DAREDEVILS AND DOWNHILL
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