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.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Gee Atherton (Great Britain)||0:03:23.800|
|2||Josh Bryceland (Great Britain)||0:00:00.407|
|3||Troy Brosnan (Australia)||0:00:00.566|
|4||Neko Mulally (United States Of America)||0:00:02.210|
|5||Brook Macdonald (New Zealand)||0:00:03.028|
|6||Rémi Thirion (France)||0:00:03.085|
|7||Samuel Blenkinsop (New Zealand)||0:00:03.199|
|8||Loic Bruni (France)||0:00:03.314|
|9||Matthew Simmonds (Great Britain)||0:00:03.457|
|10||Jack Moir (Australia)||0:00:03.831|
|11||Sam Dale (Great Britain)||0:00:04.142|
|12||Markus Pekoll (Austria)||0:00:04.700|
|13||Nick Beer (Switzerland)||0:00:04.940|
|14||Aaron Gwin (United States Of America)||0:00:04.997|
|15||Cameron Cole (New Zealand)||0:00:05.438|
|16||Steve Peat (Great Britain)||0:00:05.834|
|17||Danny Hart (Great Britain)||0:00:05.939|
|18||Bryn Atkinson (Australia)||0:00:06.204|
|19||Greg Williamson (Great Britain)||0:00:06.735|
|20||Mark Wallace (Canada)||0:00:06.866|
|21||Andrew Neethling (South Africa)||0:00:07.284|
|22||Marcelo Gutierrez Villegas (Colombia)||0:00:07.564|
|23||Robin Wallner (Sweden)||0:00:07.604|
|24||Johannes Fischbach (Germany)||0:00:08.152|
|25||Guillaume Cauvin (France)||0:00:09.137|
|26||Samuel Hill (Australia)||0:00:09.187|
|27||Eliot Jackson (United States Of America)||0:00:09.326|
|28||Oscar Harnstrom (Sweden)||0:00:09.515|
|29||Johannes Von Klebelsberg (Italy)||0:00:09.789|
|30||Greg Minnaar (South Africa)||0:00:10.064|
|31||Antonio Ferreiro Pajuelo (Spain)||0:00:10.119|
|32||Lars Vatnebryn Sandviken (Norway)||0:00:10.475|
|33||Wyn Masters (New Zealand)||0:00:10.994|
|34||Kyle Sangers (Canada)||0:00:11.161|
|35||Edward Masters (New Zealand)||0:00:11.507|
|36||Remi Gauvin (Canada)||0:00:11.694|
|37||Isak Leivsson (Norway)||0:00:11.983|
|38||David Trummer (Austria)||0:00:12.077|
|39||Matthew Walker (New Zealand)||0:00:12.255|
|40||Emanuel Pombo (Portugal)||0:00:12.624|
|41||Graeme Mudd (Australia)||0:00:12.678|
|42||Mckay Vezina (Canada)||0:00:12.795|
|43||Ziga Pandur (Slovenia)||0:00:13.610|
|44||Bernardo Neves Cruz (Brazil)||0:00:13.738|
|45||Slawomir Lukasik (Poland)||0:00:13.877|
|46||Bernat Guardia Pascual (Spain)||0:00:13.986|
|47||Francisco Pardal (Portugal)||0:00:14.734|
|48||Marcus Klausmann (Germany)||0:00:15.601|
|49||Niklas Wallner (Sweden)||0:00:15.939|
|50||Gianluca Vernassa (Italy)||0:00:16.261|
|51||Ondrej Stepanek (Czech Republic)||0:00:17.115|
|52||Mario José Jarrin Molina (Ecuador)||0:00:17.265|
|53||Carlo Caire (Italy)||0:00:17.595|
|54||Jure Zabjek (Slovenia)||0:00:17.742|
|55||Terje Nylende (Norway)||0:00:18.151|
|56||Tiaan Odendaal (South Africa)||0:00:18.157|
|57||Kazuki Shimizu (Japan)||0:00:18.555|
|58||Alexander Kangas (Sweden)||0:00:18.848|
|59||Maxime Chapuis (Switzerland)||0:00:19.549|
|60||Lucas Bertol (Brazil)||0:00:21.305|
|61||Samuel Bull (South Africa)||0:00:21.698|
|62||Niclas Andersen (Norway)||0:00:21.874|
|63||Joshua Barth (Germany)||0:00:22.629|
|64||Stefan Garlicki (South Africa)||0:00:23.138|
|65||Max Morgan (United States Of America)||0:00:23.203|
|66||Christopher Mcglinchey (Ireland)||0:00:23.809|
|67||Nikolay Pukhir (Russian Federation)||0:00:24.234|
|68||Attila Liszi (Hungary)||0:00:26.238|
|69||Lukas Ucen (Slovakia)||0:00:26.350|
|70||Juan Sebastian Reascos Yepez (Ecuador)||0:00:28.407|
|71||Mika Sukanen (Finland)||0:00:29.349|
|72||Felix Heine (Germany)||0:00:33.711|
|73||Nataniel Giacomozzi (Brazil)||0:00:33.736|
|74||Snorre Setrom (Norway)||0:00:34.035|
|75||Rastislav Baranek (Slovakia)||0:00:35.156|
|76||Lucas Eduardo Alves De Borba (Brazil)||0:00:36.446|
|77||Lukas Splichal (Czech Republic)||0:00:39.200|
|78||Stanislav Sehnal (Czech Republic)||0:00:39.635|
|79||George Brannigan (New Zealand)||0:00:40.255|
|80||Gabor Palotai (Hungary)||0:00:42.084|
|81||Michael Hannah (Australia)||0:00:45.366|
|82||Daniil Semenov (Russian Federation)||0:00:53.011|
|83||Jasper Jauch (Germany)||0:00:53.202|
|84||Raido Zirna (Estonia)||0:01:04.981|
|85||Hendrik Kirsipuu (Estonia)||0:01:05.902|
|86||Juho Mattus (Estonia)||0:01:17.108|
|87||Saken Kagarov (Kazakhstan)||0:01:18.699|
|DNF||Zakarias Blom Johansen (Norway)|
|DNF||Peter Keresztes (Hungary)|
|DNF||Aki Färm (Finland)|
|DNS||Connor Fearon (Australia)|
|DNS||Manuel Gruber (Austria)|
|DNS||Boris Tetzlaff (Austria)|
|DNS||Benny Strasser (Germany)|
|DNS||Christian Textor (Germany)|
|DNS||Ville Ormo (Finland)|
|DNS||Kiran Mackinnon (United States Of America)|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|5||United States Of America||228|
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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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