The first weekend of the 2012 UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships in Leogang, Austria, concluded on Sunday with the crowd favourite Downhill. Morgane Charre (France) took her first world title in the Elite women’s race, while Greg Minnaar (South Africa) returned to the top step of the Elite men’s podium after a nine year absence. Holly Feniak (Canada) and Loic Bruni (France) won the Junior women’s and men’s titles, respectively.
The women’s race was expected to be between defending champion Emmeline Ragot (France) and Rachel Atherton (Great Britain), the two riders who have been battling it out all season in the UCI World Cup. However, Atherton was not a factor in the race, suffering from an undisclosed injury and finishing fifth. After Canadians Micayla Gatto and Casey Brown came close to breaking the four minute barrier, Charre obliterated it, taking the lead time down to 3:50.654 with six riders remaining.
Countrywoman Floriane Pugin came within 1.617 seconds, with last year’s Junior world champion Manon Carpenter then getting a tenth of a second closer. Ragot was next, but she could only get within 1.2 seconds, leaving Atherton the only rider who could deny Charre the championship. Atherton was within two-hundredths of a second after the first intermediate time check, but faded badly in the second half of the race, allowing the 22 year old Charre to step into the rainbow jersey.
“I did not expect this,” admitted a visibly shocked Charre. “I thought that Emmeline [Ragot] would beat me for sure, or Atherton. I had a very good run and pedalled a lot, with only little mistakes, but I have never had a result like this before.”
In the Junior women’s event, Feniak was fastest at both intermediate time splits of her final run and beat silver medallist Tahnee Seagrave of Great Britain by 8.095 seconds. Danielle Beecroft of Australia finished third.
“I was actually worried that I hadn’t finished on the podium because I made a few mistakes on my run,” Feniak said. “So when the time came up on the board that I had won by eight seconds, my first feeling was relief. I haven’t been racing the World Cup races like some of the other girls, so I didn’t know how I would do. It still wasn’t quite sunk in yet.”