Saalfelden Leogang, Austria, September 2nd 2012 – The new downhill World Champions were crowned today in Leogang. In the Men's Elite class South African rider Greg Minnaar finished on top of the podium, followed by Gee Atherton from the UK and Canadian Steve Smith. In fourth came Mick Hannah (AUS) and in fifth Sam Hill (AUS). In the Women's Elite competition, Frenchwoman Morgane Charre surprisingly took the title with an awesome run, leaving behind last year’s World Champion Ragot and Brit Manon Carpenter. Fourth place went to Floriane Pugin from France followed by Rachel Atherton.
Sunday brought perfect weather conditions for riders and fans, sunny and dry. Thus, over 12,000 spectators didn’t want to miss the downhill final in Leogang. The 116 male athletes and 33 female athletes presented mountain biking on an absolute world class level. In the men’s competition it was Greg Minnaar in the end who came down as the fastest rider on the extreme demanding “Speedster” track in the Leogang Bikepark. Despite plenty of roots sections, up-to 20-metre jumps and a lot of tight berms the world’s best downhillers raced in high speed to the finish, where huge crowds were cheering for every athlete.
Brit Sam Dale (finished 12th) had a long wait on the hot seat. But when it came to the top ten of the starting list, there was lots of movement on the leader board and the riders were high-fiving each other when switching spots on the hot seat. The fastest from yesterday’s training Mick Hannah (AUS) showed a pretty clean run and was in the lead until the top trio Atherton, Minnaar and Gwin came on the track. Aaron Gwin, US Gold medal hope and last starter was out of the race after the first time split due to “mechanical problems” (as he stated), so he finished the race in rank 83. A big disappointment after his perfect season in the World Cup. At that moment it was already clear: Greg Minnaar is the new DH World Champion.
Gee Atherton rode down the 2.6 km long track without any mistakes and took the lead, but had to leave his spot on the hotseat just a few minutes later, when Minnaar finished half a second faster. The 30-year-old South African found an impressively smooth line through the technical demanding roots passage and also handled the rock section perfectly. Minnaar's first comments as World Champion were as follows: "I was waiting nine years for this title. In the meantime I took a lot of bronze medals, but now I am where I was heading for in the last 10 years. This season’s training in Leogang was really worth it.”
We should not forget downhill legend Steve Peat (GBR), participating in his 20th World Championship in a row, a performance that probably won’t be reproduced for quite a long time. A place in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame should be assured for him. After a fast split time, he was out of the title race because of an unfortunate crash in one of the malicious berms. To the frenetic applause of the Austrian fans, Austrian rider Markus Pekoll went for his first World Championship top ten placing in his career (rank 9th).
The women's elite class was dominated by French riders. Morgan Charre had the race of her life. After the hot seat was taken for a long time by the Canadian combo Gatto, Brown and Miller, the new downhill World Champion started as eighth last and stayed in the middle of the hot seat until the end of the finals. Especially on the lower part of the track Charre rode incredibly fast: “I was pedalling and pedalling, it was unbelievably exhausting but I found the perfect line. I still can’t believe I am World Champion!”, commented the French, who will celebrate her 22th birthday the upcoming Thursday and gave herself already the sweetest present she could imagine.
For last year’s World Champion Emmeline Ragot it all looked really good and it seemed like she could defend her title. She was leading after the first time split, but in the lower section she couldn’t beat Charre’s masterpiece on the track and finished second with about a second of backlog. Tightly behind her Manon Carpenter from the UK finished a nice run without any mistakes and finally got on the podium. Rachel Atherton, considered as title favourite by many, only finished fifth due to a back injury, and has to leave Leogang quite disappointed. Floriane Pugin, after the first time split still was heading for a medal, finished 4th in the end and was one of three French riders in the top five.
In the Junior’s competition another French rider took the title: Top-favourite Loic Bruni showed the fastest run as expected. With more than 3 seconds in advance he was followed by US-rider Richard Rude and Connor Fearon (AUS). In the women junior’s competition Canadian Holly Feniak won in front of Tahnee Seagrave (GBR) andDanielle Beecroft (AUS).
After a short break on Monday, the second part of the UCI Mountain Bike & Trials Championships will continue in Saalfelden. Until Thursday all eyes are on the trials competitions and the upcoming weekend the UCI Worlds will bring on the Cross-Country andCross-Country Eliminator competitions.
The hosts, all partners as well as the UCI are looking forward to an amazing part two of the World Championships and counts on the support of the global mountain bike community!
More information about the UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships to be found on: www.saalfeldenleogang2012.com