Great Britain’s Tahnee Seagrave took gold in the Junior Women’s Downhill at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, while in the Junior Men's competition, Mike Jones took bronze. However it was bad luck for Grant Ferguson in the under 23 men's cross country, following a start line mechanical.
Eighteen year old Seagrave, overall World Cup winner in her category in 2012, was last of the five finalists to leave the start gate and was a half a second up on her nearest competitor, Danielle Beecroft of Australia, at the first split.
Seagrave went on to consolidate her place and by the second split was almost six seconds ahead of Beecroft. Seagrave stopped the clock at 4:42.001, seven and a half seconds clear, claiming Great Britain’s first world title of the 2013 competition. Australia’s Tegan Molloy rounded out the podium in third place.
"This means more than anything to me in the world," said Seagrave. "I'm an elite next year, and I've been looking to bring good results this year.
"I just tried to not go too fast. I was really nervous and so scared of crashing.
"At the top I wasn't thinking too much, I was trying to block everything out, but I was thinking of the pedal section the whole way. I was like 'oh god, it's getting closer'. My front wheel was about to wash out at once point, and I had to breath and tell myself it would be OK.
"Every time I went to sit down, I'd think of the red light at the finish line. I didn't want that."
An hour later a five Great Britain riders took the the hill for the junior men's competition, with Seagrave's trade teammate Mike Jones claiming the bronze medal behind winner Richard Rude Jr (USA) and Loris Vergier (FRA).
Jones was fourth from last to go after a strong qualification run and was fastest at the first split. Hopes of a second world title were high in the GB camp however, strong runs from the Rude and Vergier just edged Jones into third. Great Britain had four more riders in the junior mens ranks, with Phil Atwill (11th), Innes Graham (13th), George Gannicott (14th) and Sam Herd (36th).
Later in the day a snapped chain on the start line put paid to Grant Ferguson’s chances in the men’s under 23 cross country race. Ferguson was gridded 10th but the mechanical left the Scot in 63rd position at the halfway point of lap one. Yet by the end of lap two Ferguson had gained 13 places and was up to 50th position.
Meanwhile Ferguson’s teammate Kenta Gallagher, gridded 37th, was making steady progress through the field in the early stages, up to 31st position at the end of lap two.
Up ahead the Italian trio of Luca Braidot, Gerhard Kerschbaumer and Daniele Braidot were monopolising the podium spots while behind British champion Ferguson continued to make up for lost time, up to 44th position by the midway point of the race.
A lap later and the hard charging Ferguson was up into 39th position, homing in on his GB teammate Gallagher who had slipped to 34th position while up ahead Gerhard Kerschbaumer was leading ahead of Daniele Braidot and German Julian Schelb, Braidot’s brother Luca having slipped to fourth.
Kerschbaumer went on to take the title from Schelb and fast finishing Michiel van der Heijden while Gallagher eventually came home best of the GB riders in 28th position, with Ferguson four places behind in 32nd.
Speaking to Olympic Mountain Bike Coach Phil Dixon after the race the disappointment in the GB camp was evident, with Ferguson coming into the race in the form of his life.
“Four seconds into the race and he snapped his chain – it took a couple of minutes to fix and he’d damaged his gears in the process as well," said Dixon.
“He rode around to come 28th – he was in the best shape of his life. He would have been in with a shout for the win in that bike race. A real shame for him – I think he realises it’s an opportunity gone begging there.
“He’s nineteen years old and he’s got a good career ahead of him.
“All four cross country athletes [Ferguson, Gallagher, Alice Barnes and Mike Thompson] are going to ride the Eliminator on Sunday and there is another World Cup in Norway so there is another short term target for him [Grant] to have a go at.”
The day's GB representation was completed by Andrei Burton who made it to the finals of the Elite Men's 20 Inch Trials, the title going to clear winner Abel Mustieles of Spain with Burton finishing in 8th position.
The trials finals were conducted in rain lashed conditions which made for an epic end to the day's competition adding an extra dimension to an already technical exacting discipline, as Burton explained:
“It was pretty challenging even without the rain,” Burton mentioned. “When the rain came it really got tough and everything started slipping and the brakes didn’t work and the landing areas became a lot tougher to hit and stay on.
“There was a lot of pressure and I wasn’t too happy with my run but it was still a lot of fun out there.”