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Aussies repeat at Canadian Open

Kintner, Loron earn Fox Air DH wins

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For the second year in a row, Australians were front and centre at the Canadian Open DH.

At Crankworx's cornerstone DH contest, Troy Brosnan won for the third consecutive time while Tracey Hannah picked up her second in a row on Aug. 19.

Brosnan held an advantage of 4.11 seconds over Kiwi Sam Blenkinsop and 4.89 seconds over American Bruce Klein.

Brosnan, who lived in Whistler during his first win in 2015, has still retained the local's knowledge on the course.

"I had a really good week. It was really mellow and I was feeling good on track. I pinned it as hard as I could, had a really good run with no mistakes or anything," Brosnan said. "Just to come down and get the three-peat is awesome."

The win also allowed Brosnan to pass countryman Jack Moir, the day's fourth-place finisher, in the overall world tour standings to snag an additional $10,000.

"I didn't even think I had it in reach so to get it was pretty crazy," he said.

Blenkinsop said the runner-up finish — which he achieved in all three of Crankworx Whistler's DH contests — in addition to a top-10 finish in the Canadian Open Enduro, capped off a strong week of racing.

"It was a lot of second places, so maybe they equal one first," Blenkinsop quipped. "I'm happy with how I rode and just wish I hadn't made the little mistakes, but I guess when you're doing a lot of events, you're a little bit tired so I made those mistakes."

Blenkinsop noted he had a slow start, meandering off the course before recovering nicely, riding smoothly en route to his silver.

On the women's side, Hannah dominated again, lapping the field by double digits, surpassing Vancouver's Vaea Verbeeck by 10.62 seconds and Switzerland's Emilie Siegenthaler by 19.90 seconds.

Hannah said the lack of rain this year made the track a difficult one to take on, but she found a way to power through to the victory.

She acknowledged feeling a target on her back entering the race, in addition to the blown-out conditions.

"When you come from winning it last year, you have some extra pressure on yourself and the track was extra hard this year with all the rocks and dust that have made their way to the surface," she said.

Verbeeck, who hit the podium twice at Crankworx, said she was thrilled to immerse herself on a podium with the riders she did in the conditions presented.

"It was so hard," she said. "We always have breaking holes and breaking bumps that make it pretty rough, but it was quite sendy and very dry, so the hole got way bigger than usual.

"There's nowhere to rest. It's a short race, but it's non-stop."

This year marked a change to the course in that spectators were no longer allowed to access the infamous Heckler's Rock, a spot on course where the rowdiest fans greeted the racers. Brosnan said it was a little "weird" to see it barren, while Blenkinsop hopes for a return after observing increased security this year dedicated to keeping people away.

"It's a bit disappointing how that all happened. The track was pretty quiet. There were a lot of people in the woods, but it's not the same," he said. "That's why everyone comes to Crankworx, to have a good time, but I guess some people just do stupid things.

"They need to bring it back. Heckler's Rock forever. It's the best thing."

The women, however, were more welcoming of the change. Verbeeck said while she never exactly felt uneasy in previous years, it did feel safer in 2017, while Hannah welcomed the change after observing a wild scene in 2016.

"Last year, it did get taken a bit too far and (spectators) were throwing trash in front of the riders, so I didn't think that was cool," she said.

Meanwhile, the Fox Air DH ran on Aug. 16 with France's Adrien Loron — who's a pump track and slalom specialist — scoring the win by 1.09 seconds over Blenkinsop and 3.16 seconds over Colombia's Marcelo Gutierrez-Villegas. After finishing 11th last year, Loron dedicated his attention to downhill. The improvements were enough to earn him the gold.

"It's maybe the biggest win of my career," he said. "It was only three seconds but it's hard to get three seconds against the best guys in the world."

On the women's side, American Jill Kintner won the race for the fifth consecutive year, topping Hannah by 3.55 seconds and Verbeeck by 4.51 seconds. Cruising down A-Line, even in imperfect conditions, is a joy for the legend.

"I've got this trail pretty wired but you still have to execute and make it happen," she said. "You try to be smooth and you try to pick the right equipment, but it's so dry and there are holes everywhere. Some of them, you've got to just hit and carry your speed."

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