Gee and Rachel Atherton are leading the World Cup Series as they enter the Final Round of the UCI World Cup for 2013 at Leogang in Austria but with a potential 250 points to be gained for a double qualifying and finals win it’s all still to play for.
Rachel leads Emmeline Ragot by 160 points. She has been on fire this season with National and World Championships already under her belt as well as breaking Steve Peat’s record as the most awarded British Mountain-biker in the history of the sport. But Rachel will never rest on her laurels – she won the overall World Cup title last year and she’s determined to keep hold of it.
The media is alight with the prospect of the closest Men’s Finals in years as just 17 points separate Gee and Canada’s Steve Smith. But that’s a distraction from some of the other competitors in this race who are also on top form right now – Greg Minaar, Sam Blenkinsop, Loic Bruni, Andrew Neethling, Danny Hart, Josh Bryceland - and they aren’t the only ones who’ll be gunning for the win.
Marc Beaumont will be riding for the GT Factory racing team and looking for another top 10 place and team-mate Taylor Vernon will be cheering from the hillside.
Riders: Gee Atherton, Rachel Atherton, Marc Beaumont.
Mechanics: Pete Michaliszyn, Mark Maurissen, Andy Lund
Support : Dan Brown, Taylor Vernon, Tom Lloyd
Bikes: The new GT Fury
Race guide: Some riders say that Leogang’s not the most technical course, though it’s often a battle against the elements and changing conditions. Marc Beaumont is one of the riders who prefers to ride Leogang in the wet. He remembers form Worlds in 2012 that the course can get super rough in the upper sections with deep mud to trap you if you wander from your line, then there’s a physical section in the middle and a more technical part (where Marc stalled on a left hand corner) as you push for the bottom. Team Director Dan Brown said “It’s going to cut up a lot, there’s a couple of new sections but very similar to last year’s Worlds – it’s high on pedalling which suits Gee…”
Weather Forecast: The forecast says mild with showers – most of the rain on Thursday, showers Friday morning and Saturday afternoon, clearing by Sunday – but the guys on the ground are wet and worried about snow!
The team are totally focused on the task in hand. Gee has ridden well here in the past – the run of 2nd places in 2010,11 and at the 2012 World Champs include one gap of 0.7 seconds and one of 0.5 … (Steve Smith was 11th, 4th, 3rd in that same run of races). Rachel won here at the IXS Cup in 2012 and was 2nd in the 2011 World Cup. Marc has, by his own admission, had some fairly average runs (14th at 2012 World Champs, 13th in 2011 World Cup).
The past is not important. The team are on form and ready to defend their title claims.
Marc: “I’ll be honest, Leogang is not my favourite course* but obviously I have a job to do and will be looking to finish the season with a good result…hopefully the weather will hold off and there won’t be too much snow. It’s a huge weekend for the team with both Gee and Rach chasing titles so I’ll try to help them out as much as I can in their pursuits.”
*Worth remembering he said that about Mont St Anne, best result of the 2013 season! Ed)
Gee: “ I like riding at Leogang…just missed out here at last year’s World Champs…right now I’m only thinking about the track, the conditions, about the race itself. It’s going to be an exciting weekend.”
Rachel: “Me too, I’m just thinking about the race. The girls have pushed me so hard this season, especially Emmeline and Manon Carpenter but also Pom Pom, Morganne Charre, Emily Siegenthaler and it was good to watch Tahnee smashing it in the juniors. It’s been a fantastic time to race and to be a part of this women’s sport. Bring on Sunday.”