Racing can be cruel sometimes, and no one knows that more than Rachel Atherton right now. After a dislocated shoulder took her out of World Cup action earlier this season all attention then shifted to defending her World Champions crown here in Cairns. An entire season of hard work piled into one race, and it would all go up in smoke during timed training with a crash and the resulting broken collarbone. One mistake and an entire years effort were written off in the blink of an eye.
On a brighter note, there are lots of other stories to tell after the timed session for Elites and seeding runs for Juniors that were held Friday afternoon in hot and sunny Cairns. Some racers showed their hand while others decided it best to keep everyone guessing, but still with a little speculation mixed with educated guessing the riders to watch for finals are starting to emerge.
Finn Iles, of course, is the obvious favorite in the Junior Men, but we have Aussie and relative newcomer Joshua Clark behind him by a scant two seconds. For the Junior Women, we were expecting to see Melanie Chappaz dominate as she has done all season but it would be Shania Rawson who would take the top spot just ahead of Paula Zibasa. In Elites it is looking like the fairy tale ending of the double Hannah win on home turf is now very much a realistic outcome. Mick took the top time in the men's field just ahead of Loïc Bruni, while Tracey was way ahead at the top split before intentionally slowing up in the bottom half. The fastest time for the ladies would belong to Tahnée Seagrave, who after winning the final two World Cups of the season is on form and on fire right now. Behind the top times is a long list of riders who may or may not have held back, or crashed pushing to one hundred percent for the first time; most notably riders with names like Danny Hart, Aaron Gwin, and Troy Brosnan.
So what will it be? Will Aaron Gwin finally win the World Champs title that has eluded him year over year? Can Mick and Tracey Hannah make it a brother and sister celebration on the top step, or will Tahnée Seagrave and Loïc Bruni steal the show? What of Greg Minnaar and Miriam Nicole? Perhaps the ultimate dark horse, Sam Hill, will mix things up with a medal in what will likely be his last ever international DH race. Whatever the case it's going to be one heck of a show as the best racers in the world fight tooth and nail over the fractions of a second that will ultimately decide the World Champion.