Published: 1 September 2013
Image: Darren Goddard/Gameplan Media
Great Britain's Rachel Atherton won the elite women's downhill world title, beating second placed Emmeline Ragot of France by a huge 8.6 seconds with an inch-perfect run. Matt Simmonds was the best Brit in the elite men's downhill final, while earlier in the cross country eliminator it was disappointment for Kenta Gallagher, exiting the contest in the 1/8 finals.
Atherton scorched the official timed run the previous day and was the hot favourite for today's final. For much of the finals the hotseat was dominated by Australians, with Tracey Hannah, second in qualifying occupying the hotseat alongside fellow Australian Caroline Buchanan until she was unseated by Frenchwoman Emmeline Ragot, who bested Hannah's time by four seconds.
Atherton had it all to do but didn't let the pressure get to her, putting together a powerful and technically perfect run, fastest on both intermediate splits, to reclaim the title that she first earned in 2008.
“I am just so happy right now,” exclaimed Atherton shortly after crossing the finish line. “It’s been a long time coming with me having won my last title in 2008 and so I was starting to wonder if it would ever come again.
“I really wanted to these rainbow stripes so I’m just really stoked to have done it today!
“It was really tough but I heard all the people screaming and yelling on the pedally section and I was just like ‘Dig, dig dig!’ the whole way to the finish! I was in absolute agony and I think I’ll need a whole sea of salt to recover but that was wild!”
Atherton's teammate Manon Carpenter was hotly tipped for a podium spot but a mistake in the top section of the course costed her dearly, finishing in last position 49 seconds down. Carpenter later Tweeted "Can't actually believe that happened. Sorry to the photographer I just landed on, I hope you're alright...!"
Fellow Brit Fionn Griffiths took 12th place, 30 seconds down on Atherton's world title time.
Matt Simmonds produced the surprise Great Britain performance of the day in the elite men's downhill final, finishing fifth as home rider and reigning world champion Greg Minnaar retained his world title. Despite entering the event in peerless form and posting a hot timed run, it wasn’t to be Gee Atherton’s day, the world cup leader finishing in seventh place.
Jared Graves of Australian was first to set a real benchmark, riding a lightweight trail bike rather than a heavyweight downhill rig, smashing 12 seconds off the previous best time and taking the fight to the remainder of the day’s competitors.
Great Britain’s Matt Simmonds put in an incredible ride to challenge Graves’ time, finishing just 0.6 of a second down on the Australian.
2011 world champion Danny Hart suffered a mechanical, losing his chain and scuppering any hopes he had of posting a competitive time, eventually finishing 66th.
Graves’ time stood until his countryman Mick Hannah took to the track and produced a stunning run pushing Simmonds off the podium, shaving almost four seconds off the fastest time, with just five racers to go, including Gee Atherton and reigning world champion Greg Minnaar.
Home rider Minnaar didn’t disappoint the South African crowd, taking the lead and 0.3 seconds off the fastest time.
Fastest qualifier Steve Smith was next but crashed on the first corner, ruining his chances and leaving it to Atherton to bring the final challenge. In the end though, Atherton couldn’t match the pace of Minnaar, ending his run seventh, 4.3 seconds down.
Great Britain’s Steve Peat was 15th, Josh Bryceland 19th while Marc Beaumont took 27th place.
The morning of the final day of competition saw the Cross Country Eliminator (XCE) with four Great Britain riders in participating; Kenta Gallagher, Grant Ferguson, Michael Thompson and Alice Barnes.
Thompson and Ferguson failed to qualify for the finals finishing 42nd and 43rd respectively. Kenta Gallagher was eliminated in the 1/8 finals after qualifying 12th fastest earlier in the morning.
Come the 1/8 final Gallagher started powerfully leading it out on the start straight. However, Gallagher was snagged by another rider on the right hander at the start of the first climb, dropping into third position.
The British Cycling Olympic Academy Programme rider gave it everything in an attempt to regain a qualifying position in the remainder of the race but couldn’t quite catch second placed Rafael Gagne of Canada, thumping the bars in frustration as he crossed the line. Paul van der Ploeg (Australia) took the title in a tightly contested final from Austria's Daniel Federspiel and Argentina's Catriel Andres Soto.
Junior Great Britain rider Alice Barnes was also eliminated in the 1/8 finals. Following a strong qualifying ride against elite opposition, Barnes was outgunned by her 1/8 final heat which included Olympian Eva Lechner of Italy and South Africa’s Mariske Strauss but gained valuable experience at the top level of the sport. Alexandra Engen (Sweden) went on to retain her world title in the final ahead of Jolanda Neff (Switzerland) and Linda Indergand (Switzerland).