Gee Atherton wins downhill world championships in Hafjell

Gee Atherton gave Great Britain its second downhill world title of the day at the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Hafjell, Norway on Sunday afternoon. Another Brit, Josh Bryceland managed to finish second despite breaking his foot during his run. Troy Brosnan (Australia) was third. The top three riders were within 0.566 seconds of each other on what was a dramatic crash- and mechanical-filled kind of a day.

"It's an incredible feeling to be back in the rainbow stripes," said Atherton as he celebrated his second elite downhill world title. "2008 was a long time ago. It's been awhile, but winning the world champs is never something you stop wanting, and I never stopped working toward it."

Bryn Atkinson (Australia) set one of the early fast times with a 3:29.973, setting him up for an extended stay in the hot seat.

The 70th man down the mountain, Jack Moir (Australia) bettered Atkinson's time to record a 3:27.600, and another eight riders later, Remi Thiron (France) took over after a super smooth run ending in 3:26.854 and making him the first man to break 3:27.

Soon after, the favorites started rolling down the mountain and many of them saw their chances evaporate when they crashed, including George Brannigan (New Zealand) and Mick Hannah (Australia). Both appeared to be on fire until their crashes.

Andrew Neethling, a previous podium finisher in Hafjell at the World Cup, was also having a good run, but he later broke his chain.

Neko Mullaly (United States) was the next man down the mountain and with his 3:25.979, he took over the hot seat. What was especially impressive was that he did nearly all of the run without a chain. With or without a chain, it was by far the American's best international performance.

"Out of the start ramp, I broke my chain during the first gear shift. I rode my bike well aside from that and I guess that's what did it," said Mulally. "I couldn't believe it was green when I came across the finish." His time was good enough for fourth on the day.

Other favorites also crashed including a spectacular endo from former world champion Sam Hill (Australia) and a crash by another former world champion Danny Hart (Great Britain).

Neither Aaron Gwin (United States), Loic Bruni (France) nor Matthew Simmonds (Great Britain) were fast enough to medal.

Defending world champion Greg Minnaar (South Africa) was having a good run until he flatted and crashed.

The fourth to last man down the mountain was Atherton. He dabbed a foot during his run, but set the fastest time of 3:23.800 and then waited to see if it would hold up.

"My run was ok, but it was messy," said Atherton. "There were some mistakes out there, but it's that kind of track. You have to expect things to change. I wasn't pleased with the run, but I knew I'd made it to the bottom and that's all you can ask for really."

"At the time, I thought it wasn't good enough for the gold. I thought I'd blown it and made too many mistakes. These days the riders are going so fast you can't make any mistakes because they are won by tenths or hundredths of tha second."

Next up, Sam Blenkinsop (New Zealand) pedalled as he flew through the air and did his run generally in high style, but wasn't fast enough to make the podium.

Then, Troy Brosnan (Australia), a former junior world champion, clocked a 3:24.335 and moved into second place.

Then all eyes were on the last man down the mountain, Josh Bryceland (Great Britain). He was coming off a fantastic season, including a World Cup overall win. He was the fastest at the first two splits and looked to be having a great run, that is until he came down too late on one jump in the final 200m. He landed so hard that his foot slammed into the pedal and was broken.

Startled and confused by what happened, Bryceland somehow managed to keep it upright and finish the race fast enough to earn the silver medal and bump Brosnan to third.

"I didn't know I'd won it today literally until the last man was down. It was a close call," said Atherton. "It shows you how dangerous the sport is and how much riders are putting on the line these days."

Brosnan said, "I think the world champs is always a special race. Everyone steps their game up and pushes hard. I realized that and I saw the times the guys were putting in all week, and I knew I had to keep pushing to find better lines and go faster and faster."

"The day was good. I was feeling pretty nervous but also wanted to get out there and do my best. I had to do my own race and see where that put me. To get third is a break-out year for me. It will be good to come back next year and get the win."

The usual post-race celebrations were muted as Bryceland was carried off the course by teammates since he couldn't walk on his injured foot. The UCI later reported that he was taken immediately to the hospital and would be undergoing surgery, possibly for a fractured metatarsal and one or more dislocations.

Full Results

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Elite men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Gee Atherton (Great Britain)0:03:23.800
2Josh Bryceland (Great Britain)0:00:00.407
3Troy Brosnan (Australia)0:00:00.566
4Neko Mulally (United States Of America)0:00:02.210
5Brook Macdonald (New Zealand)0:00:03.028
6Rémi Thirion (France)0:00:03.085
7Samuel Blenkinsop (New Zealand)0:00:03.199
8Loic Bruni (France)0:00:03.314
9Matthew Simmonds (Great Britain)0:00:03.457
10Jack Moir (Australia)0:00:03.831
11Sam Dale (Great Britain)0:00:04.142
12Markus Pekoll (Austria)0:00:04.700
13Nick Beer (Switzerland)0:00:04.940
14Aaron Gwin (United States Of America)0:00:04.997
15Cameron Cole (New Zealand)0:00:05.438
16Steve Peat (Great Britain)0:00:05.834
17Danny Hart (Great Britain)0:00:05.939
18Bryn Atkinson (Australia)0:00:06.204
19Greg Williamson (Great Britain)0:00:06.735
20Mark Wallace (Canada)0:00:06.866
21Andrew Neethling (South Africa)0:00:07.284
22Marcelo Gutierrez Villegas (Colombia)0:00:07.564
23Robin Wallner (Sweden)0:00:07.604
24Johannes Fischbach (Germany)0:00:08.152
25Guillaume Cauvin (France)0:00:09.137
26Samuel Hill (Australia)0:00:09.187
27Eliot Jackson (United States Of America)0:00:09.326
28Oscar Harnstrom (Sweden)0:00:09.515
29Johannes Von Klebelsberg (Italy)0:00:09.789
30Greg Minnaar (South Africa)0:00:10.064
31Antonio Ferreiro Pajuelo (Spain)0:00:10.119
32Lars Vatnebryn Sandviken (Norway)0:00:10.475
33Wyn Masters (New Zealand)0:00:10.994
34Kyle Sangers (Canada)0:00:11.161
35Edward Masters (New Zealand)0:00:11.507
36Remi Gauvin (Canada)0:00:11.694
37Isak Leivsson (Norway)0:00:11.983
38David Trummer (Austria)0:00:12.077
39Matthew Walker (New Zealand)0:00:12.255
40Emanuel Pombo (Portugal)0:00:12.624
41Graeme Mudd (Australia)0:00:12.678
42Mckay Vezina (Canada)0:00:12.795
43Ziga Pandur (Slovenia)0:00:13.610
44Bernardo Neves Cruz (Brazil)0:00:13.738
45Slawomir Lukasik (Poland)0:00:13.877
46Bernat Guardia Pascual (Spain)0:00:13.986
47Francisco Pardal (Portugal)0:00:14.734
48Marcus Klausmann (Germany)0:00:15.601
49Niklas Wallner (Sweden)0:00:15.939
50Gianluca Vernassa (Italy)0:00:16.261
51Ondrej Stepanek (Czech Republic)0:00:17.115
52Mario José Jarrin Molina (Ecuador)0:00:17.265
53Carlo Caire (Italy)0:00:17.595
54Jure Zabjek (Slovenia)0:00:17.742
55Terje Nylende (Norway)0:00:18.151
56Tiaan Odendaal (South Africa)0:00:18.157
57Kazuki Shimizu (Japan)0:00:18.555
58Alexander Kangas (Sweden)0:00:18.848
59Maxime Chapuis (Switzerland)0:00:19.549
60Lucas Bertol (Brazil)0:00:21.305
61Samuel Bull (South Africa)0:00:21.698
62Niclas Andersen (Norway)0:00:21.874
63Joshua Barth (Germany)0:00:22.629
64Stefan Garlicki (South Africa)0:00:23.138
65Max Morgan (United States Of America)0:00:23.203
66Christopher Mcglinchey (Ireland)0:00:23.809
67Nikolay Pukhir (Russian Federation)0:00:24.234
68Attila Liszi (Hungary)0:00:26.238
69Lukas Ucen (Slovakia)0:00:26.350
70Juan Sebastian Reascos Yepez (Ecuador)0:00:28.407
71Mika Sukanen (Finland)0:00:29.349
72Felix Heine (Germany)0:00:33.711
73Nataniel Giacomozzi (Brazil)0:00:33.736
74Snorre Setrom (Norway)0:00:34.035
75Rastislav Baranek (Slovakia)0:00:35.156
76Lucas Eduardo Alves De Borba (Brazil)0:00:36.446
77Lukas Splichal (Czech Republic)0:00:39.200
78Stanislav Sehnal (Czech Republic)0:00:39.635
79George Brannigan (New Zealand)0:00:40.255
80Gabor Palotai (Hungary)0:00:42.084
81Michael Hannah (Australia)0:00:45.366
82Daniil Semenov (Russian Federation)0:00:53.011
83Jasper Jauch (Germany)0:00:53.202
84Raido Zirna (Estonia)0:01:04.981
85Hendrik Kirsipuu (Estonia)0:01:05.902
86Juho Mattus (Estonia)0:01:17.108
87Saken Kagarov (Kazakhstan)0:01:18.699
DNFZakarias Blom Johansen (Norway)Row 87 - Cell 2
DNFPeter Keresztes (Hungary)Row 88 - Cell 2
DNFAki Färm (Finland)Row 89 - Cell 2
DNSConnor Fearon (Australia)Row 90 - Cell 2
DNSManuel Gruber (Austria)Row 91 - Cell 2
DNSBoris Tetzlaff (Austria)Row 92 - Cell 2
DNSBenny Strasser (Germany)Row 93 - Cell 2
DNSChristian Textor (Germany)Row 94 - Cell 2
DNSVille Ormo (Finland)Row 95 - Cell 2
DNSKiran Mackinnon (United States Of America)Row 96 - Cell 2
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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Great Britain261pts
2New-Zealand246Row 1 - Cell 3
3Australia242Row 2 - Cell 3
4France234Row 3 - Cell 3
5United States Of America228Row 4 - Cell 3
6Canada183Row 5 - Cell 3
7Sweden173Row 6 - Cell 3
8South Africa166Row 7 - Cell 3
9Norway149Row 8 - Cell 3
10Italy141Row 9 - Cell 3
11Germany138Row 10 - Cell 3
12Austria132Row 11 - Cell 3
13Switzerland110Row 12 - Cell 3
14Spain105Row 13 - Cell 3
15Brazil96Row 14 - Cell 3
16Portugal95Row 15 - Cell 3
17Slovenia85Row 16 - Cell 3
18Colombia69Row 17 - Cell 3
19Czech Republic67Row 18 - Cell 3
20Ecuador60Row 19 - Cell 3
21Poland46Row 20 - Cell 3
22Slovakia38Row 21 - Cell 3
23Japan34Row 22 - Cell 3
24Hungary34Row 23 - Cell 3
25Russian Federation33Row 24 - Cell 3
26Ireland25Row 25 - Cell 3
27Finland20Row 26 - Cell 3
28Estonia18Row 27 - Cell 3
29Kazakhstan4Row 28 - Cell 3


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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.

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