MTB World Championships 2018 – One To Have Watched

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Through the miracles of modern technology, it is now pretty easy to watch the MTB World Championships wherever you are in the world, giving riders and fans an excuse to get together for a bit of a party to cheer on the action – even if they can’t make it trackside with chainsaws and cowbells in hand.

In what might be the coolest of these parties, Brian Lopes invited a bunch of mates round to his house to view the action – though we’re amused to see he only let his friends in as far as the garage, not his actual living room.

Cool garage/not letting this lot near the soft furnishings indoors.

Four world champions – who wouldn’t want to be at that party? We’re assuming they all got pretty excited, especially as there was plenty excitement for the Americans at the weekend’s racing in Lenzerheide, Switzerland as they picked up their first World Champion title in 17 years. Here’s a quick run down of the action…

Cross Country – Women’s Elite

2016 UCI World Champion Annika Langvad (DEN) set the early pace leading Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (FRA) and Kate Courtney (USA) up the first climb. Langvad kept the pace incredibly high throughout the lap and crossing the line into the second lap, was already 13 seconds ahead of Courtney and Canadian Emily Batty in second and third. The big favorite Neff finished the first lap 49 seconds off the pace in a distant 8th.

Langvad kept pushing hard but crashed on the third lap, losing 30 seconds in the process. A bloody arm was not enough to slow her down though and she quickly pulled away from her pursuers. The next two laps saw no changes to the top five as Langvad continued to set a high a pace. In lap five American Kate Courtney upped the pace and started to close in on Langvad. Unlike the 2016 UCI World Champion, Courtney kept choosing the technical A-lines and both entered the final lap wheel-to-wheel. On the rooty off-camber ‘Motorex Climb’, Langvad seemed comfortably ahead but a small mistake saw her back wheel slipping, forcing her to jump off the bike and run up the remainder of the climb. Courtney jumped at the opportunity, raced past Langvad and continued to push, once again taking the technically demanding but faster A-lines. Kate Courtney crossed the finish line with tears in her eyes to win her first race at the Elite level and the first XCO gold medal for America in 17 years. Canadian Emily Batty managed to fend off Jolanda Neff to win bronze, Maja Wloszczowska (POL) rounded out the Top 5.

Another notable performance in the women’s events came from British Junior Harriet Harnden, who would have/should have/could have been the Junior Women’s CX World Champion earlier this year had there actually been such a category (there is one for the Junior Men).

https://twitter.com/UCI_MTB/status/1037693645481299971

Cross Country – Men’s Elite

Defending champion Nino Schurter (SUI) lives on 25 minutes away from the course, so certainly had the home advantage as he led Anton Cooper (NZL) and Henrique Avancini (BRA) into Heidi’s Hell. Behind Schurter, fellow favorite for the win, Mathieu van der Poel (NED), had to start out of the second row and got stuck in the chaotic traffic of the first climb, loosing 30 valuable seconds.

In an effort to spread the field early, Schurter charged hard and opened a gap of 12 seconds to a ten-man-strong chase group. Entering the second lap two-time UCI U23 World Champion Gerhard Kerschbaumer (ITA) managed to shake the pack and catch up to Schurter on top of the first long climb. In the following laps, Kerschbaumer, who beat Schurter to win the UCI World Cup in Andorra earlier in the year, and Schurter worked together to distance the chase pack by sharing lead duties in keeping up an incredibly high pace. Meanwhile behind the leaders, Mathieu van der Poel started to work himself through the field, eventually moving into third but not quite catching the leading pair.

Schurter managed to open a small gap on Kerschabumer along the Mitas Muddy Climb and was welcomed to the final straight by the deafening roar of his home crowd as he claimed his seventh UCI World Championship individual title. Kerschbaumer narrowly took silver, and van der Poel bronze. Henrique Avancini and Florian Vogel (SUI) rounded out the Top 5 in fourth and fifth respectively.

Downhill – Women’s Elite

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 and 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, eventually unseated by Emilie Siegenthaler (SWI), then Marine Cabirou (FRA).

As the top 5 riders hit the course 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 crowd’s 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.

Ooh, another one for the collection! Credit: Piotr Staron

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.

Downhill – Men’s Elite

After plenty of hot seat changes among the early riders, Greg Minnaar (RSA) set the time to beat. 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) took the lead with 2.4 seconds to spare and it wasn’t until Aaron Gwin (USA) opened up for the Top 10 ranked riders, that any splits showed up green.

A mistake in the challenging upper wood section ruined Gwin’s chances of winning his first UCI Rainbow Jersey, and Maes held on to the hot seat as American Luca Shaw (USA) and Laurie Greenland (GBR) both came close on several splits but eventually crossed the line behind the leaders. With a huge upset seeming ever more likely, defending UCI World Champion Loic Bruni sprinted out of the start. 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 all 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.

Kade Edwards, stoked. Credit: Piotr Staron

While Danny may not have claimed the gold he might have hoped for, Britain did come home with gold in the form a a Junior Men’s Downhill title. Kade Edwards, in his last year in the Junior Category, will be hoping that this sets him up well for next year with the Elites.

https://twitter.com/UCI_MTB/status/1038882854263042049

Comments (3)

  1. Awesome worlds topping off a brilliant XCO and DH season. It’s a shame BC don’t make a song and dance about the fantastic achievements of all our athletes. Well over 24 hours later and still no mention on their website. The crowds in Switzerland epitomized the success of a sport given the exposure and support it deserves.

  2. Sunday unexpectedly disappeared in front of the TV screen. The DH was truly epic – Rachel Atherton taking a really strong women’s field apart was totally amazing. An utterly dominant display. For the men’s race I thought all the Brits rode really well and Danny Hart so nearly pulled it off. Unfortunate that Maes didn’t hold on for the win as the sight of him powering down the last 3 sectors of the course was the single most memorable performance in the men’s race. Great day’s racing, huge crowds all weekend, brilliant entertainment!

  3. Athertons time would have placed her inside the times of the top 40 men as well

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