Last weekend saw the annual UCI Downhill MTB World Championships visit the beautiful alpine town of Leogang in Austria for an action packed two days of downhill and 4X racing. Team CRC/Nukeproof were in attendance with three downhill riders making the selection for their countries; Joe Smith and Matt Simmonds representing Team GB and Matti Lehikoinen coming back from a severe injury in Mont Ste Anne to represent Finland. Michael and Lukas Mechura rode for the Czech Republic in the 4X.
Michael Mechura took an amazing silver medal, while his brother Lukas finished in sixth. Team Manager Nigel Page was overwhelmed with Michael’s performance, saying: “I am so pleased for the Mechura brothers and their results at the World Championships. Lukas has ridden for the team since our first year and has had some great results over the past five years including a third place at the Fort William World Cup and was the European 4X series champion. Lukas told us how good a rider his younger brother Michael was so I thought it would be a great idea for them both to ride for the team."
On the Sunday it was back to the downhill action and a rainy week gave way to brilliant sunshine and warm weather for finals day for the World Championships. The organisers did a brilliant job of attracting the crowds to the sleepy town of Leogang and it definitely seemed like a big step up in the amount of people at the race compared to previous years. The atmosphere promised to be electric for the race runs and the Austrian crowd certainly didn't disappoint.
Matti Lehikoinen was first up for the team and was happy just to be here racing and representing his country. The flying Finn has had some mega bad luck over the last few years with injury and unfortunately 2012 has been no exception, breaking his hip socket and separating his shoulder in a bad crash in Mont Ste Anne meant he subsequently missed the next couple of World Cup rounds. Matti did a great job of making it back for the Worlds and wanted to get some time on the bike before the last World Cup round in Norway. This was also his first time on the new Pulse downhill bike, which he immediately felt comfortable on. Matti said himself that it was even better than he expected, helping him make the decision to race on the Sunday.
Although he was disappointed with his final result of 64th in the senior category, Matti's aim was always to try and get down the hill in one piece and gain some valuable time on the bike before the Scandinavian final of the World Cup series. He now has two weeks to prepare for the final World Cup of the season in Hafjell, Norway, and he is looking forward to racing in front of what will be almost a home crowd. The whole team admires Matti for his dedication to getting back on the bike so quickly and we hope he can put together a run which he’s happy with at the final round.
Joe Smith and Matt Simmonds were the final two CRC/Nukeproof athletes to race at the Worlds this weekend. By the time their race runs came around, the mud had all but disappeared and the downhill track was almost bone dry. Joe was first up and hopes were high as Joe had been looking fast all week on the muddy course. Unfortunately for Joe, 34th wasn't quite the result he was looking for and although it was a great experience for him being back on Team GB after a year out, he was hoping to be up there close to the top 10. Although Joe's run was decent, he much preferred the conditions earlier in the week and would have felt more comfortable on the wet and muddy course which was typical of the week's practice sessions for his race run. All in all though, Joe was just stoked to get onto the GB team, which is traditionally one of the hardest teams to make it on to due to the standard of the riders in Great Britain and he can be proud of representing his country once again.
Matt Simmonds was also stoked to be back on the GB Worlds team after having a year out after a difficult 2011 in which he broke his knee cap at the start of the season. Matt has had such a great year so far and it's testament to his attitude and hard work that he’s back where he belongs in the World Cup standings. With one eye on the overall for 2012, he needed to make sure that he balanced the one run, death-or-glory mindset of a World Champs race run with his commitment to having a solid end to the season in the World Cup series at Norway. Although he was disappointed with another ‘solid’ result of 24th, he can be happy in the knowledge that this result shows just how far he's come since last year where he was basically in recovery mode. Both Matt and Joe can take some consolation knowing that just a few seconds quicker would have fired them up the results sheet.
We’d like to thank all our sponsors who make the racing possible, the team mechanics Brooks and Carl and all our other partners and supporters. This week was a great week for Team CRC/Nukeproof and we are so proud to have had five riders representing their countries and racing for the team in the two gravity disciplines of downhill and 4X.
See you all in Norway for the final round of the World Cup in Hafjell.