The International Cycling Union has congratulated the organisers of the 2009 MTB & Trials World Championships staged this week at Canberra’s Stromlo Forest Park hailing the event a great success.
“On behalf of the UCI I would like to express my thanks and appreciation to the ACT Government, organising committee and volunteers for the outstanding job they have done over the past week,” said Mike Turtur, Member of the UCI Board of Management and President of the Oceania Confederation. “This World Championships has been an unqualified success for the sport and we congratulate everyone involved.
“Stromlo Forest Park is a magnificent venue and we have witnessed some thrilling battles this week on the mountain,” said Mr Turtur. “The organising committee has ensured a first class experience for everyone from the teams to the UCI officials and, of course, for the thousands of spectators who have come out to support the event.”
After six days of competition France topped the medal table with three gold, five silver and three bronze medals ahead of Spain with three gold, two silver and two bronze. Australia finished third on the medal table with two gold, one silver and two bronze medals.
An estimated 40 thousand fans turned out over the six days of racing with the biggest crowds in attendance today lining the 2.4km course to witness British veteran Steve Peat beat his second placed hoodoo in the elite men’s downhill. Peat, 35, has four times been a runner-up but today he finally experienced the thrill of donning the rainbow jersey of World Champion.
Riding fourth last in the 63 man field, Peat took the gold medal hot seat from Australian and eventual bronze medallist Mick Hannah and then watched nervously as crowd favourite Sam Hill, South African Greg Minnaar and defending World Champion Gee Atherton of Great Britain all failed to snatch away the gold he had been longing for his whole career.
Peat clocked a stunning 2mins30.33sec to defeat Minnaar, who has won four World Cup events in the last twelve months, by 0.05 seconds or not much more than the blink of an eye. Queenslander Hannah posted a 2:31.02 to overcome former two-time champion, Frenchman Fabien Barel, by just 0.15 for third.
Earlier Emmeline Ragot (FRA) won the elite women’s event, Brook MacDonald (NZL) edged out Australian Shaun O’Connor in the junior men’s and France’s Anais Pajot defended her world crown in a race that saw Australian debutant Holly Baarspul win the bronze.
For Peat, who was the world silver medallist in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2008, today’s victory was going to take a long time to feel like reality.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet, I just tried to dig as deep as I could, after all these years it’s just unreal,” Peat said. Asked if reaching the holy grail of a world title would lead him into a happy retirement Peat said he would ride on.
“Why would it (mean retirement), I’ve got a full year to wear this jersey,” the veteran said with a wry grin.
“It was pretty emotional putting the jersey on, on the podium knowing I could wear it as World Champion for the next year, I’ve been trying for a long time and it’s just an unreal feeling.”
For Hannah, Peat’s consistency and determination to step up from a minor medal to gold was something to hopefully emulate.
“It’d be a dream to win, I’ve been racing for 19 years and I’ve come second twice so I just don’t want to come second again,” Hannah said.
Hill, winner of this event in 2006 and 2007, ended up fifth while team mates Nathan Rennie and Chris Kovarik also made the top ten in seventh and ninth respectively. Fellow Australians to feature were Bryn Atkinson (11th), four cross winner Jared Graves (12th), Canberra native Jared Rando (16th) and Mitchell Delfs (27th).
French rider Emmeline Ragot finished third to Great Britain’s Rachel Atherton and fellow Frenchwoman Sabrina Jonnier at last year’s World Championships but with Atherton out of action recovering from shoulder surgery and Jonnier suffering a puncture in the first half of today’s course, the way was clear for Ragot to step to the top of the podium and she didn’t disappoint.
The 23-year-old led at both timing checkpoints to clock 2:50.05 and was a deserved winner from Great Britain’s Tracy Moseley (2:52.54) and American Kathleen Pruitt (2:54.89).
Like Peat, Ragot was struggling to comprehend her win.
“I don’t think I really realise I am world champion then I look down at my jersey and I see the rainbow colours and I think maybe I have won but I think it has started to sink in now,” Ragot said.
A devastated Jonnier, who has won medals at five other world championships including gold in 2006 and 2007, finished at the tail of the field.
The top placed Australian was Claire Whiteman (3:08.73) in 15th, followed by Cara Smith (3:17.64) in 19th and Sarah Booth (3:22.80) in 21st. Both Whiteman and Booth improved their times from the official timed session on Friday by six seconds.
The men’s junior event was dominated by New Zealand’s Brook MacDonald after he set a cracking time of 2:36.49 to edge out Australia’s Shaun O’Connor (2:37.67) and Great Britain’s Danny Hart (2:38.76).
“It hasn’t come to me yet but I’m sure it will come to me later, I’m stoked,” MacDonald said after accepting his gold medal.
MacDonald admitted his race run worked out well on the challenging Stromlo track.
“It was good, pretty stoked with my race run, it’s probably the best race run I’ve ever had, I made one mistake but it didn’t bother me, I’m stoked.”
O’Connor, who set the benchmark early before being run down by MacDonald was happy with his podium finish.
“I’m really excited, I put my run together, I did exactly what I wanted to do, I’ve had my coaches here, my manager’s here, my mechanics all down here, my family, everything went to plan and I’m really exciting to stand on the podium in front of a home crowd,” O’Connor said.
“We had the national championships here the last two years, so we (Australia) used it as a pre trial for this event, so we had everything dialled from those races, we learnt from those races, how the course changes and about the bike set up. To come here, everything just fell into place.”
Of the other Australians, Rhys Willemse was fourth and an agonising 0.55 off the podium, Tamryn Murrell was ninth, Antony Moore was tenth and Laurie Dinham was 37th. Earlier in the day in William Gower was hospitalised following a crash in practice, forcing the 17-year-old out of the event.
In the junior women’s event, reigning world champion Anais Pajot of France clocked 3:11.91 to defend her title with compatriot Julie Berteaux claiming second in 3:16.28.
Pajot knew a mistake free run would give her the best shot at claiming gold.
“It was technically very demanding, but after the timed training session I knew I had an advantage over the other riders so just tried to make sure I didn’t make any major mistakes,” Pajot said. “I won the world title last year so I knew I was good enough to win, I just had to ride as fast as I could without any mistakes.”
Competing in her first World Championships, Australia’s Holly Baarspul, 16, finished in a time of 3:20.16 to claim third.
“Feels pretty amazing, first year junior and I’m on the podium so I’m stoked,” Baarspul said. “I was expecting to get down the hill safely but to podium was amazing.”