Rain and hail began just 10 minutes before the action began as Auclair had a strong start and settled into 6th place which he held until the fourth lap when he slipped to 7th despite the race turning into a mudbath as the temperature fell every lap making it a “course from hell”.
The calm and composed Auclair was thrilled with his top-10 performance. “This was one of the best – ok probably the best race I’ve ever done. I felt great and for the first few laps I think I was in the top 6 and feeling good. I am very happy. What I learned here is that the pace is really fast. I was able to manage by race really well, despite the difficult conditions. In some ways I wish the season wasn’t over yet, but for now, I’ll just enjoy a bit of time off.”
German gunslinger Maximillian Brandl dug in hard as Andreassen was unstoppable, and was able to stave off a big challenge from Egan Bernal (Colombia), who passed him on the final lap. Brandl recovered to take the silver with Bernal the bronze.
Rhys Verner was the next rider in for Team Canada finishing in 35th. “This is my second time at the Juniors World Championships and I brought what I learned from last year and improved on some of my training but there are always more things to deal with when you get this kind of day. It was crazy out there on every climb and descent, but it’s still fun to see what I can do,” said Verner.
A muddy Quintin Disera came in 42nd still happy with his race. “It was a sick course today! For me, well it was fun too. There were a lot of crashes, and lot of near misses, it was over the top, and I hope to do this again. It’s been a year of adventure and getting over illnesses, but in the end it’s all good, and I can have another try at it if I make the grade again since I’m 17,” commented Disera.
Sean Fincham from Squamish, BC, made it across the line as well as more than 35 riders (almost half) either did not finish or were pulled. “I have to admit I’m a bit disappointed in my ride but there were some good things to bring from today for next year and well, being here and working with this type of course gave me some more experience especially in such a pressure filled race,” said Fincham.
Laurie Arseneault was the top Canadian posting a strong 18th-place result in the Junior Women’s 4-lap, 16.8km race won by Italy’s Berta Martina who took the gold in a convincing fashion over early leader Evie Richards (Great Britain) with Switzerland’s Nicole Koller in third.
“It was a fun course, lots of different challenges and wow, the altitude did take it’s toll, but I moved up a lot from last year (29th last year in Norway) and feel this was a great way to end a season. It was a wonderful experience with the Canadian National Team this week. The key learning for me was how to adapt to altitude and how to be a complete athlete in that context,” said Arseneault.
Fellow Canuck and newcomer, Mackenzie Myatt, pulled hard and gained invaluable experience at her first World championship experience eventhough she didn’t finish the race (-1 lap). “The first few laps were a good challenge and although I was a bit scared at first, I decided to pick some wheels and jump ahead as I thought to myself that I’m faster than some of these riders,” commented Myatt.
Emily Handford, also new to the faster pace and stiff international competition at the Worlds, was thrilled to just be here and compete: “I think I learned a bit about how to compete on a higher level and what to do to train in the future, I’m pretty happy even if I got pulled on the last lap,” said Handford who raced hard with Myatt for part of the competition.
Reigning junior national champ, Soren Meeuwisse, who came in 28th in Norway last year just ahead of Arseneault, was seeded 12th but had to bow out early with symptoms of a flu. She dropped out on the first lap and recuperated at the Team Canada tent.
In adverse conditions and high altitude, the young mountain bikers demonstrated a lot of courage and tenacity as heavy rain and hail were prominent on a slippery and technical course.
Coach Ian Hughes was leading the junior team at this World Championships: “I am very satisfied with the performance of all athletes. We started with a five-day camp following the World Cup in Mont-Sainte Anne. Through the journey, there were many key learnings. We focussed our efforts on mastering the basic skills, as well as developing mental, physical and technical strategies.”
Hughes added: “Today, all athletes showed a lot of heart. They put into practice all the lessons learned from this project. All learned a lot and these projects that serve as a springboard for future performances.
“Half of the eight athletes were at their first international experience in mountain biking. The veterans have only four international races,” he added.
The 2015 Mountain Bike World Championships resumes tomorrow with the U23 cross-country races and the junior downhill seeding runs.