Mayhem in Hafjell: Downhill World Championships by Conor Cunningham

Sweden out of the gate

Downhill World Championships 2014

After much anticipation, the UCI 2014 Downhill World Championships got underway at Hafjell, Norway at 12:15pm CET, today, September 7th, 2014.

First out of the gates in the elite category were the women, where the favourite was Rachel Atherton.

Norway flying, if only temporarily.

Straight out of the gates the riders were faced with huge jumps, which they took on with great gusto and skill.

A GB rider launching it

Immediately after the jumps the riders ploughed into the first of several rough sections of forest laden with rocks of varying sizes; from small to large and intimidating and slippery roots seemingly randomly woven through the track.

Australia's Tracey Hannah tackling the first forest section

The women's race was won by Manon Carpenter of GB, followed by Rachel Atherton and Tawny Seagrave, both also of GB. Well done girls!

Sweden swinging out of the berms

The mens race was fast. Very fast. The male juniors had already completed the track in the same time as the elite men did last year. The track was dry and extremely loose with a thin layer of fine dust sprinkled on top like icing on a cake.

Come the bottom section of the course, the riders let go of the brakes and flew over the few obstacles remaining before the last forest section.

The Kiwis has a strong presence this year

To aid in the no  brakes game, berms slinged riders towards the open ski slopes of Hafjell.

As did the Australians

Just before the open section, the riders readied for a steep, off-camber turn into the speed trap.

Mick Hannah

Riders were, as was Mick Hannah above, often clocked at over 77 km/h.

Sam Hill emerging from the forest after his crash.

Sam HIll of Australia, above and below, was 3 seconds up on the competition before he crashed in the final technical forest section. That didn't stop him flying out the forest before reading for the final jump and push to the finish.

Sam Hill sending it!

Unfortunately for Josh Brycleand, who was 1.4 seconds up before the above jump, the final jump was hit with too much speed, and he landed past the downward slope onto a flatish surface and appeared to break his ankle. He still finished in second place, but didn't stand on the podium as he was whisked away to the hospital. Here's to a speedy recovery, Josh!

Australian fan (L) and Paul Van Der Ploegh of the Australian MTB Team and former XC Eliminator World Champion

It was wonderful to see so many spectators today. This gives me hope that Hafjell Bike Park will remain open and with any luck, we'll see the World Cup and World Championships back here soon!

The Men's Winner

2014 World Champion, Gee Atherton at the finish

Congratulations to Gee Atherton of GB who takes yet another World Championships. A cracking ride!

Looking forward to next season already!

Allez, Allez, Le World Cup XC Team Relay by Conor Cunningham

Team Relay Start Line

The Racing Begins

Racing has finally begun for the elite professionals taking part in the downhill and cross country racing this week in Hafjell. Today saw the largest ever field for the World Championships Team Relay. Current champions Italy had fierce competition along side them and the racing was fierce from the get go.

Italy's Luca Bradiot

Italy lead the field just before the first service pit, as illustrated by Italy's Luca Bradiot above. (On a side note, I was fishing with his brother and fellow professional racer, Daniele a few nights previous, but he, like me caught nothing but algae).

Denmark, Sweden and South Africa hot on Italy's heels.

Just behind Italy were Denmark, Sweden and South Africa and were gaining ground. I don't know what happened to Luca Bradiot on his lap, but he finished his lap well behind the field. My guess is that he suffered a mechanical as he didn't look as if he had crashed when he rode past.

Australia's Daniel McConnel seen here with number plate 12A

Daniel McConnel was Australia's first rider in the relay and he kept pace with the leaders for the duration of his lap, coming only a few places down before handing over to a team-mate.

Flags are meant for waving!

There was a good crowd out for a mid-week race. Some, quite stern like the Swiss above, and some others a little more boisterous and care-free

Josh Bryceland (L) and Steve Peat (R). Both World Cup Downhill winners and Steve, a World Champion.

The cross-country course is a mixture of technial, bike park, fierce climbing and some tricky descents. Below is Daniel McConnel navigating the start of a set of technical descents.

The fun stuff begins.

Not long after this section, things start to get very tricky.

Heia Sverige!

Sweden lead the race for the first lap, but soon someone else would take the lead. If only they could have kept it!

It's a lot steeper than it looks. Notice the angle at which the men are standing to the right.

The Australian above was the second of the four riders and at this point, he, and hence his team were leading the race. By the finish they were not to be so fortunate.

Come the end of the race, the French had taken the lead and one of their riders, pictured above rode the tricky descents with some panache.

About 12 minutes after this picture, they crossed the line victorious.

Félicitations France!