Four-time runner-up Steve Peat of the UK finally got to wear the rainbow jersey as world champion in the elite men’s downhill on the final day of the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships Sunday in Canberra, Australia.
Meanwhile, Kathy Pruitt gave the United States its fourth and final medal in the women’s downhill also on Sunday.
But it was Peat, riding fourth last in the 63-man field, who took the hot seat from Australian Mick Hannah and then had to wait as Australian Sam Hill, South African Greg Minnaar and defending world champion Gee Atherton of Great Britain all failed to snatch away the gold.
Peat clocked two minutes, 30.33 seconds on the 2.4km course to defeat Minnaar, who has won four World Cup events in the last 12 months, by 0.05 second, with Hannah overcoming the former two-time champion, Frenchman Fabien Barel, by just 0.15 seconds for third.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. I just tried to dig as deep as I could. After all these years it’s just unreal,” Peat said.
“It was pretty emotional putting on the jersey on the podium knowing I could wear it as world champion for the next year, I’ve been trying for a long time and it’s just an unreal feeling.”
As far as medal hauls, the U.S. women earned silver and bronze medals in 4X, a bronze in elite cross country and finally a bronze in the elite women’s downhill to bring the American medal count to four. Melissa Buhl also landed inside the top 10 with a ninth-place finish in women’s downhill. Twelve men contested the junior and elite men’s downhill with the top finish coming from Cody Warren who placed 13th in the elite men’s category.
The ninth of 26 riders to start in the elite women’s downhill contest, Pruitt knocked nearly 10 seconds off the next best time to move into the top spot. The former junior world champion held that lead the majority of the event, until Emmeline Ragot of France came down third from last and bested Pruitt’s time by nearly five seconds.
Great Britain’s Tracy Moseley then knocked Pruitt into third, but the final rider, World Cup leader Sabrina Jonnier of France, crashed on her run leaving Pruitt to make her first elite world championship podium appearance.
Buhl posted a time just over 11 seconds slower than Ragot’s winning mark of 2:50.05 to finish in ninth place. Despite starting only two riders, the American women downhillers grabbed fourth in the team category.
Sunday’s performance gave Pruitt her first World Championship podium since she won the junior women’s downhill world title in Sierra Nevada, Spain in 2000. She also grabbed the silver in junior downhill in Are, Sweden in 1999.
Five of the United States seven elite men’s downhill competitors posted times in the top half of the nearly 50-rider field to help the U.S. to a third-place finish in the team category. Warren, Kyle Strait and
Brian Lopes finished 13th, 15th and 18th behind world champ Steve Peat of Great Britain on the short, technical and dry course.
Geoffrey Ulmer and Mitch Ropelato finished 15th and 16th to lead the American effort in the junior men’s downhill.
Mike Shiavone and Ryan Cecil also completed the 26″ and 20″ trials competition for the U.S.
The 2009 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships concluded on Sunday as the 43-member U.S. team walked away with four medals after contesting 14 total events.
Elite Women’s Downhill
1. Emmeline Ragot (FRA) 2:50.05
2. Tracy Moseley (GBR) +2.49
3. Kathy Pruitt (Santa Cruz, Calif.) +4.84
9. Melissa Buhl (Chandler, Ariz.) +11.64
Elite Men’s Downhill
1. Steve Peat (GBR) 2:30.33
2. Greg Minnaar (RSA) +0.05
3. Michael Hannah (AUS) +0.69
13. Cody Warren (El Cajon, Calif.) +5.62
15. Kyle Strait (Riverside, Calif.) +5.98
18. Brian Lopes (Laguna Beach, Calif.) +7.25
21. Aaron Gwin (Morongo Valley, Calif.) +7.58
22. Duncan Riffle (Santa Barbara, Calif.) +8.13
32. Joey Schusler (Boulder, Colo.) +9.69
39. Luke Strobel (Renton, Wash.) +11.49
Junior Men’s Downhill
1. Brook MacDonald (NZL)
2. Shawn O’Conner (AUS)
3. Danny Hart (GBR)
15. Geoffrey Ulmer (Troy, N.Y.)
16. Mitch Ropelato (Ogden, Utah)
23. Shawn Neer (Arvada, Colo.)
30. Luciano Worl (Woodinville, Wash.)
DNF Kevin Aiello (Rancho Margarita, Calif.)
Elite Men’s 26″ Trials
1. Gilles Coustellier (FRA) 14
2. Kenny Belaey (BEL) 14
3. Vincent Hermance (FRA) 18
30. Mike Shiavone (Baltimore, Md.) 80
Elite Men’s 20″ Trials
1. Benito Ros Charral (ESP) 19.5
2. Rafal Kumorowski (POL) 33
3. Loris Bruan (SUI) 42
16. Ryan Cecil (Asheville, N.C.) 72
(AFP contributed to this report)