ELITE WOMEN’S DH
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.