September 6/10 9:19 am - MTB World Championships: DH reports
Posted by Editoress on 09/6/10
The 2010 Mountain Bike World Championships concluded on Sunday with the crowd favourite Downhill, and Canada finally got on the podium, with both gold and silver medals. Ironically, the medals were in the cycling discipline that receives no financial support from Sport Canada or the national cycling federation because it is not an Olympic sport.
Lots of photos to come
Our coverage of the 2010 World Championships brought to you with the support of Shimano
16 year old Lauren Rosser of Squamish, BC became the world champion in the Junior women's category, hitting nearly 55 kilometres per hour as she dodged roots and rocks, plunging down the side of a ski hill. Rosser, who also raced in the cross-country event on Wednesday, finishing 11th, was only the second rider to start, and had to wait for the entire field to finish. She beat Fanny Lombard of France by an impressive 13.95 seconds, with Julie Berteaux of France at 20.19 seconds. Rosser was the only Junior woman to go sub-six minutes.
She was clearly the fastest of the day, recording the top intermediate splits. With her win, Rosser becomes only the second Canadian in the history of the sport to become a Downhill world champion, following in the footsteps of the 1990 winner, Cindy Devine of Rossland, BC.
"There is a couple of places where I was going 'Oh please, I don't want to crash, I really don't want to get muddy'," exclaimed Rosser, who had the entire Canadian team cheering for her. "I was saying I DON'T want to crash and I didn't."
Rosser heads home to Squamish on Monday, to start school, after standing on the podium and hearing the Canadian national anthem. "I didn't know what to think, I was out there and the adrenaline start rushing, and you're just like, wow, I am World Champion. It's an amazing feeling, so it was great to have my parents there, they were happy."
Note: We will also be publishing a more extensive interview with Lauren.
The competition for the Junior men's title was almost as tight as the Elite men. Troy Brosnan (Australia), Lewis Buchanan (Great Britain) and George Brannigan (New Zealand) have been battling all season for the top Junior spot. Brosnan took the Junior World Cup title last week, and followed it up this week with the world title.
Neko Mulally (USA) was the 14th rider off, and set a super fast time of 4:50.77 . His time wouldn't be beaten until Brosnan came down, second from last, and even then the Australian only beat him by six hundredths of a second. Buchanan took third, a distant nine seconds back.
The top Canadian was Tyler Allison in 16th place. After starting sixth, Allison occupied the Hot Seat for a few minutes until Daniel Franks (New Zealand) bumped him (and was in turned bumped by Mulally). He was not pleased with his run:
"[It was] terrible. I just blew it. I was going hard at the start and then got a bit tired halfway down. I was trying to make what I could of my run and then I started blowing out of my pedals. I blew out on the rock garden and couldn't get clipped back in and that was my race over. I pretty much had to stop and kick the mud out of my cleat because it wouldn’t clip back in.
Last year, the sentimental favourite was Steve Peat, winning the men's title after 17 years of trying. This year, it was his fellow Brit Tracy Moseley, who has come close so many times. Moseley decisively beat French favourites Sabrina Jonnier and defending champion Emmeline Ragot to claim the title, and even her rivals seemed happy for her.
38 year old Leigh Donovan (USA), the world champion in 1995, raced the Legends race two days ago, then was the first starter for the Elite women's downhill. She set a time that stood up through two-thirds of the field, before Rachel Atherton finally bumped her down a spot. Japan's Mio Suemasa then took over the lead, but lasted for only a few minutes before Moseley came along to set what would be the winning time.
But there were still two former champions to come: Jonnier and Ragot (plus Floriane Pugin), so Moseley couldn't celebrate.
"It was pretty horrible, having to sit there and wait. I must admit, I have done it more than a few times at World Cups, but the world championships mean so much more. My main goal was to make sure I went onto the Hot Seat, but then to have to sit there for three riders, and realizing I had a pretty good time as their splits came in ... "
"Part of you wants to think, 'yeah, I've done it', but the other part knows it's racing, and anything can happen. I knew people could still make up time if they had a great run. It's tough to sit there and wait, but I guess you have to wait until the last person crosses the line. As the time ticked by, I knew I'd won, but I still couldn't celebrate until Emmeline crossed the line, just in case the timing was wrong or something."
"It's pretty hard to sit there and wait, but it's worth it when you are successful."
The top Canadian was Claire Buchar, finishing ninth, followed by Anne Laplante in19th and Micayla Gatto in 21st.
"I can't be disappointed with a top 10 'cause it's the World Championships," commented Buchar. "This track isn't, you know, I mean I can do well here, but I know some other girls are really strong here, so I think I'll be ok with a top 10. I had my race plan and I just wanted to hit all my lines good and pedal really hard in between, and just the conditions were pretty unpredictable so it's hard to, you know, be perfect out there."
The men's Downhill was expected to be a competition between Gee Atherton of Great Britain and Greg Minnaar of South Africa, with possibly defending champion Steve Peat (Great Britain) thrown in for measure. Atherton and Minnaar had finished 1-2 in the World Cup series, by the closest margin in history. However, it was Sam Hill of Australia, a former champion returning to the sport after a season of injury, who took the world title, finishing 2.63 seconds ahead of Canada's Steve Smith.
"It's definitely been tough," agreed Hill, speaking about his injury-abbreviated season. "I had knee reconstruction, then after first World Cup snapped three ligaments in my shoulder. Windham I finished 38th, which wasn't a confidence booster, so to come here and win is fantastic."
"I didn't really think it was going to happen, it's amazing. I don't know what it is [about Mont Ste Anne], but I've always ridden well here, it's where I first raced the World Cup, in 2001. I've got good memories of here, and I'm always happy to come back here. This morning the track was pretty horrible and boggy, but you just have to carry through it."
Marcel Beer (Switzerland) set the first fast time (sub-4:50), and he lasted for eight riders until Andrew Neethling (South Africa) knocked over half a second off the leading time. Danny Hart (Great Britain) was the next to take over the lead, followed three riders later by Smith.
Smith, who has been steadily working his way up in the world rankings over the past four years, had a breakout season in 2010, making it onto the World Cup podium for the first time in Val di Sole, Italy, in August, and finishing tenth overall for the six event series.
Smith was riding with a torn ACL in his right shoulder after crashing in training. He almost crashed again in the final 500 metres of his run after his front wheel slid out on muddy rocks. He took the lead with ten riders remaining but was quickly surpassed by Hill, and then had to wait while the favourites came in, hoping that his time would hold up. Minnaar took the bronze medal, 37-hundredths of a second behind Smith.
Minnaar was clearly disappointed to have missed the title, after losing the World Cup overall a week earlier. "I've had mixed results at Mont Ste Anne, I've crashed, but I have won, had seconds, a couple of thirds. But this wasn't the position I wanted to be in, I wanted to be in that doping room. In the race run, I think [the riders at the end] probably had a little more rain than the earlier guys, but there are no excuses in downhill racing, and the other guys had fantastic rides."
For Steve Smith it was the culmination of a season of firsts - First World Cup podium [5th in Val di Sole] and first top-10 overall for the World Cup series.
"I had my trainer Todd here, and he helped me a lot," explained Smith. "The AC had separated, so he worked on it, made sure the shoulder was strong. There was some pain, but I just tried to ignore it for the race, and once the adrenaline was going, I didn't really feel it."
"I was feeling pretty comfortable, I got through the last bit of woods and I could see the finish line and just came off as I was just jumping a little section. Luckily I didn't completely crash, but it was sketchy."
"My run was going really well, until that slip, but I think Sam [Hill] would have beaten me anyway. It was definitely unexpected, so I'm pretty stoked. I didn't believe that I would be on the podium until the last rider finished."
Smith also commented on the lack of funding for Downhill athletes, who had to pay a portion of their own way to the world championships. "I guess maybe they should rethink that, eh?"