There is never a good time to get a slow puncture when you are a downhill mountain biker.

But halfway through the most important race of your life, when you are winning the junior women's world championships final, has got to be the worst.

That was the reality for Papamoa's Shania Rawson, 18, at the 2017 UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Championship in Cairns this month.

Rawson went into the final in outstanding form after setting the fastest time in the seeding race by six seconds. Things were looking good in the final until she rode over some rocks and developed the puncture.

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By the end of the race, her tyre was nearly completely flat, yet she finished only just over two seconds behind winner Melanie Chappaz from France.

"I lost a lot of time and you can't ride to your full potential with your tyre being 10 psi," Rawson said.

"Knowing I was so close is the worst part. Only being a few seconds off with the flat tyre and knowing I could have won which is the most frustrating part.

"Second is better than nothing or having a crash and not getting a podium or a medal at all."

It was just her second appearance at the worlds after she was third last September in Italy.

This year she has had plenty of highs and some disappointments as well. In February she won the under-19 downhill title for the second consecutive year at the national championships and she won a Downhill World Cup race in Andorra.

But a wrist injury took a while to shake off.

"I have had ups and downs. I went to Europe and broke my wrist. I was racing in a cast for one race and got second, then did a few other races with my wrist still being pretty bad. It was not as smooth a year as I wanted it to be."

Next year Rawson will be up against the best professional riders in the world.

It is a daunting prospect, especially as she will be heading to Europe without any funding at all now she has left the junior grades.

"I will be in the elite women division. It is definitely going to be a challenge and I am going to have to work a lot harder. I have been working hard but this is going to be extra hard. It will be quite difficult to even get top five but it is exciting, definitely."

Rawson was a world-ranked BMX rider before she switched to mountain biking four years ago. She started BMX aged 4, winning eight national titles and was ranked sixth in the world.

Her brother Kurt Pickard, who represented New Zealand at the 2012 London Olympics in BMX and is now a world-renowned coach, is her trainer.

"I have always looked up to him since I was a kid. I always wanted to challenge him and beat him at everything; we were always so competitive. To have got the results I have with him being by my side has been great," she said.