What a day of racing in the jungle! The rain that has pummeled Cairns for days finally let up, and a drying out track provided some fast and furious action. It was a great day out for the Atherton family once again, with Rachel and Gee taking convincing wins in front of a large and raucous crowd.
Even without any rain during the day, the course had developed into a slippery, rutted out affair, with a multitude of somewhat dodgy line choices in certain sections. The rock garden was abuzz with hundreds of lubed up fans making all manner of racket with air horns, cymbals, sticks, old rims, handlebars and even a chainsaw (without a chain attached thankfully). The fast, open jump sections were well patronised as well, and they were treated to some awesome arial displays as riders hit speeds of up to 70kmh! There were a few casualties unfortunately, with one rider (sorry we didn’t get his name up on the hill) breaking his leg and necessitating racing being delayed for fifteen minutes or so.
In the women’s race, local favourite Tracey Hannah sat in the hot seat for a while, getting up the hopes of the big crowd while the field whittled down to the last seeds. Unfortunately for her and the fans, Manon Carpenter, Emmeline Ragot, Morgane Charre and Rachel knocked her back to 5th. Rachel jointly leads the standings, tied with her countrywoman Carpenter after round two.
Then it was the turn of her brother to light up the course, and not even a borrowed pair of shoes from a spectator could stop him from blitzing the field. Josh ‘Ratboy’ Bryceland sat atop the leader board for a while, eventually ending up a brilliant 2nd, ahead of American Neko Mulally, who crashed and still ended up on the third step. Aaron Gwin continued his return to form in 4th, and Aussie favourite Sam Hill rounded out the podium. Fastest qualifier Sam Blenkinsop couldn’t quite put it all together and ended up top Kiwi in 6th. He now sits in 3rd overall in the World Cup standings, led by Aaron Gwin and Gee in 2nd.
The Kiwi juniors had a good day out, with Connor Hamilton 5th, Connor Sandri 6th, Keegan Wright 8th and Josh McCombie 9th.
Walking back down the hill proved to be a challenge for the masses of fans, and there were plenty of excursions into the undergrowth including our photographer Stefan Haworth with his huge camera pack. He still managed to bag these banger shots though. Enjoy.