Australian riders are set to dominate the downhill events at the UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships at Stromlo Forest Park in Canberra, Australia.
In qualifying on Friday, Mick Hannah topped the list in the men's elite division while Shaun O'Connor recorded the fastest time in the junior men's event on a course that had added grip in the turns due to overnight rain.
Hannah posted a time of 2min29.68sec to easily hold off compatriot and dual world champion Sam Hill (2:31.42), with South African Greg Minnaar (2:31.56) third best.
Defending world champion Gee Atherton of Great Britain clocked the fourth fastest time with a 2:31.73, while another Australian, Chris Kovarik, was fifth in 2:32.56.
After his classy ride Hannah said while he was happy with his performance he had more left for the final.
"I am happy with that, I wasn't sure whether I'd do a good hard run today or save my legs and I had a decent smooth run but definitely I can go a lot harder in most of the technical stuff," Hannah said. "Instead of blowing my legs up I took it a bit steady at the end there.
Hannah said the course was poles apart from the dry and dusty one he and his rivals had been training on earlier in the week.
"The course is completely different, it's easy, it's like going from dirt to bitumen," Hannah said. "The times would have been a lot closer (today) because of that, a lot of the guys would be more nervous and make more mistakes when it's a bit skatey. Sunday will be a much harder race."
Sunday's final gets underway at 2pm and Hannah believes the course suits his chances, especially given he won this year's Australian title here.
"The course definitely suits me, there's a lot of rhythm sections and a good strong peddle at the bottom," he said.
Great Britain's Tracy Moseley recorded the swiftest run in the elite women's category, crossing the line in 2:54.76, a mere 0.03 ahead of Canada's Claire Buchar (2:54.79). Moseley's teammate Fionn Griffiths was third in 2:56.50.
Australia led the charge in the junior men's event with the host nation filling four of the top eight times. New South Wales 18-year-old Shaun O'Connor was the quickest in 2:36.92, with Great Britain's Danny Hart (2:39.14) and New Zealand's Brook McDonald (2:39.45) rounding out the top three.
In the junior women's event French duo Anais Pajot (3:14.08) and Julie Berteaux (3:20.40) qualified fastest ahead of Australia's Holly Baarspul, who logged a time of 3:29.1. Pajot is the reigning World Champion.
Tonight the four cross riders will be back in action with both men's and women's finals being raced under lights. World ranked number one, Australian Jared Graves lines up in the first round of the men's 4X as the favourite after posting the fastest qualifying time yesterday while hometown girl Caroline Buchanan is the second seed going into the women's quarter finals.
For full coverage of the mountain bike world championships, visit Cyclingnews.com.
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