Oh the madness that is World Champs; it gets us every time. It seemed like a simple enough race as the riders boarded the fleet of 4x4s with their mechanics one last time. As soon as they found themselves alone in the heat of the jungle, mysterious things went down that flip-turned both the rider and the racing on its head; a race so topsy-turvy as to rival the infamous Hafjell 2014.
In a shocking turn of events, following violent crashes from Tahnée Seagrave and the hometown favourite, Tracey Hannah, Miranda Miller became the new female World Champion, the first Canadian since 1990 to take gold. In the end, she would do so by only one-tenth of a second, as in a remarkable mix-up the backup timing system had to be called upon to correct an extremely inaccurate reading for the true silver medalist, Myriam Nicole. After a season of mostly heart-ache, Matt Walker bested the junior men's field, leading out fellow countryman Joe Breedan and Max Hartenstern of Germany, while French youngster, Melanie Chappaz, not satisfied with the World Cup season overall, rode to junior women's gold.
The elite men's race was also loaded up with an overgenerous helping of surprises, and although last year's Cairns winner managed to repeat the performance, there were thrills by the dozen beginning with the first rider down, as Sam Hill careered into the finish area with a time to threaten the best of them. Around 30 riders later the local boy and of course veteran of the WC podium, Mick Hannah, laid down an absolutely red hot bid for the rainbow jersey and at 5.3 seconds up at the time, it appeared an insurmountable challenge to dethrone him. In the end, Loïc Bruni would do it by an absolute wafer; 0.34 seconds and he apologized for it, well aware that no one had wanted it more. That's racing, the time's the time and gold is gold.
This seemed a truly impossible race to call with so many dangerous predators lurking ready to take gold.
Mick Hannah puts the finishing personal touches on his prototype race bike while working from his parents back yard.
With the biggest race of the year just one sleep away, it was family downtime at the Hannah's childhood home. Friends, puppies, some BBQ, and friendly chats around the fire-pit kept the mood light and the stress levels low.
It's World Champs; attention to detail has to be second to none and every cut exact.
In threes they marched, ready to watch their hometown heroes. The Aussie crowds represented in force and with good spirits.
The fight is on and team Australia is ready to deliver a knockout punch to rest of the World with quite the army of top-flight riders across the categories.
Don't think this track isn't gnarly, more the cameras just didn't do it justice. Josh Oxenham takes a horrific dive off Mick's drop.
British talent, Joe Breeden, made it count today to take the silver medal in juniors.
After a long season, never quite landing the results he was capable of, Max Hartenstern saved a top performance for when it really counted, now headed back to Germany with the junior bronze.
Aussie, Harry Parsons, made the sparks fly on his run after seeding 4th in juniors. Unfortunately, those sparks were literal and not the figure of speech that would imply a better outcome than what you see here.
Matt Walker has been the bridesmaid far too many times and today he finally stepped out of that role to earn his stripes and become Junior World Champion.
Walker smashed the pedals over the 20-second flat sprint to the finish line to land himself in the hot seat.
Finn Iles bobbled in the rock garden and then pushed too hard trying to make up time. He would crash on an easy, but fast uphill corner just after the whoops section and that would be his hopes for a second title over.
Kaos Seagrave hoists up an overjoyed Matt Walker as he clinched the junior world title.
Iles found out the hard way exactly what 'that's racing' really means.
Your fastest junior men; Walker, Breeden, and Hartenstern, keeping the strong Aussie field out of the medals.
Medal of honour from the jungle warfare for Walker.
Today was Shania Rawson's last chance to claim the junior rainbow jersey, but unfortunately this would be the second year she has qualified first at worlds and then failed to get the run she needed on race day. Second on the day, but a result that she will look at as being the first loser.
Rawson would finish three seconds back to take silver.
The junior women's bronze medal went to Flora Lesoin of France.
After struggling in seeding, Melanie Chappaz was unstoppable in the junior women's race.
With Shania having been so dominant in seeding, Melanie Chapaz had a tall task ahead of her. When Shania came in at over 5 seconds back at the second split, Melanie was overwhelmed.
The junior women's medalists here in Aus: Chappaz, Rawson, and Lesoin.
Tracey was cool, calm and collected all morning, but sadly a small section of 'Lottery Roots' would dash her dreams of the gold.
Tahnee Seagrave trying to beat the heat and keep her head cool before the start of the race.
Italian racer, Eleonora Farina, has had the best season of her young career on the World Cup circuit and capped it all off with a bronze medal... at least she thought she had, but then later at the podium the UCI told her there had been a timing mistake during Myriam Nicole's run and she was pushed out of the medals. That is rough.
Tracey Hannah (and Mick too) were just about everywhere you looked today as the local crowd turned up to watch the hometown hero's battle it out for the world championship.
But it was not be... the new World Champ, well, you're looking at her. A solid run, a punishing sprint and a sprinkling of good luck were enough for Miranda Miller to take the gold.
Hannah looked absolutely formidable on this track – there's no denying she looked the fastest here in Cairns, but in racing that's not always the whole story.
Could Tahnee Seagrave have taken gold here? Quite possibly, but with the YOLO nature of worlds, she didn't manage to keep it rubber side down.
Seagraves' dream season comes to a close with a disappointing world champs run. But she goes into the off season healthy and with more confidence than ever.
Not what Tahnee came to Cairns for, but her day will come.
Danielle Beecroft turned it up big time for the Aussie home crowd. 4th place was a massive result for the privateer underdog.
What a day for the Canadians! Miranda Miller becomes the first woman to win a World Cup or Champs in over 20 years!
Miller watches from the hot seat as rider after rider makes crucial mistakes while pushing their limits. World Champs is all about nailing that perfect run, and today all but a few crashed out while walking that fine line between speed and control.
What a run from Tracey Hannah. After a massive high-speed crash that knocked her unconscious for a few brief seconds, she slowly remounted, briefly unaware she was in the middle of a race run and carried on full gas to the bottom.
What could have been for Tracey Hannah. She rode the track from split one to the bottom almost 10 seconds faster than her nearest competitor, even after a truly massive crash. A bronze medal is a great result, but Tracey had her sites set only on gold here in Cairns.
Mick and Tracey Hannah showing what family is for after a disaster of a run.
Myriam Nicole headed to the finish area 46.8 seconds back after her fall up top... Except she didn't crash. Is that the trees blocking out the sun behind her or a shadow of doubt cast over the women's race?
The look of confusion after Myriam Nicole's run was not limited to just her face. After the first split claimed she was over 40 seconds down, the following two showed her to be right on the pace of Miranda Miller. The only problem was that Pompon had not crashed or had a mechanical, but in fact only gone off-line and lost 6 or 7 seconds. After a protest to the UCI on behalf of her team, it was ruled that the accurate time would put her in second by just one tenth of a second.
World Champs is like no other race, and today we were reminded why. Congratulations Miranda Miller on becoming the new World Champion.
The fastest ladies in the world and their shiny new gold, silver and bronze hardware.
No Aussie flag in pole position this year, but a respectable third.
Off the charts level of stoke from the hecklers today! Who could blame them?
Despite roaring to victory here last season, it seemed that Loic Bruni was never in most people top picks for the medals. Well he showed them...
The word 'legend' gets banded around far too often... Let's save it for when it really does apply. Sam Hill went full enduro and almost ran away with a medal.
See them their pedals? See those forks?
Is it the last time we see Hill race DH? No, we can't accept it. We won't.
There's a berm there on the outside, but Hill won't be taking it thanks very much.
The man, the myth and the legend that is Sam Hill, in what is likely to be his last ever DH race, sure did go out with a bang in front of the Aussie crowd.
Hill had the whole family with him this weekend.
A whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears were shed at World Champs this year.
A fond farewell to Austrian World Cup racer, Markus Pekoll, just shy of ten years at the sharp end of the sport.
Mick Hannah finds the grip on the off-camber inside-line to carry mega speed onto the flat finish-line sprint.
No one got a louder cheer into the finish than local boy, Mick.
There wasn't much smiling going on at the finish as rider after rider failed to even come close to the insane time set by Mick Hannah.
The dark horse of the men's race was surely Rupert Chapman, coming out of cruise mode for the week and turning up the heat. 11th for the Kiwi.
Colombia's Marcelo Gutierrez hammering towards his best Cairns performance, into 8th.
We were all looking forward to Connor Fearon's bid to the Aussie throne, but alas it was a little too early for his comeback from injury.
Despite Danny's best efforts to defend the rainbows, he just couldn't manage to gel with the Cairns track and he had to surrender the title.
Dear Blenki, thanks for always looking sick on the bike, kind regards, every photographer on the hill.
Moir twisting the throttle for his last practice run.
Jacky 'Shark Attack Moi Moi' Moir, as he is known to some, had one hell of a time in the Aussie jungle. A couple more aero-tucks here and there and he would have been right in the medals.
Greg, Greg, Greg of the jungle, watch out for that post.
Greg Minnaar was within just 0.2 down at the first split before disaster struck for the second race in a row; another race run flat.
Aaron Gwin has the potential to win on any track in any conditions and these were perhaps the most akin to his native California. On the day though, 3rd would have to do and he would certainly take it; his best ever World Champs performance.
Aaron Gwin playing it all on the line, but would only go fast enough for bronze, 1.96 back.
Gwin almost going the distance, taking the second spot on the hot seat behind Sik Mik.
After grabbing the WC title a few weeks back, Aaron Gwin finally got himself that elusive world champs medal.
Loic Bruni won here a year ago and in practice was looking like the danger man to Mick Hannah's title hopes.
Bruni smashing one of the last turns before reclaiming those rainbows.
Burying it at the rev limit all the way down the final straight to better Hannah's time by just 0.3 seconds.
In Mick Hannah's hometown there's room for two people's champions.
What a run from the smoothest rider in the game.
With one man to go the tension on the hot seat was almost unbearable.
Troy Brosnan in the green and gold leaving it all out on the track for the Aussie home crowd.
Brosnan in the hurt locker after giving everything and coming up short.
As Brosnan's final split came up three seconds back the celebrations began.
While Loic celebrated with the French team, Mich Hannah found comfort with his mother, wife, and sister on the other side of the finish arena.
Gold and bronze await the flower ceremony.
Unable to keep his emotions at bay, Loic shed a few tears of joy.
SuperBruni does it again, this time alongside his female counterpart, Miranda Miller. Quite a day for Specialized...
The pain of missing out on Gold was palpable for Mick and Tracey. They'll be no second chances for the Hannahs at an Australian worlds race, but at least they can be sure they did themselves and their hometown proud.
Loic Bruni, Mick Hannah and Aaron Gwin wash off the dust from atop the podium.
For the second time in three years, Super Bruni makes it count and heads home to France as the World Champion.
Fresh hardware for the boys.
There's gold in the hills above Cairns, Australia, but only for a very, very select few.
What a season for Jack Moir and the rebooted Intense Factory Racing team. 7th in the WC overall and then 4th place at Worlds would have been a stretch to imagine during the preceding two seasons of injury struggle.
A long season for the kiwi rider-mechanic duo of Ed Masters and Kurt McDonald. Expect to see these guys win the after party though!
Myriam Nicole and Max Commencal reflect on a phenomenal season and topped off with an afternoon of madness and the late arrival of a silver medal.
That's it that's all. Brosnan and the rest of the DH elite pack their bags and head for home... Well, maybe a quick stop at Gilligan's nightclub first.
Thank you, Cairns, it's been an incredible end to a stunning and dramatic season of racing.