19/03/2012 | 62 comments
Tracey Hannah wins the opening World Cup round at Pietermaritzburg South Africa in a thrilling final!
Wowzers! What an exciting race! An amazing return to World Cup racing from Tracey Hannah, but what about junior World Champion Manon Carpenter?! Awesome!
1. Tracey Hannah 4:33.806
2. Manon Carpenter 4:34.755
3. Emmeline Ragot 4:36.616
4. Jill Kintner 4:42.298
5. Miriam Ruchti 4:44.702
The women’s title race ended in a heady victory for comeback kid Tracey Hannah, the former junior world champ, making a return to downhill racing after a four year layoff. Starting last after posting the fastest time in qualifying, Hannah scorched down the lower section of the course to complete her dream return to the gravity discipline after a four year hiatus.
She was given a bear-hug at the finish by her famous MTB brother Mick Hannah, who helped get her back into competitive racing and onto the Hutchinson United Ride team, riding a Morewood bike made at their Pietermaritzburg factory.
The comeback however left her battling with nerves before her race. “I was super nervous, so much so that I felt like vomiting before the start,” she admitted afterwards.
Hannah displaced British rider Manon Carpenter, who occupied the fastest finisher seat for more than a quarter of an hour after a superb run. With established star Floriane Pugin sidelined by serious injury suffered in training earlier in the week, and Sabrina Jonnier taken out of contention after crashing in practice just hours before the final and the door was open for Carpenter to post a shock result.
Swiss rider Emilie Siegenthaler experienced problems in the upper reaches of the course, while French rider Myriam Nicole crashed at the massive Cloud 9 drop and American podium hopeful Jill Kintner paid for her hesitancy at Cloud 9 by tumbling down the leaderboard.
World champion Emmeline Ragot had a chance to seize the upper hand in the penultimate run of the final, but she lost momentum in the lower quarter of the course and had to settle for third.
“Oh yeah, unbelievably happy! I knew I had to go hard the whole run because it was anyone’s race,” said Hannah. “There was one line down the hill, and you just had to push it to the max.”
“My whole run I was just thinking about pedalling as much as I could. I knew that if I wasted any time rolling it could have been that time that put me in second. I just pushed it the whole run. Those were thoughts in my head, just pedal, pedal, pedal.”
“I couldn’t be happier,” she added. “It’s amazing. I guess my goal was to be in the top three, but first! It’s amazing, I can’t believe it.”