ELITE WOMEN’S DH

Australian Mountain Bike - - Between The Tape -

Just a few months ago it seemed a fore­gone con­clu­sion that Rachel Ather­ton would win this ti­tle – but now it’s much more de­bat­able.

A shoul­der in­jury in June was the only thing that ended a re­mark­able run of 14 suc­ces­sive wins at World Cup races go­ing all the way back to 2015.

The Bri­tish star’s pe­riod of ut­ter dom­i­nance also in­cluded last year’s World Cham­pi­onship ti­tle in Val di Sole to add to her vic­to­ries in 2008, 2013 and 2015.

And at Cairns, she’s won her last two events on this year’s World Cham­pi­onship course – beat­ing her near­est chal­lenger by seven and 12 sec­onds re­spec­tively.

But the in­jury has at least given oth­ers a glim­mer of hope, not least Aus­tralia’s very own Tracey Han­nah

who claimed first place in Fort Wil­liam to fi­nally halt Ather­ton’s vic­to­ri­ous streak.

The 29-year-old is from the Cairns sub­urb of Yorkeys Knob, just a 20 minute ride from the Smith­field course, and has planned her whole sea­son to peak in front of her thou­sands of friends, fam­ily and roar­ing Aussie fans. They will all be hop­ing this is fi­nally the re­ally big year for Han­nah af­ter four pre­vi­ous third place fin­ishes in the World Cham­pi­onships.

Also now in serious con­tention for glory is Myr­iam Ni­cole from France, who won suc­ces­sive World Cup rounds in July with Ather­ton strug­gling for fit­ness af­ter her in­jury.

Tahnee Seagrave is an­other hop­ing to grab her chance, hav­ing spent much of last sea­son on the sec­ond step of the podium next to her Bri­tish com­pa­triot. The 22-year-old is a for­mer ju­nior world cham­pion and has landed two World Cup vic­to­ries this sea­son - in Leogang, when she pipped Han­nah by 0.7 sec­onds, and in Mont Sainte Anne at the start of Au­gust.

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