Champéry, Switzerland is known for rain on the World Cup circuit, and it showed up in spades for the last day of the Mountain Bike World Championships, turning the Downhill into a crashfest. The rain delayed racing partway through the Junior Men for nearly 90 minutes while injured riders were airlifted out and there was even brief talk about whether the competition could continue if the weather deteriorated further. However, in the end, Emmeline Ragot (France) and Danny Hart (Great Britain) took the Elite titles, while Troy Brosnan (Australia) repeated as the Junior Men’s champion and Manon Carpenter (Great Britain) won for Junior Women. Canada put the only twoo North American riders on the podium – both women and both bronze, with Claire Buchar winning the medal in Elite and Lauren Rosser, the defending Junior champion, finishing third.
The rain made an already steep, rough course so greasy that it was impossible to stand up in places. The smaller, lighter riders like Ragot and Hart seemed to float over sections that had bigger riders crashing.
First up were the Juniors, and World Cup champions Manon Carpenter (Great Britain) and Troy Brosnan (Australia) easily took their titles; Brosnan the only rider of the day a repeat winner. Brosnan’s time would have put him second to Hart in the Elite Men, and Carpenter would have been third in Elite Women.
Buchar set the first sub-5:30 time, starting eighth for the Elite Women. She stayed in the Hot Seat until Ragot came down, six from the end, and the only woman to go under five minutes. Rachel Atherton (Great Britain), racing second from last, bumped Buchar into bronze. Floriane Pugin (France), one of the pre-race favourites, did not start after suffering a concussion earlier in the week on a training run, while defending champion Tracy Moseley crashed and could only manage ninth.
Emmeline Ragot explained: “Today I tried to ride smart because I knew if I had a smooth ride I could win. I didn’t attack because I knew that if I didn’t fall I had a chance to win and I managed not to fall.”
Canada’s Claire Buchar, who has not raced the World Cup circuit this year, was clearly excited to make her first podium, “I didn’t race any World Cups this year because we didn’t have the budget. But I came here with great motivation. A good friend in Canada, Nick Geddes, is in the hospital with leukemia, so us Canadians wore yellow shoelaces to show our support. And every time I thought it was tough out there I thought of Nick. So this one’s for you. Nick for the win.”
Photo Gallery: Elite Men’s World Championship Downhill
The Elite Men, particularly the final 30 starters, were hit with the heaviest rain, and it turned part of the course into a river, which suited Hart just fine.
“I had a perfect day today,” siad Hart. “I came across the line and saw that I was leading by 11 seconds and that has never happened before. I hadn’t done a training run without doing a whip so I decided to do it during the race to please the crowds. I come from England and it rains every weekend. I got to the top of the track and saw it was a river so I just told myself to ride down the river.”
His British teammate Brendan Fairclough was the first to go below four minutes. He was displaced in the lead by Damien Spagnolo (France), who held the lead until Hart came down, obliterating his time by 11.7 seconds. New Zealand’s Sam Blenkinsop slotted in behind Spagnolo, just bumping Fairclough off the podium.
Top performers, such as a Greg Minnaar (South Africa), Gee Atherton (Great Britain) and Steve Peat (Great Britain) all struggled with the conditions, crashing out of contention. Aaron Gwin (USA), the top favorite after dominating the World Cup all season, looked to be about to challenge Hart, when he came through the first split less than a second back, however, he crashed shortly afterward, and finished 12th.