We said yesterday that Button was one of the most under-rated riders on the circuit, and we knew a top 15 or maybe even 10 was within his grasp, but to see him sitting in the hot seat almost to the very end of racing today was amazing. In his first World Cup race in years, the laconic, wry veteran of the Australian scene ended up in fifth, behind Gwin, Hannah, Brosnan and Bruni.
Take a look at that podium again – three Australians. And it’s not like the rest of the world weren’t in attendance, the field was stacked with all the big names.
The course was in perfect form too. After two days of sun and drizzle frustratingly swapping shifts, Cairns gave us the blue skies that we’ve all been hanging out for, and the track dried up into a grippy, fast surface for racing. It was great to see this venue finally present conditions that allowed riders to really perform – this track might cop a little bit of flack for the final sprint, but riders and fans were loving it come race day.
You can always trust Queenslanders to go all out in the fan department, but Cairns locals took it to another level of madness in the rock garden. The noise could be heard from almost the bottom of the track; if it made noise, you’d be able to find it alongside the track today! How anyone focused on their line in there is beyond us!
Mick Hannah came so close to making magic happen in front of his home crowd, and while he couldn’t take victory, it was great to see just how pumped up he was after crossing the line. A third today shows us that Mick Hannah is far from done with World Cup racing, he still has all the pace to cut it and he’ll be full confidence now.
Brosnan was the last rider down the hill, with Loic Bruni the man to beat. The battle between these insanely talented Specialized riders is going to be very exciting to watch over the next few years we feel. The Frenchman was too quick though, and Bruni was handed his first World Cup gold – we’re sure it’ll be the first of many.
The dream upset we’d been hoping for in the women’s didn’t come up, but Tracey Hannah has got to be happy with second place behind the dominant Rachel Atherton. Short of a serious mistake by Atherton, it was always going to be a big ask for Tracey to knock the Brit off her perch. And with both riders having a clean run, Atherton did it again by seven seconds, adding time to her lead with every split. Danni Beecroft will be happy with a top ten too, as she makes a return to World Cup racing.
The junior field always has a super strong local contingent at World Cups and today saw a fleet of Australian under-19 riders cut loose. In the junior men’s field, Brit Matt Walker spoiled the party for the otherwise all-Australian top-five. Remy Morton rode into second, which is pretty impressive after coming to almost a standstill in the rock garden, with Harry Bush in third, Jackson Frew in fourth and Josh Clark in fifth. Sian Ahearn was the lone under-19 woman and she should be stoked with the way she rode too, hopefully we see more young Australian women following in her footsteps.
The excitement and hot tropical sun has us zapped, so we’re going let a huge photo gallery do most of the talking now. Enjoy! See you soon for the XCO!