By Steve Medcroft
The 2006 UCI mountain-bike World Championships, held in Rotorua, New Zealand, ended last weekend. Striped jerseys were given out in fourteen championship categories.
Numerous champions defended their titles, including cross-country racers Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa (Norway) and Julien Absalon (France). Dahle-Flesjaa stormed away in typical fashion and left 2:45 worth of trail between herself and second-placed Irinia Kalentieva (Russian Federation) by the end of the race. Absalon's win was his third world championship victory in a row. His was not so as won as Dahle-Flesjaa's though; he held off Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) by a mere 43 seconds.
Jill Kintner also repeated her 2005 world championship four-cross win with a victory in Rotorua. An estimated crowd of 7,000 people lined the wide-open course to watch her do it. Michal Prokop (Czech Republic) regained the world championship jersey he lost last year to American Brian Lopes in men's four cross.
There was plenty of room for new champions as well. Aussie Sam Hill won the men's downhill event, and countrywoman and phenom Tracey Hannah, who we saw taking her first international win in the U.S. based NORBA series, won the junior women's title. Sabrina Jonnier (France) finally got her world championship in women's elite downhill now that her dominant countrywoman Anne Caroline Chaussen has retired from racing (Chaussen won the title every year from 1993 on - a streak interrupted only in 2004 when she crashed in training and could not race the Worlds).
Fresh faces on World Championship podiums were also seen in the younger rider's events; the People's Republic of China went one-two in the women's U23 cross-country (Ren Chengyuan and Ying Liu), proving that they are taking success at the 2008 Beijing Olympics seriously and Slovenian Tanja Zakelj scored that country's first-ever World Championship in mountain biking.
Cyclingnews brought you an incredible amount of coverage from Worlds; 14 full competition reports, full results from all categories, pro bike and athlete feature articles as well as almost a thousand photographs. And you can get to it all through our 2006 World Championships home page.