Was the 2014 UCI Downhill World Champions in Hafjell the craziest and most inspirational race ever?

What can I say. Yesterday in Hafjell there had to be one of the most insane downhill mountain biking races ever. Not just insane, but truly inspirational, and in this report I will explain why. If you would like to watch the whole event, click on the picture below to access the Red Bull replay.

Credit: Sven Martin/Red Bull Content Pool

Credit: Sven Martin/Red Bull Content Pool

From a British perspective the results could hardly have been better. With Tahnee Seagrave in third, Rachel Atherton in second and Manon Carpenter putting in a blistering run to give her the win, it was a British one – two – three on the podium. Here is Manon’s run as seen from her helmet cam.

And then came the men’s downhill, and on a course that was gnarly like you would not believe, every single rider made mistakes, including champion Sam Hill who in this crash below, managed to get back on again with just a minor injury to his hand.

Credit: Dave Trumpore

Credit: Dave Trumpore

There were thrills and spills aplenty, and you will see some of the heart stopping moments in this compilation:

In what has to be one of the worst things ever to happen to a rider, just a few metres out of the starting ramp and Neko Mullaly’s chain snapped. He let out a huge yell of disgust, but you know, with no ability to pedal, he hung on, kept going, and rattled down the course.

And then the second split time came in.

Neko Mullaly

Neko Mullaly

With only around 15 riders remaining, Neko Mulally was 1.784 seconds UP! he was the fastest rider with NO CHAIN! How the hell was this possible?? Insane, really, this was the ride of a lifetime be sure of that. And then there was more drama to come.

As you have already seen Sam Hill, who was putting in a gold medal run at three seconds up, crashed spectacularly but with little injury, and Danny Hart came off on an innocuous flat corner, just over cooking it slightly to his own disgust, losing him valuable seconds.

Elite rider after elite rider came down the course, but none could beat Mulally’s time, keeping him in first position until the very final riders.

Brit Gee Atherton started his run, and despite a slightly ragged couple of sections (this is no criticism!) was almost one and half seconds up at the second split time. Gee is a ridiculously fast rider, and kept it tight over the final ‘table’ (a jump over a bridge) putting himself in the top slot. No one managed to better his time until there was just one rider left – a fellow Brit Josh Bryceland.

Looking at his run, Bryceland has a deceptively relaxed style as seen from the side of the course, but as you will see from his helmet cam footage, he is fast fast fast, and unfortunately, so pumped up for a run which saw him 1.3 seconds up on Atherton and in gold position, was just a little too fast over the final table, causing him to overshoot the landing ramp and land flat from a huge height, breaking his foot in the process.

This was an absolutely shocking end to a sensational championship, one which is not based on points, but is a one off competition in which riders only have one chance, one run and give it their all. Luckily reports are that Bryceland has had surgery and is already on the mend which is great news.

But can you imagine yourself in the position of Mulally? What would have been your emotional state after your chain snapped so soon into your run? Would you have turned off the pressure, relaxed and just tried to glide down to the bottom. Or would you put in the run of your lifetime, seeing you end up in fourth position?

Mountain Biking has been developing as a sport over the last twenty years, and those countries that have star riders like the UK has in Steve Peat, Danny Hart, Gee Atherton and Josh Bryceland, as well as such champions in women’s downhill too, these countries are the ones with large numbers of kids taking up riding in all disciplines, and not just downhill. It is an insane sport, one that has to be experienced, or at the very least seen live, but what a race, what drama and what inspiration from so many amazing riders. And hurrah for the UK – five medals from six positions, including going over the finish line with a broken foot.

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