The final chapter in a truly epic World Cup here in Cairns was a stinky, sweaty affair. Today we saw some sensational cross-country racing, on a course that pushed riders right into the red zone. Humid, cloying, dusty, awesome to watch. When it was all said and done, Bec Henderson had secured her best ever World Cup result, adding the icing to the cake of great Australian results.
Under 23 Men
The young fellas got it started this early morning, with a strong Australian contingent in the Under 23 men’s race. Scotty Bowden gritted his teeth and hung on for seventh place, the best placed Australian. Trek Australia and the TORQ Merida team had a stack of strong performances too, and massive praise must be given to both of these teams for supporting young riders in Australia.
Wearing plate number 6, Scotty Bowden was the highest ranked Aussie, and he finished that way too, with a solid seventh.
All clear. Dion Shaw, Focus/4HAW team manager and true supporter of Australian racing, helps Bowden keep focused.
The pre-race jitters.
Reece Tucknott in the zone. The West Australian finished in 20th place.
The Trek Australia team had a huge showing in the Under 23s, including Michael Potter, front, and Callum Carson, rear.
Sam Gaze is on the rise. He’s the Commonwealth Games silver medallist, and he did the job here today in a tightly fought sprint finish.
Callum Carson sails in the Rodeo Drop on lap one.
Nankervis getting crooked in the rocks.
Last lap grimace from Bowden.
Geole Bertolini, fifth place.
Crocslide is a pretty serious bit of track! Milan Vader from the Netherlans tames it.
Sam Gaze leads the trio of front runners into Jacobs Ladder.
Tucknott getting into the rhythm.
Bowden sending the Rodeo Drop.
A calm Michael Potter floats down the rolling descent.
Cheers, Felix Smalley!
Reece Tucknott, airing, not tucking.
Float like a butterfly, land like… well, some smoother than others – we’ve seen some pretty crazy touchdowns on Rodeo Drop this weekend!
Nankervis rolls into the top of Jacobs Ladder.
Tucknott in the greenery.
Titouan Carot on the wheel of Sam Gaze.
Gaze on the inside line.
Carson, loving it.
A focused Gaze. Ha!
Lots of line options made the descent fun to watch. Rollers, berms and jumps all over the show.
Luke Brame, 33rd today.
Brame once again.
Toki Sawada, from Japan.
Tristan Ward had a pretty decent crash early on, with a mid-air bike ejection. Always exciting to watch this guy!
It must be hot with those sideburns in Cairns! Felix Smalley is a stylish rider, for sure.
Open jerseys from the European contingent!
Sebastian Carstenen Fini from Denmark.
Bowden into the steeps of Jacobs Ladder.
Sam Gaze with a very early celebration! He was almost rolled on the line!
Gaze knew he had the sprinting legs today, and we bided his time till the very end.
Elite and Under 23 Women
With a small Under 23 women’s field the decision was made to combine their racing with the Elite women’s, which was a good call as it also ensured the younger riders had a great crowd in attendance. American super-star in the making, Kate Courtney, took the win, looking comfortable the whole time. She’s set for big things, no doubt. Holly Harris, always positive, was the lone Aussie Under 23. She tamed every section of the intimidating course and will surely carry a lot of great racing knowledge away from this one.
Bec Henderson, ice vest on, trying to keep cool under the pressure of expectation.
Start straight sprint.
Bec Henderson ran a double chain ring, instead of her usual single ring, so she’s have lots of top-end gears to get clear of the rest of the field early on. She wanted to avoid any potential bottlenecks and she led lap one.
Annika Langvad, number two plate, number one position today.
The dusty, loose surface caught a lot of people out today. There were plenty of crashes, some small, many pretty big!
USA’s Kate Courtney was the daylight winner in the Under 23 women’s. 3:35 back to second!
A dusting of Cairns on Karla Stepanova.
Peta Mullens finished down the field today, but the popular Aussie got a lot of crowd support from go to whoa.
Bec threads the descent.
Ingrid Richter dropping in.
Bec Henderson turns the screws and moves ahead of Catharine Pendrel.
Holly Harris had the roughest sections of the track in hand.
We have no words.
Mio Suemasa, former DH pro, now XC racer. She was absolutely SLAYING the descents.
Stars, stripes and a gold medal for Kate Courtney.
Elisabeth Brandau. Tuffs are coming back!
Peta Mullens, in the shrubs.
Mullens again. A hard day out!
Harris out in the open section of course. The cross country is very spectator friendly in Cairns.
Seventh for Emily Batty – it was a solid start to the season for team Trek.
Annika Languid takes round one!
Linda Indergand was just 10 seconds off the pace. Silver today for the Swiss rider.
A career best finish, her first World Cup Elite podium, all in front of a home crowd! Congratulations, Bec Henderson!
Helen Grobert, just off the podium today, in sixth.
The heat and intensity took a real toll today. Esther Suss feeling it.
Eva Lechner. Victorious here in 2014, sweaty and bruised in 2016.
Kate Courtney, first. Catherine Fleury, second. Olga Terentyava, third.
Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early….etc.
Bec hits the big time, off to a flying start in 2016.
Rio-bound, for sure.
Cheers, Annika, we were getting hot anyhow.
Left to right: Pendrel, Indergand, Langvad, HENDERSON, Spitz.
Proud dad. The Henderson family are a great crew.
The Elite men’s race was the closing event of the weekend, and all Australian eyes were on Dan McConnell. He got things started in exciting style, leading out the start sprint, and soon finding himself in the lead group of four, which also included a very composed looking Nino Schurter.
On the fifth of seven laps, Nino decided it was time to go – he just found another gear and the rest of the lead bunch began to suffer. McConnell hit the wall, going backwards over the final two laps, while Schurter soon found himself riding on his own up front, a position he’s very familiar with. Maxime Marotte was the only rider who could keep Shurter in sight, while Absalon rode like a man possessed back into third place after a flat tyre on lap one ruined his dreams of winning again in Cairns.
Dan McConnell. Many riders were tipping him as the man to beat, but it wasn’t to be.
Flow favourite, Marco Fontana. 9th place today of the stylish Italian.
It was hot, hot day out, and riders were doing everything they could to get cool before the racing kicked off.
Kyle Ward’s last international race, the Oceanias, ended with a massive crash. Better luck today, 72nd in the huge field.
Ice vest for the ice man.
Fontana. The James Bond of mountain biking.
In the dusty, hard packed conditions, riders were looking for fast-rolling treads.
Schurter. The current World Champ is just insanely strong.
McConnell leads them out on lap one.
Brendan Johnston is in the hunt for a place at Rio, but today was a tough one for him.
Foot out, Fontana.
Cam Ivory, also hoping for a spot in Rio, had a rear flat but still got a great result. 37th today.
All on his own on lap six. Schurter says it’s time to finish the job.
“Do something crazy,” we yelled. So Paul Van Der Ploeg did! The big man was pulled from the race, but jumped straight into the commentary booth to keep the crowds entertained there too. Legend!
Brendan Johnston on Crocslide.
McConnell on the tail end of the leading four. Maxime Marott, in the yellow and black, was the only rider who could keep within cooee of Schurter.
Absalon will be frustrated with third place. He rode damn hard to get back into contention after a flat.
The course includes a loop right through the event centre, which was awesome for spectating.
A good crowd lined Crocslide all day.
Cam Ivory, boosts!
Schurter, no one else in sight on the final lap.
Julien Absalon, the legend. Will this be his last World Cup season?
McConnell was running a dropper seat post (as was Absalon) freeing him up on the descents.
German National Champ Manuel Fumic was placing highly until a flat in the final lap dropped him back down the rankings.
Dusty conditions meant Crocslide was basically a controlled slide from top to bottom, it was super slippery in there!
The run-in for the Rodeo Drop is pretty tricky, with a steep roller.
Well, that’s disappointing now.
McConnell got a lot of crowd love down Jacobs Ladder.
Miguel Martinez raced here in Cairns back in 1996! He’s still at, and strong too, 48th today.
Mathias Fluckiger took fourth today.
Bouncing around on the rocks.
Anton Cooper didn’t have a good day, 62nd and one lap down.
Maxime Marotte. Thirsty work, chasing down the World Champ.
The sharp rocks caused plenty of tyre-related carnage.
With the whole race being streamed on Red Bull TV, plenty of savvy people were tuning in to check out the coverage from other areas of the course.
There was 25km (TWENTY FIVE!) of bunting used in Cairns. Here’s where it was joined together. Amazing! Do we get a prize?
John Odams! This man races it all. He’s a serious Australian mountain bike stalwart and it was awesome to see him having a crack in Cairns.
Excuse me, may I squeeze through here?
McConnell’s dropper equipped Trek Procaliber.
Oui, it’s a nice corner.
Snaking through the jungle.
The big man flies.
It hurts racing at this level.
Bell lap, all on his own.
31st was not the start to the season McConnell was hoping for.
Jose Hermida! 42nd today for the moustached madman.
Ivory’s performance today will have the Olympic selectors paying attention.
McConnell, gracious enough to smile when he probably wanted some quiet alone time.
Yes, I am the man!
Absalon. The legs of a legend. Scary.
Schurter is running the new SRAM Eagle groupset with a 38-tooth ring.
The gauntlet has been thrown down. Who can topple Schurter this season?
Holy race squad!
And so concludes a wild few days in the vines, mud and dust of Cairns. It was fantastic that the weather came good after a dicey start, letting this venue really show the world what riding in Cairns is all about. We’re sure that the crowds and racers are all now feeling just as pumped as we are about returning to Cairns next year for the World Champs! We’ll see you there.