By Sue George, Cyclingnews.com
Australia's Troy Brosnan sped to a narrow victory over American Neko Mulally at yesterday's junior downhill world championships in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, beating his rival by just six-one-hundredths of a second.
"I couldn't believe it when I came across the line," said Brosnan. "I don't think it's sunk in yet." Lewis Buchanan (Great Britain), the last man to race, finished third.
Mulally, who was fastest in the official timed run two days earlier, started 14th out of 49 riders due to his low UCI ranking after spending much of the year off the circuit after breaking his arm. The American clocked a 4:50.77 and spent more than an hour in the hot seat before losing his spot at the very end.
"I'd hoped to come back in time to do a few more World Cups but it never worked out," he said. "I wanted to do well here, and my race was good. It was a really close race, and I'm happy to be right up there with Troy. I wanted to do a solid run and not get out of control, and it was over before I knew it."
Brosnan said that at the top of his run he was thinking: "'What I really need to do is pedal, pedal, pedal'. I was trying to keep a clear head and pin it." The Australian had no idea at the beginning of the year that he'd be wearing the rainbow stripes.
"At the start of the season, my manager said I should do the full World Cup circuit and in it, I got the leader's jersey a few times, which gave me some more confidence," he said. "As my season went on, I had ups and downs, but the races helped me learn what I needed to do to win. I've taken everything from every race this year and put it together, and it worked."
After overnight rains, the junior men faced a wet track. "Coming from Australia, I'd have preferred it to be dry, but it was good fun in the mud," said Brosnan. "I was trying to hold speed. I think the muddier track today made it more deserving."
Bronze medallist Buchanan finished just over nine seconds behind Brosnan. "I started off pretty confident and knew what I had to do," he said. "I clipped a rock with my pedal up in the top section. It was hard to concentrate, but I tried to put that in the back of my mind and pedal, although I was quite off the pace."
Still, Buchanan managed to work himself up from fifth at an early split to third by the end. "I focused on getting smooth lines and building speed," he said. "This is probably one of the fastest courses we had all year and one of the roughest."
All three medallists are first-year juniors and will return next year to race each other again. Another strong contender for the title, American Mitch Ropelato, flatted during his run and rolled across the line with his tyre and tube all entangled in his wheel.