Four days ago Gee and Rachel Atherton dominated World Cup Round 1 at Fort William in a double victory that set the event and the entire Downhill universe alight. Marc Beaumont put in a solid run to take 11th place, only 6.5 seconds behind Gee. The fairy tale was not quite complete as Junior Taylor Vernon punctured in his first ever WC race run after leading in qualifying and at the first split, a devastating blow which the youngster handled with a staunch professionalism beyond his years.
Long before the dust and emotions of Fort William have settled the team travel to Val di Sole in Southern Italy, another tough technical track where they’ll be hoping to build upon last weekend’s triumphs
Riders: Gee Atherton, Marc Beaumont, Rachel Atherton, Taylor Vernon
Mechanics: Piotr Michaliszyn, Mark Maurissen, Andy Lund
Bikes: The 2013 GT Fury was officially launched at Fort William. It’s lighter, stiffer and faster than its predecessor (despite its aluminium construction) the riders love it and it has already proved its worth in this season’s BDS events as well as at Aonoch Moor.
Race guide: Val di Sole is rough and tough. It’s steep, it’s loamy and it’s changeable so there’ll be an awful lot to keep the riders on their toes – especially with storms forecast. It’s a fast course with big compressions and tight gullys with woods from the start packed with tight turns, rocks and hidden roots. It’s steep but relatively short (approx. 1.5-1.6 km) If the weather holds expect times around 3 minutes 10 secs.
Websites vary as to when they predict the storms but not many would bet against thunder and lightning this weekend. At the very least there’s going to be patchy rain from Thursday onwards.
The team love Val di Sole. Rachel and Marc have both taken World Cup wins here (in 2012 and 2010) and Gee and Rachel took another famous double victory at the 2008 World Champs.
Last year the team put in a strong showing when Rach took her first win of the triumphant 2012 season by a decisive five seconds, Gee posted third in the Men’s Elite with Slugger close on his heels in fourth – his highest World Cup result of last season.
Taylor hasn’t raced Val di Sole before but he’s in good hands as the rest of the team talked him through the sections on Wednesday’s track walk.
Current situation – team perspectives
Gee: “I’m still stoked on Fort William, we all are. Val di Sole is another beast of a track but it’s how we like ‘em! We’ll be keeping an eye on that weather forecast though”
Rachel: “Val di Sole will always be special for me – it’s like I have an almost spiritual connection with the place –I’m so glad that it’s the next stop on our run after the excitement of Fort William. It can be really unpredictable because it gets really blown out so we’ll be relying heavily on our A-team – Polish Pete, Lundy and Mark Maurissen to get the bike and brake set up dialled.”
Marc: “Yeah Val di Sole is a good place for me, I think all of us enjoy these more technical tracks, I can’t wait to get young Taylor out there for a few practice runs.”
Taylor: I’m up for it. I’m feeling pretty glad to be part of this team right now – couldn’t have a better example here could I? I’m ready to move on from last week to be honest and hope for a smooth run.”
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