Gold for Austria, Great Britain and France

The final day of the 2018 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships presented by Mercedes-Benz once again saw twenty thousand spectators heading to Lenzerheide, raising the total number of fans attending the races to 65,000. Following the Cross-Country races of the previous days, Sunday was all about Downhill and track that challenged the riders with dusty, slippery and loose conditions.
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Marlen Schwarz
PR/Media
Ferienregion Lenzerheide & Lenzerheide Bergbahnen AG
P +41 81 385 57 30
marlen.schwarz@lenzerheide.com

Rachel Atherton smokes the women’s field
Much to the delight of the thousands of Swiss fans lining the track, EWS mainstay Caro Gehrig  set a fast time early, which held until fellow Swiss rider  Janine Hübscher  managed to push  Gehrig  out of the hot seat. The Swiss duo in first and second then watched on as the next four women all failed to come close to  a  podium  spot.  It  wasn’t  until  2012  UCI  World  Champion  Morgane  Charre  took  to  the  track,  that Hübscher and Gehrig started to shift around nervously on the hot seat. Charre showed a brilliant run and crossed the finish line over five seconds quicker to take over the lead.

The Top 10 ranked riders got underway with a fast start by the Queen of Enduro, Cecile Ravanel  (FRA), but a front flat halfway down the track ruined the chances  of the medal favorite.  Following Ravanel and spurred on by the frantic local fans,  Swiss powerhouse Emilie Siegenthaler lit up the track to take over the  hot  seat. Siegenthaler  nervously watched o n as both Katy Curd (GBR) and Eleonora  Farina (ITA) failed to come close to her time but then Marine Cabirou’s (FRA) splits started showing green. Cabirou eventually crossed the line over 4.5 seconds ahead of Siegenthaler.

Entering  the  Top  5,  all  eyes  were  on  the  two  Brits  Rachel  Atherton  and  Tahnée  Seagrave,   who  had dominated much of the UCI World Cup season. But before it came to the British showdown, 2017  UCI World Cup overall winner Myriam Nicole (FRA), proved that she was truly back from her injury and  not to be counted out by besting Cabirou’s already fast time by another five seconds. Following Nicole, Tracey Hannah (AUS) wasn’t able to put down the run she wanted to and slid behind the French duo. With  the crowds attention moving to the two Brits  left at the top, Tahnée Seagrave  made quick work of the top section including the demanding Graubünden Rock Garden. The young Brit was over a second ahead at the first two splits but started to loose time and fall behind Nicole   in the middle of the track. A   strong few corners and jumps before the finish line however saw Seagrave  crossing  the line 0,6 seconds ahead of Nicole with only Rachel Atherton left at the top.

The 2018 UCI World Cup champion blasted through the first turns and demanding rock garden  visibly quicker  than  any  women  before  her  and  stunned  the  spectators  with  a  first  split  time  that  was  an unbelievable three  seconds  faster  than  Seagrave.  Rachel  however  wasn’t  done  yet  and  continued  to blast down the course, increasing her lead sector after  sector until she crossed the line a massive 9.8 seconds ahead of Seagrave to take her fifth UCI Rainbow Jersey.

Rachel Atherton (GBR):
I was really nervous going into this week. After watching practice and seeing Tahnée and Myriam riding so fast, I  knew that it was going to be an extremely fast race. I was honestly blown away by how fast these two were riding. I knew that I really had to push it, all or nothing. You can either win or crash and either is ok because it’s the World Championships, so I just laid it all out there. I got a bit sketchy but luckily it worked out this time.

Maes continues his upset of the Downhill world, Bruni defends title
Just like in the women’s field  and much to the delight of the fans lining the track,  the beginning of the men’s race saw a Swiss rider sitting on the hot seat. It was however clear that Lutz Weber’s time would not hold long and soon after, Jackson Frew (AUS) took over the top spot. Frew didn’t get to enjoy the hot seat for long as just a few riders later, three time UCI World Champion and UCI World Cup victory record holder, Greg Minnaar (RSA) left the start gate. True to form Minnaar, made quick work of the demanding track, crossing the line four seconds ahead of the Australian.

Having just recovered from a broken arm, there were questions as to how fast Minnaar’s time really was. However,  rider  after  rider  struggled  to  get  close  to  Minnaar’s  time  and  it  seemed  like  the  strong  late summer  sun  in Lenzerheide  had dried out the track changing the conditions from damp and grippy to dusty,  loose  and  slippery.  27  riders  tried  to  challenge  the  South  African’s  time  and  failed,  the  28th however didn’t. Martin Maes (BEL) left the start gate and looked to be on fire. The Belgian was ahead at every split and after an “amaesing” run, took the lead with 2.4 seconds to spare.

Similar to the last UCI World Cup in La Bresse, where EWS-star Maes upset the Downhill world by taking the win, the Belgian had plenty of time to get comfortable in the hot seat. As Maes watched names like Eddie Masters (NZL), Dean Lucas (AUS), Remi Thierion (FRA), Jack Moir (AUS), Mark Wallace (CAN) and Connor Fearon (AUS), all failing to come close  to his time the  second huge  upset by the Belgian within two weeks was in the air. It wasn’t until Aaron Gwin (USA) opened up for the Top 10 ranked riders, that any splits showed up green. 

The five-time UCI  World Cup overall winner was ahead by 0.4 seconds after the first two splits before a mistake  in  the  challenging  upper  wood  section  ruined  his  chances  of  winning  his  first  UCI  Rainbow Jersey, eventually  crossing  the  line  in  second  place  1.1  seconds  slower  than  the  Belgian.  Fellow American  Luca  Shaw  (USA)  and  Laurie  Greenland  (GBR)  both  came  close  on  several  splits  but eventually  crossed  the line  behind  the  leading  pair.  With  a  huge  upset  seeming  ever  more  likely, defending UCI World Champion Loic Bruni sprinted out of the start, having none of it. Blasting through the top sections Bruni  raised eyebrows with splits that showed  up green. Gaining and loosing time but always just  barely ahead, Bruni railed the  last few corners and dropped  into the packed finish area  to move into the hot seat a mere 0.2 seconds ahead of Maes.

With four riders left at the top, the racing was however far from done. Loris Vergier (FRA) was up first and once again the splits showed green. Ahead by  half a second, a small mistake saw Vergier briefly stalling, which was enough to derail his hopes to challenge Bruni. Up next two-time UCI World Champion Danny Hart (GBR) was on pace, even slightly ahead at the second split, but in the end crossed the line in thrid, 0.5 seconds down. Troy Brosnan (AUS) gave it his all but couldn’t threaten the podium, so a ll eyes went  to  the  last  rider  on  the  hill,  2018  UCI  World  Cup  overall  winner  Amaury  Pierron  (FRA).  The Frenchman pushed hard.  Too hard. As Pierron’s  front-wheel washed out taking him with it, it was clear that Bruni had just successfully defended his title. Maes proved beyond a doubt that his win in La Bresse was anything but a fluke by taking silver, Danny Hart took bronze.

Loic Bruni (FRA):
The last few World Cups, that we had here all had pretty challenging dusty and slippery conditions. So I knew what to expect today. I didn’t want to repeat my mistakes from last year but felt like I was on the breaks a little bit too much in some turns to avoid slipping out. Overall the conditions were perfect today apart from some insanely  dry  sections that  were quite  surprising.  I don’t think  I defended my title, but instead I won a new one because there are so many fast riders right now. Loris is extremely fast and the times with Martin and Danny were super close. I think we showed the spectators a great race.

Höll and Edwards take Gold in Junior categories
Earlier  in the day, the  up and coming generation of Downhill riders  battled  it out for  the UCI Rainbow Jersey  with  Vali  Höll  (AUT)  as  the  clear  favorite  in  the  Junior  Women’s  field.  Having  won  every  UCI World Cup in her category by big margins and times that would have placed her well into the Top 10 of the Elite field, anything but a victory for the young Austrian would have been a  huge upset. With the Top 10 dropping in, it was Norwegian Mille Johnset who set the early pace, until Anna Newkirk (USA) showed what she was made off, sliding into the hot seat  with a time that was  six seconds faster than Johnset’s. All eyes were now at the top, where Höll made quick work of the demanding Graubünden Rock Garden, sped through the  many turns and rooty forest sections,  crossing  the finish line over 10 seconds clear of Newkirk  to  win gold, the UCI Rainbow Jersey and  to  complete a perfect season  in  her first  year as  a Junior.

Based  on the qualification times and the results from the UCI World Cup season, it  looked like a fivehorse race between Thibault Daprela (FRA), Henry Kerr (GBR), Kye A’hern (AUS), Kade Edwards (GBR ) and Patrick Butler (AUS) in the Junior Men’s. Kerr, Butler and Daprela however all had costly mistakes in their race runs and were unable to challenge the Top 3. In the end it was Kade Edwards who, proving that his fast qualification time was no fluke, crossed the finish line fastest to win the UCI Rainbow Jersey in  his  last  year as Junior.  Kye A’hern took  silver for Australia and Elliot Jamieson  who was  on  a tear, improving his qualification time by a full 20 seconds, took bronze.

Valentina Höll (AUT):
I have never  been this nervous in my life. I put myself under a lot  pressure. After a perfect World Cup season,  I’ve  just  been  waiting  for  a  mistake  to  happen  but  it  never  did.  I  am  super  happy.  When  we started the season in Losinj I was just hoping for podiums, now I am here. It’s crazy!

Kade Edwards (GBR): 
My run was sweet, it was just flat out I guess. I have been waiting for a run like that all season. I made a lot of mistakes this year. I kind of liked the track and the new section and yeah, it turned out well.

Over 65,000 Spectators and a lot of golden smiles 
Five  days  of  thrilling  race  action  at  the  2018  UCI  Mountain  Bike  World  Championships  presented  by Mercedes-Benz  saw an  incredible atmosphere with  a total 65,000  spectators  watching the eleven UCI World Championship decisions.

Christoph Müller, President of the Organizing Committee:
What a fantastic event. All of our expectations have been exceeded. We expected 30,000 spectators, in the  end  we  had  65,000.  Switzerland  won  several  gold  medals  and  the  atmosphere  on  Saturday  and Sunday was  just  incredible.  I  want  to  thank  all  of  the  athletes  and  spectators,  who  made  this  event unforgettable. A big thank you also goes to the many volunteers. The event wouldn’t have been possible without you.