The heavens opened on the steepest downhill race track in the world at Champery, Switzerland, over the weekend making this year’s UCI Mountain Bike World Championship one of the craziest, most exciting races we have ever witnessed.
Team ChainReactionCycles.com/Nukeproof riders Lewis Buchanan and Matti Lehikoinen were racing the downhill competition on Sunday, while Lukas and Michael Mechura took on the 4X course on Saturday.
The world champs is a one race, one run competition that brings out the best riders from around the globe, including the usual contenders from the world cup races, the fastest riders from all the great downhill countries and then some riders we have never seen before from the more exotic places of the globe who make the trip to compete for their countries and ride against the fastest racers in the world.
Team CRC/Nukeproof rider Lewis Buchanan was competing in the junior men category, and Lewis wanted the win more than anything. After a sketchy start to the season with a shoulder injury which has plagued him all year, Lewis was coming into form and was up for giving it his all. He had the speed throughout practice to be a challenger for the junior gold medal.
Team Manager Nigel Page said: “The tension was high on race day and at the top of the hill warming up for his run Lewis felt sick and with nerves, and the weather outside was horrendous. The course was held with riders crashing and not making it down the hill as the rain made the steep technical track unrideable to most of the early riders.
After about an hour and a half delay, Lewis got into the start gate for his chance at the gold medal. With some big deep breaths he set out of the gate like a rocket. Lewis gave it his all – and to win a gold medal at the worlds you have to go for it 100% and leave nothing on the hill. He did that but the unpredictable track that the riders had not ridden in these conditions bit Lewis hard and he went down twice. Even with two crashes Lewis finished fourth in what is the most competitive junior category I have ever seen.
This was a great result but bitterly disappointing for Lewis who only had one position in mind. Troy Brosnan took home his second junior gold medal for Australia in an amazing clean run, posting the second fastest time of the competition – so a big congratulations to him. Lewis has the speed and skills though to compete with the best in the world and this is only the start of a great professional career for Lewis.”
In the elite men downhill competition, Matti Lehikoinen – a past world cup winner at Champery – was coming into top form from his eighth place finish at the World Cup finals just a few weeks ago in Val Di Sole. The weather continued to pour with rain making the track muddy and hard to ride. On the big TV screen in the finish arena you could see the water pouring down the steep track like a river, and the open sections were so muddy riders were just struggling to hold their speed and stay on their bikes.
Matti went out of the gate again like a rocket and gave it everything. Unfortunately it wasn’t going to be Matti’s day as he had a huge crash on a section that took down a lot of the top racers, giving it everything and risking all. Matti bent his handlebars and brake levers in his crash; it was so big that he then just rolled down the track to the finish.
Nigel Page explains the exciting finish to one of the most thrilling races in downhill history: “As the competition came to a close with just a few of the fastest riders in the world to come, Sam Blenkinsop was in the silver medal position for New Zealand and Damien Spagnolo of France sat in gold with an amazing run!
Then out of the gate shot the UK’s Danny Hart. Danny showed the entire world how to ride a downhill bike in the worst and hardest conditions. He attacked every part of the track 100 per cent, taking all the riskiest lines that other riders didn't dare in these conditions and even throwing out huge sideways whips for the crowd on the last big jump section before the finish. This was the best bike riding I have ever witnessed and Danny took the elite men’s win by a ridiculous 11.69 seconds, bumping Spagnolo down to silver and Blenkinsop to bronze.
American Aaron Gwin was the last rider out of the gate. Aaron has been the man this year winning a record number of five world cups, and he gave it everything to try to take the world championships jersey. Only 0.9 of a second down on Danny Hart’s split time it was so exciting, but pushing hard on the middle section Aaron crashed off the track and that was that.
So on behalf of the team, a huge congratulations to Danny Hart for taking the elite men’s title and jersey.
Manon Carpenter took the gold in the junior women’s competition for Great Britain so well done to her.
Emmeline Ragot from France took the win in the elite women’s race from the UK’s Rachel Atherton and our ex-team mate Claire Buchar took the bronze medal for Canada. So a huge congratulations to her.”
The 4X action on Friday night was as exciting as the downhill. On a track that was designed with downhill track sections of roots and rocks, a steep start hill into a tight single left hander and big jumps on the final section, the racing was crazy to say the least. All the riders gave it everything and there were some huge crashes throughout the evening.
Lukas and Michael Mechura gave it everything and rode so hard. Michael was looking on fire all week, but went into the first turn battling for the lead in his second round and went down so hard. Then a rider from behind crashed into Michael, hitting his pedal into Michael’s head, putting a hole in the back of his helmet. Michael was dazed for a while but luckily nothing too serious – that was his medal hopes done for the championships.
Lukas made it all the way through to the semi-finals with some smart riding but was eliminated from the competition and finished the championships in eighth, still a great result.
Nigel Page added: “The men’s final was epic with all four riders crashing in the first turn! Dutchman Joost Wichman got the gate and the hole-shot but slid out in the first turn causing a crash. Former 4X world champion Michael Prokop was the man who managed to get back on his bike first and get to the finish line in front, taking another gold medal, so congratulations to him.
After dominating the women’s 4X world cup for the last few years but never winning the world championships, it was great to finally see Anneke Beerten take gold and the rainbow jersey.
It was an epic week of training, racing and hard work for the mechanics Dave and Carl so a huge thanks to them. Thanks also to all our sponsors for their continued support as we couldn't race without them.
Thanks to Aaron, Sebastian and all the MTBCut team for our great film edits and photographs throughout the year.