George Branningan (Devinci) on his way to a breakthrough performance in Hafjell, Norway
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Downhiller returns from injury to finish as runner-up in Hafjell
Twenty-year-old New Zealand rider George Brannigan produced a breakthrough performance to finish as the runner-up in the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup finale in Norway on Saturday. Brannigan was just 0.4 seconds behind his DeVinci Global teammate Steve Smith as the pair dominated the final downhill World Cup of the season at the alpine venue of Hafjell.
The young kiwi's strong performance came only weeks after his season seemed jeopardy following a major crash in the USA where he cracked his ribs and had a partially punctured lung.
It is the second podium for a kiwi rider this year following the victory by fellow Hawkes Bay rider Brook MacDonald at the Val D'Isere World Cup. The placing pushed Brannigan into the top-10 overall on the World Cup standings.
Brannigan had a measured start, only 12th quickest through the first time split but he claimed the top spot in the hot seat as fastest with a lightning run through the rest of the course to clock 3:32.164.
His DeVinci Global teammate Smith then tore through the opening big jump section nearly two seconds faster than the kiwi and while he lost time to Brannigan through the rest of the course, the Canadian held on to claim the victory in 3:31.764.
"I am pretty stoked," Brannigan said. "It is definite relief to be up there. This season my main aim was consistency after last year, just being in the top 20.This race I wanted to hold it open and get a really good result. It feels like a long time coming.
"My contract is up but I have no reason not to sign with DeVinci again. It is an awesome team and we all get on well."
The Hawkes Bay rider says he will ease back into riding over the New Zealand summer.
"The main focus when I get home will just be to enjoy riding, even through the summer series and after the nationals I will really step it up in training and try to come into the season really strong next year."
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