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Hart wins first elite downhill world title

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Danny Hart (Great Britain) on his gold-medal winning ride.

Danny Hart (Great Britain) on his gold-medal winning ride.
(Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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Greg Minnaar (South Africa)

Greg Minnaar (South Africa)
(Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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A very muddy Gee Atherton (Great Britain)

A very muddy Gee Atherton (Great Britain)
(Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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Marc Beaumont (Great Britain)

Marc Beaumont (Great Britain)
(Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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Steve Peat (Great Britain)

Steve Peat (Great Britain)
(Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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Samuel Blenkinsop (New Zealand)

Samuel Blenkinsop (New Zealand)
(Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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Mickael Pascal (France)

Mickael Pascal (France)
(Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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Damien Spagnolo (France)

Damien Spagnolo (France)
(Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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Sam Hill (Australia)

Sam Hill (Australia)
(Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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Fabien Barel (France)

Fabien Barel (France)
(Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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Brendan Fairclough (Great Britain)

Brendan Fairclough (Great Britain)
(Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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The team from Mauritius rode single crown forks on one of the most difficult courses out there

The team from Mauritius rode single crown forks on one of the most difficult courses out there
(Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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Aaron Gwin (USA)

Aaron Gwin (USA)
(Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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Elite men's downhill podium (l-r): Damien Spagnolo (France), Danny Hart (Great Britain), Samuel Blenkinsop (New Zealand)

Elite men's downhill podium (l-r): Damien Spagnolo (France), Danny Hart (Great Britain), Samuel Blenkinsop (New Zealand)
(Image credit: Tour of Japan)

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.

Full Results

Elite men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Danny Hart (Great Britain)0:03:41.989
2Damien Spagnolo (France)0:00:11.699
3Samuel Blenkinsop (New Zealand)0:00:12.993
4Brendan Fairclough (Great Britain)0:00:13.135
5Mickael Pascal (France)0:00:14.642
6Marc Beaumont (Great Britain)0:00:15.445
7Samuel Hill (Australia)0:00:15.901
8Greg Minnaar (South Africa)0:00:15.990
9Brook Macdonald (New Zealand)0:00:16.932
10Fabien Barel (France)0:00:18.294
11Rémi Thirion (France)0:00:19.765
12Aaron Gwin (United States Of America)0:00:20.422
13Marco Milivinti (Italy)0:00:21.743
14Florent Payet (France)0:00:22.131
15Matthew Scoles (New Zealand)0:00:22.872
16Markus Pekoll (Austria)0:00:23.707
17Steve Peat (Great Britain)0:00:24.764
18Ludovic May (Switzerland)0:00:25.320
19Lorenzo Suding (Italy)0:00:25.335
20Bernat Guardia Pascual (Spain)0:00:25.800
21Andrew Neethling (South Africa)0:00:28.137
22Luke Strobel (United States Of America)0:00:28.961
23Justin Leov (New Zealand)0:00:29.010
24Marcelo Gutierrez Villegas (Colombia)0:00:32.339
25Emanuel Pombo (Portugal)0:00:32.489
26Marcus Klausmann (Germany)0:00:32.791
27Antonio Ferreiro Pajuelo (Spain)0:00:33.552
28Nick Beer (Switzerland)0:00:33.911
29Benny Strasser (Germany)0:00:34.332
30Nejc Rutar (Slovenia)0:00:35.345
31Ivan Oulego Moreno (Spain)0:00:36.429
32Timothy Bentley (South Africa)0:00:36.946
33Logan Binggeli (United States Of America)0:00:37.483
34Matthias Stonig (Austria)0:00:40.592
35Ziga Pandur (Slovenia)0:00:42.531
36Lars Peyer (Switzerland)0:00:42.615
37Kazuki Shimizu (Japan)0:00:43.313
38Marcel Beer (Switzerland)0:00:43.384
39Michael Hannah (Australia)0:00:44.077
40Attila Liszi (Hungary)0:00:44.446
41Rhys Willemse (Australia)0:00:44.605
42Duncan Riffle (United States Of America)0:00:44.842
43Shaun O'connor (Australia)0:00:45.898
44Chris Del Bosco (Canada)0:00:46.875
45Andréa Gamenara (Italy)0:00:47.458
46Ben Reid (Ireland)0:00:48.403
47Rob Fraser (Canada)0:00:48.430
48Zakarias Blom Johansen (Norway)0:00:49.547
49Curtis Keene (United States Of America)0:00:50.361
50Mauricio Andres Acuna Quintana (Chile)0:00:50.935
51Nataniel Giacomozzi (Brazil)0:00:51.010
52Gee Atherton (Great Britain)0:00:52.272
53Mauricio Ernesto Estrada Pulgarin (Colombia)0:00:52.439
54Johann Potgieter (South Africa)0:00:54.381
55Manuel Gruber (Austria)0:00:55.453
56Terje Nylende (Norway)0:00:57.719
57Martin Frei (Switzerland)0:00:58.710
58Walace Henrique Miranda (Brazil)0:00:59.121
59Francisco Pardal (Portugal)0:00:59.577
60Robin Wallner (Sweden)0:01:00.728
61Seanan O'riordan (Ireland)0:01:01.192
62Edgar Carballo Gonzalez (Spain)0:01:01.724
63Mathias Haas (Austria)0:01:02.630
64Remi Gauvin (Canada)0:01:09.495
65Markolf Berchtold (Brazil)0:01:13.325
66Miran Vauh (Slovenia)0:01:19.731
67Andrea Mocellin (Italy)0:01:20.141
68Oscar Harnstrom (Sweden)0:01:20.741
69Marcis Scerbinins (Latvia)0:01:23.676
70Greg Callaghan (Ireland)0:01:30.424
71Mitch Ropelato (United States Of America)0:01:32.133
72Scott Laughland (Ireland)0:01:36.055
73Claudio Cozzi (Italy)0:01:41.678
74Matej Laktis (Slovakia)0:01:48.204
75Dominik Gspan (Switzerland)0:01:48.321
76Daniel Pombo (Portugal)0:01:49.035
77Martin Mikulenka (Czech Republic)0:01:49.592
78Orlando Sarioglou (Greece)0:01:50.329
79Matej Charvat (Czech Republic)0:01:54.535
80Berislav Topol (Croatia)0:01:59.264
81Arnaud Li Hing Fui (Mauritius)0:02:02.771
82Matti Lehikoinen (Finland)0:02:04.314
83Martin Hanak (Czech Republic)0:02:23.077
84Valentyn Popov (Ukraine)0:02:24.776
85Kristoffer Haugland (Norway)0:02:25.060
86Matthieu Marion (Mauritius)0:02:53.467
87Gerard Wolfe (Ireland)0:03:17.758
88Erik-Lennart Purres (Estonia)0:03:20.279
89Nikola Klacinski (Croatia)0:03:30.545
90Frano Liovic (Croatia)0:03:58.602
91Josh Bryceland (Great Britain)0:04:10.930
92Nikolay Pukhir (Russian Federation)0:05:17.826
DNFBoris Tetzlaff (Austria)
DNSFilip Polc (Slovakia)
DNSRuaridh Cunningham (Great Britain)
DNSDean Tennant (Canada)

Teams
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Great Britain271pts
2France265
3New-Zealand255
4South Africa221
5United States Of America215
6Italy205
7Spain204
8Switzerland200
9Australia195
10Austria177
11Slovenia151
12Germany133
13Canada127
14Portugal122
15Colombia111
16Brazil108
17Ireland105
18Norway93
19Sweden60
20Japan57
21Hungary54
22Chile44
23Czech Republic43
24Latvia25
25Croatia23
26Mauritius21
27Slovakia20
28Greece16
29Finland12
30Ukraine10
31Estonia6
32Russian Federation2

 

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