Greg Minnaar and Rachel Atherton Win the 2013 UCI DH World Championships 21

So, after much anticipation and amidst all the wheelsize hype, the biggest race day in mountain biking finally came around. In the contradictory way that typifies the World Champs, the build up to the event had been nothing but exciting, yet at the same time, it was hard to tell who had been playing their cards close to the chest. With the riders unwilling to tackle the pain of Pietermartizburg's pedaling section at 100% more than once, this really is the place where everything is laid out bare for just the one, single run. For all the hate this track suffers, you could argue it is the single most formidable test of the mind and the body. 4 minutes for glory - who would be left standing on the top of the podium when the dust settled?

At Worlds, the riders go in the reverse order of their current UCI ranking, rendering the "seeding runs" all but useless. (Not allowing the riders a full training run on the morning of the biggest race of the year is pretty useless too...the bottom of the track was closed to riders in this morning's practice session to allow the XCE race to take place - like, seriously UCI?). Jared Graves and Mitch Ropelato thus ended up taking their runs about 50 riders ahead of the current top ranked riders in DH, so we were certainly going to get an early indication of whether or not the Enduro bikes were indeed the ticket to this year's title.

The ladies were first up, and Tracey Hannah, coming off a string of injuries that seems like it'sĀ been going on forever, came down in 4:40 and set the early fast mark. That was still 5 seconds off Rachel Atherton's fastest qualifier though...but Tracey's time was starting to look remarkable when Myriam Nicole and Floriane Pugin came down way off pace, and only 4 riders remained up top. Could Hannah be on for an incredible podium finish? Reigning World Champion Morgane Charre came down 3.4 seconds off Hannah's pace, whilst Manon Carpenter took a crash in the top section and threw away her Worlds bid. So Hannah was guaranteed a medal, but who would win? Would it be Emmeline Ragot or Rachel Atherton, the only 2 girls left standing at the top? Ragot came down into first spot, only 1 second off Rachel's qualifying time. But Atherton was not to be denied her second World Championship title (following her win in 2008) - she threw down a stormer, knocking a further 7 seconds off her qualifier to smoke the field. What a fitting way to cap off what has been a brilliant and dominating season for her.

Over to the men then. So many potential story lines - which one would play out for us? Local pinner Potgeiter took the early lead with a solid looking 4:13. And before we knew it, Jared Graves was in the start hut. How would his Enduro bike choice play out? How much power was hiding in those monstrous calves? 4 minutes and 1 second later, we had part of the answer - Graves came down 2 seconds up on Stevie Smith's fastest time from timed training. How would it hold up?

We were denied the next big story line when Mitch Ropelato hung up in the first turn and took a big crash on his Enduro 29er. The Internet sighed of relief, as the threat of imminent worldwide forum meltdown was lifted. A succession of riders then failed to get anywhere near Graves, with Peaty coming down in second after his run, 5.8 seconds off Graves. Then came Nick Beer - only 0.7 seconds off Graves! We know Beer can pull a run out at any time, but did this mean the times were going to come down dramatically later on, or was this further proof that the Devinci team's decision to run a 27.5" special short travel Worlds edition bike was the right choice?

Matt Simmonds was the next rider to threaten Graves, coming down 0.6 seconds off first place, confirming his steady improvement over the last 2 seasons. We were well into the top 20 by now, and the big guns were all lined up at the top of the mountain to try to take down Graves. And as far as guns go, they don't come all that much bigger than Gwin. What would the American do? Was it to be his big redemption for a season that has not gone to plan so far? It was not to be, some kind of problem in the top section and Gwin coasted down. Brosnan and Pekoll came up short, but Blenkinsop got oh so close - 0.4 back, second place behind Graves. And so we had an Enduro bike and 27.5" wheels in places 1, 2, and 4...

Gutierrez and Thirion failed to take down the trailbike, and then all eyes were on Mick Hannah. Sick Mick likes it fast, and split 1 had him up on Graves by 5 seconds. He reached warpspeed through the motorway jumps, laid down Sick Mick power and destroyed the lower part of the course - into first by more than 3 seconds! What a run!!! 3:58.4 the new time to beat. Hill, Minnaar, Smith, Atherton...could anybody touch Mick?

Sam Hill was off pace, and then took a horrendous looking crash near the bottom. We were happy to see him walk away from it. And then Minnaar - slightly off the pace throughout the run, he pumped and pedaled every ounce of speed from the bottom part of the track, having managed his run to perfection - into first by 0.3 seconds. The local boy's dream was alive...and kicking, since Stevie Smith then proceeded to crash in the same turn as Ropelato, to end his run after 5 seconds.

What would Gee do? He's had that extra edge this year, but could he find it again? 1.5 off the pace after split one, surely it would be too much to ask for him to pull that back - ultimately it was, he came up short. Minnaar had done it! Defending his title from last year, at home - fairy tale ending! What a race! And the saving grace of the internet, a DH bike won DH Worlds.

2013 UCI DH World Championships Mens Results:

Greg Minnaar and Rachel Atherton Win the 2013 UCI DH World Championships

Greg Minnaar and Rachel Atherton Win the 2013 UCI DH World Championships

2013 UCI DH World Championships Womens Results:

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21 comments
  • westiebestie

    4/9/2014 11:54 PM

    Mick Hannah 3:58:62
    Manon Carpenter 4:32:02

  • iceman2058

    4/10/2014 4:00 AM

    This is not the right thread for the 2014 OTB predictions...

  • judgerider68

    9/2/2013 6:22 AM

    would have loved to see what stevie could have done... : ( !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Pininator

    9/1/2013 9:13 PM

    What an amazing race and an even more amazing winning run! Pretty gutted for Hannah - when Minnaar was down by .8 at the last split, I thought Sik Mik was finally going to get the gold. Greg was out of body and mind in that last section...and with a slow leak down the home-stretch. A 1.2 second gain in the last section is a testament to his sheer will. ALL HAIL THE KING!!!!!

    p.s. - I hope Hill didn't get too shaken up by that horrific crash - he's still got a WC win to get before the season is over.

  • judgerider68

    9/2/2013 6:20 AM

    DEFINITELY one of THE best world champs in quite a while !!!!!!!!!!! ya sams crash was PAINFUL to watch..(.especially the replay.)
    and would LOVE to see sam on the top step this season.. we ALL know what he is capable of.... COME ON SAM !!!!!!!

  • Eames

    9/1/2013 8:26 PM

    i will never buy a demo 8

  • onenerdykid*

    9/2/2013 5:16 AM

    it really astounds me that people think it is a bad bike because Gwin isn't doing well on it. 3 World Championship titles in 4 years makes for a bad bike? And Worlds doesn't seem to be the place for Gwin to do well at anyway- his track record is pretty dismal regardless of what brand he is on.

  • Reality Check

    9/1/2013 5:17 PM

    I can't believe Gwin is still riding that "career killer" bike. Hopefully his contract is only for one year and he can get a new team/bike!

  • judgerider68

    9/1/2013 5:09 PM

    SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO stoked to see tracey back on the podium !!!!!!!, and greg is a fucking LEGEND.. doesnt get any better than THIS for him !!!!!!!!!! He TRULY deserves it !!!!!!! ( MY picks were mik and rach)

  • SCparkstreetdirt

    9/1/2013 12:16 PM

    Yeah Greg!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Peace9r

    9/1/2013 9:11 AM

    Brilliant by Greg and Rachel. Called them both!! Awesome by Graves for the 3rd place.

  • sysdev1

    9/1/2013 8:53 AM

    congratulations greg and rachel!

  • sideshow

    9/1/2013 8:14 AM

    That is one of the most exciting and deserving Top 3's possible, in both men and women. Phenomenal that Greg won back-to-back World Champs, particularly on home soil. That is an iron-clad race-head.

  • Sundtshine

    9/1/2013 8:09 AM

    Pumped for Greg, 26" wheels and the continuation of the great Specialized Curse.

  • onenerdykid*

    9/1/2013 10:21 AM

    Gwin's problems started before he moved to Specialized- the second half of last year for him was not that great. Plus, it would have been a tall order for a Demo to win an event at Worlds 4 years in a row

  • Sundtshine

    9/1/2013 11:26 AM

    Maybe the curse knew he was headed to the big S...

  • irie

    9/1/2013 8:04 AM

    So sad for Chainsaw Steevee and for Sik Mik... Props for Graves. Also nice result from Blenki and Matt Simmonds.
    Still hopin to see some wins from Sam and Danny ..fo sure Gwin too ..all of emm are good but having bad luck ..
    Lookin forward to Hafjell and Leogang ..Gee seems to be loosing hes dominance lil bit.

  • Pininator

    9/4/2013 10:48 AM

    I think the reason Gee is "fading" is more of a product of him being on-form at the beginning of the season, while others were not at top-level early on. As the season has progressed, others have finally reached that level and, perhaps, Gee is losing a step from his early-season form.

    Whatever the case, these next two races are going to be a slugfest. If Smith can repeat his Norway result from last year, it's going down to the wire for the overall. You can't script this stuff!!!

  • fatfingur

    9/1/2013 7:47 AM

    Yeah Minaar! Nice riding by Jared Graves who beat Gee Atherton. haha.

  • alexarmanetti

    9/1/2013 7:44 AM

    Wow! It's amazing to see Jared Graves in third. I predicted that one!!!

  • jmang

    9/1/2013 7:43 AM

    Well done Greg... !!! Congrats