Three years after he won the junior downhill world championship, Danny Hart (Great Britain) raced to his first elite title. On an epic day with torrential rains and a technically challenging course, Hart was the only rider to make his run look easy in the slippery, muddy, extremely treacherous conditions. Damien Spagnolo (France) and Sam Blenkinsop (New Zealand) earned the silver and bronze medals.
"I had a perfect day to have a track be technical, wet and in the pouring rain, and I had a faultless run," said Hart. "Maybe I made a few mistakes, but it was good overall. I saw I was leading by a few seconds and I thought, 'That has never happened before!'" The young Hart has yet to win a World Cup.
Racing in the rain, which had started several hours earlier, Remi Thiron (France) set one of the early fast times at 4:01.754. It was good enough to hold up for 11th on the day, even though almost 30 racers came after him.
Brendan Fairclough (Great Britain) bumped up the best time to 3:55.124 and became the first man to go under four minutes. It was almost good enough for a medal, but fell just one spot short.
Then came the favorites, one by one, down the mountain. In the conditions, it was a question of where each would dab and whether they would crash, and if so how many times. The closer it got to the top 10, the harder it rained.
Defending champion Sam Hill, just recently back to racing after injury, finished a respectable seventh at 3:57.890. He did not crash, but a few dabs cost him some important time.
Spagnolo was next with a 3:53.688, and he took over the hot seat despite at least two slips during his run. Staying upright was key, though, as many of the favorites were making major mistakes.
"I think I had a solid run. In some parts, I was able to boost and go for it," said Spagnolo. "As with everyone, there were some scary situations. This silver medal means a lot to me."
Perhaps the most spectacular crash was that of Josh Bryceland (Great Britain), who suddenly found himself doing a superman through the air. He landed hard and slid far in the mud while his bike went end over end a few times and down over the side of the course. Bryceland had to scramble over the barrier and down the hill to retrieve it, then climb back up with a muddy, heavy bike, but he was not obviously injured and managed to finish in 7:52.919.
Blenkinsop had a good run at 3:54.982, even after coming almost to a stop when he got his wheel stuck en route. The run put him in second place for the time being.
"I'm happy to crack the podium. I didn't have a good run, but it was good enough to get on the podium. The track was good, and I had fun on it. The rain put a smile on my face, and I was feeling good at the start."
"I think anyone who rode today would say they didn't have a good run because of the weather and the track. I lost my front wheel in a turn and then got back on it from then. I stalled up a bit again later in the track, too."
Former world champion Steve Peat's turn came and went - he did not appear to be a contender. Then came Marc Beaumont (Great Britain), Justin Leov (New Zealand), Andrew Neethling (South Africa), and Brook MacDonald (New Zealand). Leov crashed, Neethling near went off cousre and MacDonald had a few dabs.
That left the top four. Hart led them off and put in a brilliant run as he carried speed easily throughout and made it look like it really wasn't that slippery. He was four seconds up at the first split, then had a bit of a fishtail, but managed to keep it upright and fast. By the second split, he was nine seconds up, and he had so much time to spare that he styled a few jumps near the bottom, much to the delight of the drenched fans.
"I come from England, and it rains every weekend," said Hart. "I saw a river running down the track at the start. I thought I'd try to ride to the bottom in the river. It wasn't as grippy in the dry, but it was grippy enough."
All eyes were on Gee Atherton (Great Britain), but it was not his day. He looked slower than Hart and was 10 seconds down on him by the first split. Things only got worse for the 2008 World Champion as he suffered two major crashes on the way down, and he was so covered in mud by the bottom, you could barely see the blue and red of his kit.
Second to last, Greg Minnaar (South Africa) took the start, but he too looked slower than Hart and was 15 seconds behind by the first split.
That left World Cup champion Aaron Gwin (United States), who was considered the favorite going into the race. He was within one second of Hart at the first split and looked on track for a good run, when his winning streak came to an abrupt end. He crashed at high speed and got caught in the course markings. By the time he had stopped and untangled himself, his medal chances were done. He finished 12th.
"I crashed and got stuck in the net for what felt like a minute," said Gwin after finishing.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Danny Hart (Great Britain)||0:03:41.989|
|2||Damien Spagnolo (France)||0:00:11.699|
|3||Samuel Blenkinsop (New Zealand)||0:00:12.993|
|4||Brendan Fairclough (Great Britain)||0:00:13.135|
|5||Mickael Pascal (France)||0:00:14.642|
|6||Marc Beaumont (Great Britain)||0:00:15.445|
|7||Samuel Hill (Australia)||0:00:15.901|
|8||Greg Minnaar (South Africa)||0:00:15.990|
|9||Brook Macdonald (New Zealand)||0:00:16.932|
|10||Fabien Barel (France)||0:00:18.294|
|11||Rémi Thirion (France)||0:00:19.765|
|12||Aaron Gwin (United States Of America)||0:00:20.422|
|13||Marco Milivinti (Italy)||0:00:21.743|
|14||Florent Payet (France)||0:00:22.131|
|15||Matthew Scoles (New Zealand)||0:00:22.872|
|16||Markus Pekoll (Austria)||0:00:23.707|
|17||Steve Peat (Great Britain)||0:00:24.764|
|18||Ludovic May (Switzerland)||0:00:25.320|
|19||Lorenzo Suding (Italy)||0:00:25.335|
|20||Bernat Guardia Pascual (Spain)||0:00:25.800|
|21||Andrew Neethling (South Africa)||0:00:28.137|
|22||Luke Strobel (United States Of America)||0:00:28.961|
|23||Justin Leov (New Zealand)||0:00:29.010|
|24||Marcelo Gutierrez Villegas (Colombia)||0:00:32.339|
|25||Emanuel Pombo (Portugal)||0:00:32.489|
|26||Marcus Klausmann (Germany)||0:00:32.791|
|27||Antonio Ferreiro Pajuelo (Spain)||0:00:33.552|
|28||Nick Beer (Switzerland)||0:00:33.911|
|29||Benny Strasser (Germany)||0:00:34.332|
|30||Nejc Rutar (Slovenia)||0:00:35.345|
|31||Ivan Oulego Moreno (Spain)||0:00:36.429|
|32||Timothy Bentley (South Africa)||0:00:36.946|
|33||Logan Binggeli (United States Of America)||0:00:37.483|
|34||Matthias Stonig (Austria)||0:00:40.592|
|35||Ziga Pandur (Slovenia)||0:00:42.531|
|36||Lars Peyer (Switzerland)||0:00:42.615|
|37||Kazuki Shimizu (Japan)||0:00:43.313|
|38||Marcel Beer (Switzerland)||0:00:43.384|
|39||Michael Hannah (Australia)||0:00:44.077|
|40||Attila Liszi (Hungary)||0:00:44.446|
|41||Rhys Willemse (Australia)||0:00:44.605|
|42||Duncan Riffle (United States Of America)||0:00:44.842|
|43||Shaun O'connor (Australia)||0:00:45.898|
|44||Chris Del Bosco (Canada)||0:00:46.875|
|45||Andréa Gamenara (Italy)||0:00:47.458|
|46||Ben Reid (Ireland)||0:00:48.403|
|47||Rob Fraser (Canada)||0:00:48.430|
|48||Zakarias Blom Johansen (Norway)||0:00:49.547|
|49||Curtis Keene (United States Of America)||0:00:50.361|
|50||Mauricio Andres Acuna Quintana (Chile)||0:00:50.935|
|51||Nataniel Giacomozzi (Brazil)||0:00:51.010|
|52||Gee Atherton (Great Britain)||0:00:52.272|
|53||Mauricio Ernesto Estrada Pulgarin (Colombia)||0:00:52.439|
|54||Johann Potgieter (South Africa)||0:00:54.381|
|55||Manuel Gruber (Austria)||0:00:55.453|
|56||Terje Nylende (Norway)||0:00:57.719|
|57||Martin Frei (Switzerland)||0:00:58.710|
|58||Walace Henrique Miranda (Brazil)||0:00:59.121|
|59||Francisco Pardal (Portugal)||0:00:59.577|
|60||Robin Wallner (Sweden)||0:01:00.728|
|61||Seanan O'riordan (Ireland)||0:01:01.192|
|62||Edgar Carballo Gonzalez (Spain)||0:01:01.724|
|63||Mathias Haas (Austria)||0:01:02.630|
|64||Remi Gauvin (Canada)||0:01:09.495|
|65||Markolf Berchtold (Brazil)||0:01:13.325|
|66||Miran Vauh (Slovenia)||0:01:19.731|
|67||Andrea Mocellin (Italy)||0:01:20.141|
|68||Oscar Harnstrom (Sweden)||0:01:20.741|
|69||Marcis Scerbinins (Latvia)||0:01:23.676|
|70||Greg Callaghan (Ireland)||0:01:30.424|
|71||Mitch Ropelato (United States Of America)||0:01:32.133|
|72||Scott Laughland (Ireland)||0:01:36.055|
|73||Claudio Cozzi (Italy)||0:01:41.678|
|74||Matej Laktis (Slovakia)||0:01:48.204|
|75||Dominik Gspan (Switzerland)||0:01:48.321|
|76||Daniel Pombo (Portugal)||0:01:49.035|
|77||Martin Mikulenka (Czech Republic)||0:01:49.592|
|78||Orlando Sarioglou (Greece)||0:01:50.329|
|79||Matej Charvat (Czech Republic)||0:01:54.535|
|80||Berislav Topol (Croatia)||0:01:59.264|
|81||Arnaud Li Hing Fui (Mauritius)||0:02:02.771|
|82||Matti Lehikoinen (Finland)||0:02:04.314|
|83||Martin Hanak (Czech Republic)||0:02:23.077|
|84||Valentyn Popov (Ukraine)||0:02:24.776|
|85||Kristoffer Haugland (Norway)||0:02:25.060|
|86||Matthieu Marion (Mauritius)||0:02:53.467|
|87||Gerard Wolfe (Ireland)||0:03:17.758|
|88||Erik-Lennart Purres (Estonia)||0:03:20.279|
|89||Nikola Klacinski (Croatia)||0:03:30.545|
|90||Frano Liovic (Croatia)||0:03:58.602|
|91||Josh Bryceland (Great Britain)||0:04:10.930|
|92||Nikolay Pukhir (Russian Federation)||0:05:17.826|
|DNF||Boris Tetzlaff (Austria)|
|DNS||Filip Polc (Slovakia)|
|DNS||Ruaridh Cunningham (Great Britain)|
|DNS||Dean Tennant (Canada)|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|5||United States Of America||215|
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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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