The Downhill World Cup Party has begun, with the first round in Maribor, Slovenia, setting the rankings for the rest of the season.
Loïc Bruni and Tahnée Seagrave put down their markers for the 2019 UCI MTB World Cup season with victories in the opening downhill race at Maribor in Slovenia.
Although Bruni has won the downhill World Championship title three times, he has only won two World Cup races coming into the season opener in Maribor. American Aaron Gwin was out to equal Greg Minnaar's record of 21 World Cup wins, however it was two-time world champion Danny Hart that put down a storming run ninth out the gate to post a brilliant time.
Riders tried and failed to beat the Briton until Bruni started out strong to go 0.471 up on Hart after split three and 0.893 up by split four leading into the finish where he managed to pip Hart by 0.404 of a second.
Canadian Finn Iles was on for a quick time until he slid off with Gwin and leading qualifier Mark Wallace also failing to deny Frenchman Bruni his third World Cup win.
Bruni, 24, said: "From last year in Croatia when I got injured to this one, it is redemption big time. I am super happy. I normally don't do back-to-back. Obviously the new bike is working as Finn was flying all weekend too. 29-inch front wheels are bringing me some good luck."
In the women, Australian Tracey Hannah qualified fastest with France's Marine Cabirou leading from home rider Monika Hrastnik heading into the final few.
Seagrave was already four-and-a-half seconds up on Cabirou after split two as she went on to post a superb time of 3:25.888 that compatriot Rachel Atherton fell just short of - despite leading at split three - as Hannah dug in last down to grab a podium place.
Seagrave, 23, said: "It is an amazing feeling. Watching Rachel come down, it was so tight. You can't go flat out into sections. It was really hard for me to remind myself to go smooth in and fast out."
Six-time World Cup champion Atherton added: "Second race on the new bike. I have changed a lot on my set-up from the winter. Tahnée and I were really close all the way down. It was a good start to the season and it looks like it will be a pretty intense battle."
Maribor men's downhill top five:
1. Loïc Bruni FRA 2:58.839
2. Danny Hart GBR +0.404
3. Troy Brosnan AUS +0.764
4. Charlie Harrison USA +0.928
5. Matt Walker GBR +1.610
UCI MTB World Cup men's downhill standings:
1. Loïc Bruni FRA 216 points
2. Danny Hart GBR 160
3. Troy Brosnan AUS 160
4. Charlie Harrison USA 143
5. Aaron Gwin USA 135
Maribor women's downhill top five:
1. Tahnée Seagrave GBR 3:25.888
2. Rachel Atherton GBR +0.855
3. Tracey Hannah AUS +2.638
4. Marine Cabirou FRA +3.542
5. Monika Hrastnik SLO +4.325
UCI MTB World Cup women's downhill standings:
1. Tahnée Seagrave GBR 230 points
2. Rachel Atherton GBR 200
3. Tracey Hannah AUS 190
4. Monika Hrastnik SLO 130
5. Marine Cabirou FRA 125