Cairns in Australia was the scene of an epic – and slightly insane – second leg of the 2014 Downhill World Cup over the weekend.
Muddy conditions in the run-up to the race had made the track look more like a WWI battlefield than a race course.
“The track was a mess, possibly the worst it’s ever been. I felt like a squid!”
Combined with a ride that presented plenty of technical challenges anyway this ensured that there were bails galore, with several of the world’s best riders coming a cropper.
As local boy Mick Hannah put it: “The track was a mess, possibly the worst it’s ever been. I felt like a squid – there were moments when I was thinking ‘maybe it’s better to just run here’.”
Danny Hart and Loic Bruni both went down with the Frenchman slamming into a tree in spectacular fashion (skip to 1.43 in the video highlights to see it, it’s gnarly!) and in the women’s race Manon Carpenter faltered in the rock garden.
But the weirdest incident had to be after Adam Brayton’s nasty looking crash, when an over-enthusiastic fan grabbed his bike and attempted to ride the remainder of the course on it – only to slam himself on a whoop section!
All in all it made for very entertaining watching, and although the track was wet from torrential rains in the build-up, the race day itself was actually dry, ensuring that the event attracted a big crowd.
Brits boss it in the wet
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the wetness of the conditions played into the hands of the British contingent. Both the men’s and women’s races saw a UK 1-2 finish with Gee and Rachel Atherton claiming the top spots, followed by Josh Bryceland and Manon Carpenter (who recovered impressively from her fall).
The Australians on the other hand fared less well, despite this being their home track. Mick Hannah could only manage a 14th place finish, although his compatriot Samuel Hill did come in fifth.
In the women’s event, the highest finishing home rider was Tracey Hannah, who also got fifth. Perhaps they need to spend a bit more time practising in the wet Welsh hills?
A fight to the finish
What’s interesting is that despite the treacherous conditions, the men’s race was actually pretty close. With the exception of Gee Atherton (who was a cool four seconds ahead of second place Bryceland – look at the distance on our graphic breakdown below) it was fairly tight, with Aaron Gwin just behind fellow American Neko Mulally.
His fourth place means he’s still sat at the top of the world rankings though, with 110 points on Gee, his nearest rival.
The women’s race was a less closely-fought affair. Rachel was a full 11 seconds ahead of Manon, who in turn was 14 seconds ahead of Nicole Myriam in third.
But while the times might not have been the closest, the 1-2 Atherton-Carpenter finish (a straight swap of their podium places from Pietermaritzburg) means the rankings are much closer.
Certainly things are looking very interesting ahead of the third stop in Fort William, Scotland, in a few weeks’ time.