It was World Championship time over the weekend in the world of MTB, with the action taking place in sunny Pietersmaritzburg, South Africa. Although not the most mountainous of areas, the courses for XC, XCE and DH all presented a variety of tough challenges for the riders.
World Championship races are held once a year, usually towards the end of the season, at a different location each year. Winners at these races earn the right to wear the rainbow stripes of a cycling world champion for the following year. In contrast to the World Cup races, entries are organised by country rather than by commercial team.
1. World Championships - UCI MTB XCO
A technical and fast cross country course at Pietermaritzburg included steep climbs, tight corners, and technical descents. There were several crashes, the main victim being Sabine Spitz, winner of the Vallnord World Cup round, who broke her collar bone while training. Contenders Eva Lechner and Tanja Zakelj also fell foul, with early crashes taking them out of the running for the top spot.
Julie Bresset of France took the lead early on, with Maja Wloszczowska pushing close behind. It came down to the final technical descent; Bresset gained a lead on the ascent before it, widened the gap, and rode to victory, defending her 2012 World Championship title.
Bresset has numerous victories to her name, though her 2013 season has not been going well until now. Returning to racing in June after a broken collar bone, she has been struggling in some of the races in the run up to the World Championships.
Maja Wloszczowska of Poland placed 2nd ahead of Esther Suss of Switzerland. Completing the top 5 are Irina Kalentieva of Russia, and Tanja Zakelj of Slovenia, the current number one in the World Cup series.
1. Julie Bresset, France
2. Maja Wloszczowska, Poland
3. Esther Suss, Switzerland
4. Irina Kalentieva, Russia
5. Tanja Zakelj, Slovenia
You can see the full results for XCO at the UCI website.
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2. World Championships - UCI MTB XCE
A tough and exciting cross country eliminator track made for dramatic viewing. Technical sections, tricky rock gardens and an evil final climb kept the race open until the end.
Alexandra Engen of Sweden dominated the rounds from early on; a particularly remarkable achievement given that she had completed in the Cross Country race the previous day, placing 6th.
In a tense final, Engen took an early lead, with Swiss Jolanda Neff hot on her rear wheel. A wobble on the log feature before the final climb saw Neff catch up, but Engen powered ahead, sprinting the final straight to become World Champion ahead of Neff in 2nd.
Linda Indergand, also of Switzerland, placed third. In 4th was Nadine Rieder of Germany, and 5th came Katherin Stirnemann of Switzerland.
1. Alexandra Engen, Sweden
2. Jolanda Neff, Switzerland
3. Lina Indergand, Switzerland
4. Nadine Rieder, Germany
5. Katherin Stirnemann, Switzerland
You can see the full results at the UCI website.
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3. World Championships - UCI MTB DH
The course at Pietermaritzburg was always going to be a tough one; while not particularly rocky, rooty or steep, it is long and very pedally. Riders couldn’t afford to loose any speed on the tabletops or numerous corners, with the women typically reaching up to 40mph on the straight sections.
Add to this compacted dirt as hard as concrete, with a thick layer of slippery dust over the top only slightly damped by a morning shower, and you had the recipe for an exciting race that favoured strong, fit riders. That said, the exhaustion of the women after they crossed the line was palpable.
Rachel Atherton, who has been having an incredible season, stormed her way to victory and is the new MTB DH World Champion. This is Atherton’s second World Champ victory, having won in 2008 at Val de Sol.
Clocking up a time of 4.28, she was over 8 seconds faster than Emmeline Ragot of France, who took the second spot and the silver medal.
Australian Tracy Hannah made an amazing return to form in her first race this season since returning from injury. She set the pace early on in the race, only being knocked from the top spot by Ragot and Atherton.
Completing the top 5 are Jill Kitner from the USA in 4th, and Caroline Buchanan of Australia in 5th. GB had three riders in the race, with Fionn Griffiths finishing up 12th, about 10 seconds shy of making the top 10.
1. Rachel Atherton, GB
2. Emmeline Ragot, France
3. Tracy Hannah, Australia
4. Jill Kintner, USA
5. Caroline Buchanan, Australia
Manon Carpenter, who has been looking incredibly strong all season, unfortunately caught a rock near the top of the course causing her to crash and loose unrecoverable seconds. She eventually placed 17th, but with the way she’s been riding, we think it’s only a matter of time until the top spot is hers.
Can't actually believe that happened. Sorry to the photographer I just landed on, I hope you're alright...!
— Manon Carpenter (@ManonCarpenter) September 1, 2013
You can see the full results at the official UCI results page.
Want to catch up on the action? Watch online courtesy of Red Bull TV.
Not content with currently ruling the roost at the elite level, British Women are also dominating at the junior level, with Tahnee Seagrave beating Austrialian Danielle Beecroft (2nd) and Tegan Malloy (3rd) to become the new Junior DH World Champion.
Check out the full Junior World Championship results here.
Headline image copyright David Macleod