Rachel Atherton took yet another convincing World Cup victory today as she put 7.63 seconds into the rest of the field in horrendous conditions at Hafjell. The win comes just 2 weeks after her World Championships victory and is the 4th out of 5 in the 2013 World Cup Series.
The diverse and technical Norwegian course was wet, windy and terribly slippy which was reflected in the Final timings. Rachel clocked 4:09.858 for her win – a good 12 seconds off her own (dry) qualifying time from Friday.
Emmeline Ragot who is currently second in the overall standings had crashed in the woods pushing her back into an eventual 5th place, Morganne Charre was 1.3 ahead of Ragot in 4th and French rider Myriam Nicole and Rachel’s GB team-mate Manon Carpenter had both put in great technical rides to take the second and leading positions but neither were a match for Rachel’s stunning form and physical strength as she looked visibly faster from the very start. Rachel was 6 seconds up by split 1, there was a tense moment as she caught her wheels at the exit to the woods but she managed to hold on and powered down to the finish to victory in her usual style.
Rachel said “The rain threw everyone into a bit of disarray – thanks so much to the team for getting my bike dialled, good job I’m used to the rain but that was wild – there were some places that only the crowd kept me on board!”
By the time the men took to the course, conditions were worse still with bikes picking up a lot of mud and a gusting wind causing problems on the big jumps in the top section.
Andrew Neethling took the hotseat early in the race and sat through more than 50 racers, including GT Factory Racing’s Marc Beaumont whose 3.50.15 run was only enough for an eventual 18th place, until Danny Hart put in a fantastic ride to go 1.14 seconds up.
The course had already claimed some significant scalps with Thirion and Pekoll joining the ranks of those to crash out and would claim more with George Brannigan coming off in the rock section, Bruni unseated and Mick Hannah leaving the course before Steve Smith started his run.
Smith took to the course in an atmosphere of feverish expectation, he had the opportunity to close the gap on Gee in the overall standings but if he finished outside of the points today the overall would have gone to Gee a week early. Smith put in an outstanding ride, over 1.5 seconds faster than Hart and it was all down to Gee.
Gee started strongly, pedalling at every opportunity, just 0.5 seconds down on Smith at split 1. He seemed to recover a small mistake at the start of the rock garden but it had taken him off his line and disaster struck as he crashed into a tree, losing substantial time to finish the race in a very disappointing 12th.
Gee goes into the final race of the series at Leogang 17 points clear of Steve Smith in the overall standings.
Photos: Sven Martin
1 Rachel Atherton 4:09.858
2 Manon Carpenter 4:17.489 +7.63
3 Myriam Nicole 4:17.93 +8.08
4 Morganne Charre 4:18.29 +8.43
5 Emmeline Ragot 4:19.636 +9.97
1 Stevie Smith 3.40.174
2 Danny Hart 3.41.815 +1.64
3 Andrew Neethling 3.42.95 +2.78
4 Sam Blenkinsop 3.44.039 +3.86
5 Greg Minaar 3.44.163 + 3.98
12 Gee Atherton 3.48.57 +8.40
18 Marc Beaumont 3.50.15 +9.89