World Cup Recap - Rd2 Cairns
All images ©Descent-World
The man who was within a few hundred yards of a win in Lourdes made sure he delivered under immense pressure at the second round in Cairns. In retrospect, Bruni's win here elevated him into a position where many expected him, with the burden of seeking a first win off his shoulders, to kick on and dominate the season. History shows that fate had another course in mind, but this win was hard fought and more than deserving.
Cairns is helluva humid. For those who follow world cup DH racing like a religion it was hard to escape that Cairns has one heck of a record for providing exciting races. Remember when Palmer was oh so close to beating Vouilloz in '96?
The previous race in this sub-tropical area of Australian had some high drama and infamy. Any YouTube seatch will show an unfortunate, boozed up Aussie, take Adam Brayton's down the course. He ended up in hospital with severe injuries while Brayton got stitches. Both recovered, thankfully.
This time around there was no crash for Brayton, who began to show his speed in earnest with a 18th in qualifying. His race run would not be as successful but the Cumbrian was beginning to build momentum.
Going back to exciting races in the past, in 1996, Sean Mccaroll was an 18 year old pinner, and he qualified fastest at the World Championships. Some 20 years on, he was here, racing. Sean was a top, top racer in the late nineties and naughties with an ability to light up the track and the footage on every Sprung video. Here, he took a 72nd place. Don't sneeze at that - that is still fast.
Tracey Hannah needed a big result here. Her speed is there and when it clicks she can push Rachel. Tracey held a two second gap to Rachel all the way to the final sector, where Rachel pulled out 5. Nonetheless, this was an extremely popular result in Tracey's home town of Cairns and come 2017 she has a credible shot at being World Champion.
3rd place for Manon Carpenter in the sticky heat of Queensland.
It's hard to write about Rachel Atherton. She operates at a level that is consistently just that little bit ahead of the field that places pressure on them. Conversely, she was hungry at every race of 2016 and that brings an intrinsic pressure out of desire to do your best. First place and no sign of relinquishing that undefeated record.....
You get the idea I'm sure. This rock garden was the scene of some carnage alright. As mud got dragged onto these already slippy rocks, even the best in the world made mistakes.
So near, yet so far. Remy Morton has some serious bike handling skills and can quite clearly motor on between the tapes. Less than a second from the win for the Aussie junior, and he kick started a very successful day of racing for his home nation.....
It was a long way from home for Matt Walker. The junior rider pushed Fin Illes in Lourdes, but couldn't crack the code. Here, on the other side of the world he provided Madison Saracen with a long over due victory. He would have placed 52nd in the senior mens race - a pretty strong effort from the junior rider.
At the time we captioned this image "France is a hotbed for random non-factory talet. Florent Payet, 13th." Flo Payet was far from random though, having been around the World cup scene for a long time, but having a flourish later in his career than most. Flo would eventually finish 29th in the finals.
Get up them steps!
The modern age.....
Maybe the result that cost Danny Hart from doubling up this year. Harts average point score across the other 6 rounds was 189. His point score here was 88. He lost the world cup overall by 26 points. Of course Gwin took it easy in Andorra, but had Hart gone better in Cairns, we might have had one very very tight race to the line.
Mick Hannah. What can you say? I first saw Mick in a Dirt in the year 2000 as a junior at the Sierra Nevada World Champs. He didn't have knee pads. I was in Vigo in 2006 when Mick won his only World Cup and to see his reaction then showed how fired up for racing he is. That hunger hasn't faded, and anyone who saw Mick's reaction to his third place, and oh so close to victory race run, will know that this man is full racer. 16 years, and not slowed down one bit. A result that sent the crowd wild, and rightly so.
You better just take 110 numbers off that board, as Josh Button landed a stonking 5th place here in Cairns. Not bad for only getting the week off work a few days before hand. Story of the weekend for me.
Graeme Mudd was another rider who came, saw and pretty much conquered. 8th place for a rider that only the die hard fans had really heard of before. The Aussie culture of "giving it a go" was so refreshing to see - That's what its all about right? Quite something and Cairns was keeping up it's reputation for providing some all-time racing.
Stevie's last World Cup. Looking back this is a sombre thought, yet at the time, despite Stevie's front flat it was anything but sombre. Ever the entertainer and ultimate sportsman.
6th place for Greggsy. The best Scottish world cup result since 2003, when Stu Thomson of Cut Media took a 5th place at Grouse Mountain. ( Random fact - Joel Panozzo another old school Aussie pinner qualified first at that World Cup ). Anyway. Greggsy. He'd shown flashes of his speed when he was on Trek but 6th was a heck of a result and this set Greg up to lead the Scottish charge. Those who know Greg maybe didn't expect this result, but weren't surprised either.
4th for Gwin. If you've seen the Vital Raw footage of him through the whoops, you'll know how fast he can go when it gets MX style. His run, while incredibly fast, was a bit off the leading three. It's ridiculous to say, but we've became so used to Gwin winning that 4th seems poor, which of course it is not. I mean bloody 50th in the World is pretty bloody good!
Stalking. Fastest at split 1 but 0.493 back come the finish. Brosnan is always there or there abouts but this must have been a tough pill to swallow. The Aussie is hard though with a drive and determination to match the best of them. I don't what is his power ratio is like, but he lays down some horses for a little guy. 2nd place buy less than a gnats bollock hair.
To win or lose a race on this lower section would suck. After 3 minutes of flat out, technical, big jump DH, this sprint must have seemed like purgatory. Yet, DH is cycling. Pedalling is apparently a prerequisite. Boy oh boy, Bruni had done the skilful parts, and he gritted his teeth and brought it home through the pain barrier. A win that look set to light up the world cup DH series.
Thanks our photographer Zach Faulkner for making the 2016 coverage appear on line without fail.