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Canada’s Miranda Miller new downhill world champion as the 2017 UCI mountain bike championships end

In the Junior men's category, Finnley Illes ranked 10th after crashing twice.

Miranda Miller
Miranda Miller
Miranda Miller, seen here on her home soil in 2016, took the championship with a time of 4:10.245.

On the final day of the mountain bike world championships in Cairns, Australia, a new downhill champion in the Elite women’s category was crowned, and she’s Canadian.

That title went to Squamish, B.C.’s Miranda Miller — the first Canadian world champion in that category since 1990.

That year — the same year that Miller, the current champion, was born — Cindy Devine took the downhill world championship, the first year that that the mountain bike world championships were an event. This year, the 2017 champion took the title after a hard-fought battle between many of the world’s top gravity-riding athletes.

Before competition even kicked off, the Elite women’s field took a hit when Rachel Atherton of Great Britain, 2016’s defending champion, broke her collarbone during training. With Atherton out of the race, though, the door was left wide open for a new contender to take the title, and with Miller on the ride of her career, it was a challenge well met.

Starting from the eighth to last position, Miller had a clean run through the competition — something that proved advantageous in taking the Rainbow Jersey, particularly when the field’s favourites ran into difficulties. By the finish, clocking a run time of 4:10.245, the Squamish downhill phenom took the title, World Cup champion Myriam Nicole of France took the silver medal, and Tracey Hannah, representing Australia, took the bronze.

Vaea Verbeeck, Canada’s only other entrant in the Elite women’s category, clocked 16th.

Reflecting on her downhill triumph, Miller seemed stunned by it all. “It’s pretty crazy,” she said. “I don’t think it has sunk in yet. I feel like I had some luck on my side, but I’ll take it. It’s pretty cool. I’m sure in a couple of days it will feel a bit different. I thought Tahnee [Seagrave] was going to knock me out. But I had some luck on my side for sure.”

“When Myriam [Nicole] came down, I thought, ‘Oh, this is for real,'” Miller added. “For Canada, we haven’t had a [downhill] medal since Stevie [Smith in 2013] and Claire [Buchar in 2011], so it is cool.”

In other categories, defending Junior men’s champion Finnley Illes of Whistler, B.C. crashed out twice on his run, finishing 10th overall with a final time of 3:45.575. In that competition, Great Britain’s Matt Walker took the title, while other Canadian results included Kendall McLean in 23rd, Ben Wallace in 25th, Jacob Stefiuk in 27th, Joshua Fultz-Veinotte in 41st, Anthony Poulson in 46th and Cole Mooney in 47th.

The Elite men’s category saw Samuel Thibault take Canada’s top finish in 53rd place, followed by ninth-ranked Mark Wallace, after a heartbreaking crash near the bottom of the course, who settled for 54th.

With the 2017 UCI mountain bike world championships now at a close, Canada claims two medals: Miller’s gold medal in downhill competition, and Holden Jones’s bronze in Junior men’s cross-country.