her race with no gears and no front brakes following a crash. She hit “the glory jump” and landing off balance showing her stunt woman skills to a roaring crowd. “It was a wild ride for me, when I crashed there was nothing left of the front brake or gear shift so I just rode fast as I could,” said Verbeek.

Clair Buchar [P] Fraser Britton

At her 12th DH Worlds, veteran Claire Buchar, also a former national champ, was 14th and told Pedal this would be her last Worlds. “It’s been great but this is a whole other level of riding. It takes 100% commitment to compete at the top of the sport. I’m happy with what I’ve achieved and now I hope to give back to younger riders entering the sport.

Elite Women’s interviews here.

Elite Men

Andreas Kolb of Austria, the eighth rider off in the field of 95 men, was the first to go under five minutes, but the leading time was dropping steadily as rider after rider came down. However, it wasn’t until Michael ‘Mick’ Hannah (Australia) came through in under four and a half minutes that a leading time really stuck, and Hannah’s time would proved good enough for tenth overall.

Greg Minnaar [P] Michal Cerveny

Hannah stayed in the Hot Seat through 23 riders before Mike Jones (Great Britain) finally surpassed him by three seconds, and Jones’ time would proved to be equally strong, good enough for fourth overall and keeping him in the Hot Seat until three-time world champion Greg Minnaar (South Africa) took a further four seconds off.

There were only five riders left, and all were capable of winning the world title. Gee Atherton (Great Britain), the defending champion, crashed out of contention. Josh Bryceland (Great Britain) slotted in just behind Minnaar. Then it was Bruni’s turn.

The young Frenchman has shown huge potential over the past few years, but has not managed to break through to the top step of the podium … until now. Almost two and a half seconds in front of Minnaar, Bruni was assured of a medal, but there were still two riders to go.

Former world champion Troy Brosnan was on a good run, second to Bruni at the second intermediate split, but lost time at the bottom to finish sixth. The only rider left was Aaron Gwin (USA), the World Cup champion. He had a solid start to his run, fifth fastest at the first intermediate split, but then disaster struck, with a crash midway down the course. Bruni finally had his win, and in front of French fans.

Bruni Disbelief [P] Michal Cerveny

Bruni was tearful following the victory, only miles from the french border with partisan fans everywhere. “I honestly felt like it was really hard. Yesterday I felt off and couldn’t understand it. Today I was a bit unmotivated but I found the strength in my head and had a really good run. I made a few mistakes in the beginning but at the the end I was pushing as hard as i could and I didn’t crash, it was really good,” said the winner.

“I didn’t believe it could be possible. I wasn’t even thinking about the win and I had a good run. At the bottom were all the people and fans, so I went off the brakes and went really loose, and I held it to the bottom. It’s amazing,” he added.

Mark Wallace [P] Fraser Britton

“It’s been along season with lots of mostly good surprises. This course is something special with a lot of variety being. Being strong at the end of the season has helped my confidence a lot as many small details came together at the right time,” said Wallace the top Canadian overall.

Smith was happy to race at the Worlds which he missed last year. “This course isn’t one of my favourites but I like to ride it. Considering  a year ago I was on the couch injured and not sure of what the future would be I’m happy to be riding my bike again.

Steve Smith [P] Fraser Britton
Injuries show you what the good and bad times really mean and I think I’ve developed some stronger mental appreciation for everything from last year. It wasn’t my best effort today but that’s fine, I just wanna ride more and that’s my 2016 goal,” said the former World Cup Series champ.

Matt Beer [P]

“I’m letting this soak in, being here,” said Beer, “and since this course is not like the ones I’m used to, though it reminded me of  the one on Val di Sole, it was a great experience for me to continue to focus on courses that need 100 percent of my strength and focus.”

Elite Men’s interviews here.

For Astle, who had the best 1st split time, it was a good day. “I was pretty happy with the first part, fast and steep  and as I’m pretty new at this, I didn’t know what to expect since there aren’t a lot of courses like this that I’ve done yet. I wanna work on some parts of my race for next year and who knows what can happen,” she told Pedal.

Jack Almond [P] Fraser Britton

For Almond it was a great way to end the season. “It’s sort of a dream now that it’s over. I’m surprised at how much fun it was on that course since it had plenty of points where I almost lost it. It was wet near the bridge and lots of slippery areas. I want to race here again soon – though it’s all new and this kind of course is really amazing,” he commented.

Henry Fitzgerald [P]

Henry Fitzgerald in 22nd shared his thoughts as well. “It was a pretty cool course, my mind was clear, the race was so fast it was over before I could remember what happened. Mistakes yeah, but I learned a lot today, good way to gauge next year and hope to make it to another WC next year,” said Fitzgerald.

Magnus Manson [P]

Reigning national champ, Magnus Manson, in 31st told us, “I’d like to have hit a few spots differently, but I also know that there’s always going to be some surprises on the course and perhaps I should have changed my tires before the race but such decisions can backfire. I’m happy with my race overall – it was nerve racking and fun, a good combo.”

Junior interviews here.

Full Results here.

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