DAREDEVILS AND DOWN­HILL

Australian Mountain Bike - - World Champs -

You just go as hard as you can and there is only one shot. I’d rather just go my hard­est. There’s re­ally only two out­comes - go your fastest or crash.” Such was the at­ti­tude not just of Con­nor Fearon, but many of the rid­ers at­tend­ing World Champ­ships for Down­hill. There is no se­ries to con­test, it’s all or noth­ing. Take the risk for speed – as slow won’t win a medal.

Down­hill rac­ing is of­ten punc­tu­ated as much about the wait­ing as the rac­ing. Walk­ing the track, set prac­tice times (although Rachel Ather­ton was out at 7:30am every morn­ing), qual­i­fy­ing, and then fi­nally let­ting it rip, af­ter a fi­nal prac­tice ses­sion the morn­ing of the race.

One of the big chal­lenges here was the ever-chang­ing con­di­tions. Ear­lier in the week the fore­cast sug­gested it could be a wet race. But sum­mer was re­turn­ing, and through Fri­day af­ter­noon and all day Satur­day the trails were dry­ing – fast.

For the Ju­niors, their morn­ing prac­tice on Sun­day was right be­fore their race runs – Valentina Holl of Aus­tria said she ex­pected a mis­take but it never hap­pened, and she won the Ju­nior women’s DH. Kade Ed­wards found the con­di­tions were ideal, “It was sweet - I was pinned the whole way!” he said post-race. And de­spite hat­ing the track last year – this year he loved it.

Kye A’Hern al­most had a dream run – and it net­ted him Sil­ver. “To­day was good, the top started re­ally well,” said A’Hern. “I hit all my lines well, got through the rock gar­den re­ally fast. In the mid­dle I made a small mis­take but I’m stoked to walk away with Sil­ver.”

Plenty of hours passed un­til the Elite men and women would hit the trail, and rid­ers came and went from the hot seat as Elite women got un­der­way. Rachel Ather­ton would be the last rider down, as her fel­low Brit Tah­nee Sea­grave sat in the hot seat. Ather­ton tore chunks of time away at every split, rid­ing lines that other women weren’t, and just do­ing it faster. She won by about 10 sec­onds.

“I thought com­ing into this, there would be a slim chance I could win. I was pretty ner­vous, and we all know any one of us could win.” But Ather­ton showed her class with such a huge ride.

The men’s race al­ways looked to come down to the French. Bruni? Pieron? Vergier? It was South African Mi­naar with the fastest time for a long time, be­fore Martin Maes moved in. Could the EWS star do it, right af­ter win­ning the DH World Cup in La Bresse?

But those course con­di­tions would play a part too. Danny Hart took to the start and barely recog­nised the out­look. “I looked out of the start gate and I could see it was much drier. The per­cep­tion of where to put your wheels and so on was all so dif­fer­ent.” He made it work for a Bronze medal, and Loic Bruni put a very smooth run to­gether to knock Maes out of the hot seat. Could Pieron take it?

A crash took Pieron out of the medal stakes, left to think what might have been. Bruni was tri­umphant, and even Rachel Ather­ton had to ask Martin Maes if his fu­ture lay in down­hill, and not the EWS.

“There’s not enough bik­ing in down­hill,” stated Maes. “Four days but only a few min­utes of rid­ing. I feel like it’s just not enough. I learn more about rid­ing in En­duro than down­hill.”

There’s a mas­sive gallery and full results on AMB­mag.com.au. www.amb­mag.com.au - 47

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