Bruni and Rachel Atherton claim World downhill titles

Third rainbow jersey for Atherton in Andorra

Loic Bruni put his run of bad luck and second place finishes behind him to claim his first elite downhill victory on the biggest stage of all in Andorraand claim the rainbow jersey. Bruni, the 2012 junior downhill world champion who finished the World Cup series in second place after four second place finishes, became the first French winner in ten years bettered Greg Minnaar (South Africa) and Josh Bryceland (Great Britain). In the women's final it was no surprise as Rachel Atherton's dominance of 2015 continued with 27-year-old claiming her third career rainbow jersey.

Australian Mick Hannah had set the early benchmark in the men's race on the dry track, which hardly resembled the muddy Vallnord course from earlier in the week, before Mike Jones (Great Britain) slashed three seconds off his time which would prove to be good enough for fourth overall by day's end.

Three-time world champion Minnaar displaced Jones from the hot seat with a blistering run, four seconds quicker than the young Brit. Defending champion Gee Atherton (Great Britain) couldn't make a second Atherton double to go with the sibling's 2008 Val Di Sole success as he crashed out of medal contention. Josh Bryceland was the next rider capable of challenging for victory but found himself sitting in second place just over two seconds behind Minnaar, eventually finishing third for the second straight year.

Bruni has enjoyed several visits to the World Cup podiums of recent years and posted the fastest time in qualifying on three occasions in 2015 but hadn't managed to secure a breakthrough win. The 20-year-finished as the only rider to go under 4:20 minutes as he shaved two seconds of Minnaar's time with Troy Brosnan (Australia) and Aaron Gwin (USA) to come.

"When I started I didn't feel that great," explained Bruni, "not confident. So I did everything I could to get a good rhythm. The first bit is pretty physical and I gave everything at the top. I tried to find a very good flow. I didn't believe it could be possible. I wasn't even thinking about the win and I had a good run. At the bottom were all the people and fans, so I went off the brakes and went really loose, and I held it to the bottom. It's amazing."

Gwin, who won four of the seven World Cup rounds, started fast only to crash and see his dreams of a rainbow jersey dissipate for another year. As Bronson had also crashed, when footage of Gwin in the scrubs came up on screen, Bruni was celebrating his first elite downhill worlds title and erasing the recent memory of a run of second place finishes.

For Atherron, 2015 was all about redemption for last year's worlds when countrwoman Manon Carpenter got the better of her in Hafjell and Lillehammer. New Zealand's Alanna Columb and Sophie Tyas were the early pace setters in the women's final as they went under six minutes before Miranda Miller (Canada) moved in to the hot seat.

With four riders to come, Tracey Hannah (Australia) blitzed the course to take 12 seconds off Morgane Charre's (France) time before the final trio of Tahnee Seagrave, Carpenter and Atherton (Great Britain) set out.

A crash ended Seagrave's hopes as she finished fifth, but there was no mistake from Carpenter as she slashed six seconds off Hannah's time with Atherton, the only rider able to dash his hopes of back-to-back rainbows.

Having won six straight World Cup rounds, Atherton was clearly the form rider and she lived up to expectations by becoming the first rider to go under 5:10 minutes and better Carpenter's time by three seconds.

"Wow, I can't believe it," exclaimed Atherton. "I'm really happy. I knew it was going to be hard today. The track is crazy. So dry now compared to in the week. It's fast. You have to hang in all the way down. I wanted it this year. I wanted both titles back [world champion and World Cup overall]. It's pretty sick. I'm so happy."

"Getting beaten by Manon [Carpenter] last year kicks you in the ass a bit. You go into the winter thinking 'I gotta train'. It's amazing. Last year it was Brits 1-2-3 at the World Champs and this year 1-2. We are definitely holding our own."

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