Today in Leogang , Austria, Round 6 of the 2013 UCI World Cup was a fittingly tense finale to a season of awesome downhill racing.
GT Factory Racing have had a dramatic2013. Rachel and Gee started the season with a bang, double firsts at Fort William and Val di Sole were an amazing boost for the team and their many fans, but Rachel has constantly felt the pressure of some powerful riding from the other women, in particular by Emmeline Ragot but Manon Carpenter and Myriam Nicole have also been in close contention.
Gee led the series from the first race at Fort Bill until this weekend’s qualifiers but Stevie Smith stormed into fantastic form that saw him snapping at Gee’s heels as the two Men’s Elite leaders pulled away from the rest of the field by over 450 points. Marc Beaumont earned some important points for the team, in particular at Fort William and Mont St Anne (where he ranked 10th on a course he claims to dislike!) and has ridden well with some unlucky breaks this season. But the team’s mounting successes were marred by junior rider Taylor Vernon’s back injury before his first World Cup Season had even got properly underway.
Rachel started this weekend’s racing with a 160 point margin over Emmeline Ragot. She qualified first and might have been expected to ease up a little for today’s race given that any top 15 place would secure her the overall title, but anybody who knows Rachel knows that she’s pretty much incapable of that!
Track conditions were fairly dry but there were plenty of slick sections in the woods, which didn’t stop the women riders laying down some serious times. Myriam Nicole was the first to beat Rachel’s qualifying time but a few riders later Manon Carpenter smashed her way into the hotseat by 3 seconds . Jill Kintner put in a very strong ride but was 2.7 seconds short of Manon’s time with 4.00.42 leaving only Rachel and Emmeline Ragot on the mountain.
Emmeline put in a truly amazing ride– she was aggressive from the start which gained her a staggering 3.9 second advantage by the first split. She extended that to 4.7 by the second split and crossed the finish line at 3.52.86, almost 5 seconds ahead of Manon.
Rachel immediately made it clear that this was to be no coast down the hill. 0.39 seconds up on Ragot at split 1 she lost a fraction of time in the technical section to go 0.2 seconds back by split 2 and just couldn’t pull it back , crossing the line at 3. 53.36. just 0.5 seconds behind Ragot – enough for second place on the day and to secure the World Cup Win Overall.
Rachel said “I’m over the moon to take the Overall – especially as Emmeline has been getting closer to me every round! She totally deserved the win here today – there’s no way that I was holding back, I wanted to win this as much as ever! Thanks to the greatest team for making it possible for me.”
In the Men’s race Gee had started the weekend 17 points clear of Stevie Smith, but the Canadian’s qualifying victory had put him into the lead by a scant 3 points. George Brannigan took an early lead and was quite a fixture in the hotseat until Remi Thirion deposed him, well into the top 20 riders. GT’s Marc Beaumont was having an amazing run, 1.4 seconds up at split 1, 1.3 up at split 2, he was strong in all the pedalling sections, charging into turns and looking certain to take the lead when within sight of the finish he lost his back wheel on a relatively easy corner and came off the bike, losing valuable time. Despite this he would end 33rd on the day – enough to keep him top 20 overall.
Josh Bryceland was up next and put in a smooth and fast ride to stake his claim on the hotseat until young Loic Bruni smashed his way down the hill 2 seconds faster. Gee was next, up at split 1 but down by 0.6 at split 2, Bruni’s bottom half ride was too much for Gee to match today – his eventual 3.26.817 was only enough for 4th place as Mick Hannah also crept ahead by 0.9seconds then Stevie Smith hurled himself down the hill in an awesome run that took him 1.3 seconds up on the field and earned him the Overall title, pushing Gee back into second place.
Gee said “Congratulations to Stevie, that was an epic run. Obviously I’m gutted right now but it’s been an amazing season, thanks to everyone on the team and our sponsors who’ve been there for us all the way. We’ll go into the winter motivated to train hard, and we’ll see you next season.”
Gee, Marc and Rachel’s combined efforts for the season put them into first place in the Overall Teams race with Lapierre in second.
Team Director Dan Brown said “We’re honoured, I know that the riders and myself particular treasure this team award for all of our sponsors and the brilliant support team that we couldn’t do without, family, fans, our chefs ,the best mechanics in the business, trainers, masseur, physios … this year we’ve ridden it for Taylor Vernon too – next year he can get his own!”
Overall World Cup Results 2013
Fastest team Overall – GT Factory Racing
Women’s Elite Winner – Rachel Atherton
Men’s Elite Second place – Gee Atherton
Men’s Elite twentieth – Marc Beaumont
World Cup Round 6
Men’s Elite Results
1 Stevie Smith 3.23.95
2 Loic Bruni 3.25.27 +1.3
3 Mick Hannah 3.25.89 +1.9
4 Gee Atherton 3.26.81 +2.8
5 Josh Bryceland 3.27.36 +3.4
Women’s Elite Results
1 Emmeline Ragot 3.52.86
2 Rachel Atherton 3.53.36 +0.5
3 Manon Carpenter 3.57.68 +4.81
4 Jill Kintner 4.00.42 +7.56
5 Myriam Nicole 4.00.68 +7.81
All Photos: Sven Martin