Golden success for Atherton at Worlds
Pietermaritzburg – World number one Rachel Atherton of Great Britain proved precisely why she has been the one the rest of the globe’s top elite women downhillers have been chasing all year as she destroyed the competition en route to her gold medal and world title at the UCI MTB & Trials World Championships at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday afternoon.
As the year’s form competitor launched herself out the blocks, the last of the female starter, thousands packed around the course soaking up the spectacle watched her as she blitzed her way to victory by over eight seconds, a massive margin on the international stage.
“I am just so happy right now,” exclaimed Atherton shortly after crossing the finish line. “It’s been a long time coming with me having won my last title in 2008 and so I was starting to wonder if it would ever come again.”
“I really wanted to these rainbow stripes so I’m just really stoked to have done it today!
“It was really tough but I heard all the people screaming and yelling on the pedally section and I was just like ‘Dig, dig dig!’ the whole way to the finish! I was in absolute agony and I think I’ll need a whole seas of salt to recover but that was wild!”
Despite having never competed on the Maritzburg dance floor previously Atherton looked completely at home from the get go and hardly put a pedal stroke wrong throughout the week’s action.
So dominant were her efforts throughout the event that not even second place finisher Emmeline Ragot’s final run (4.36.675) on Sunday afternoon could compare with Atherton’s official timed session run (4.35.013) on Saturday morning.
“I looked to treat yesterday’s timed run like a World Cup’s qualifier because I needed to know just how much it would hurt and exactly how quick I could go. Thankfully it all came together for me today,” said Atherton.
Despite her best efforts Ragot had to settle for second place however it will be a silver medal that stays with the French star for many years to come.
“I’d been hoping for a win for sure but to get a medal is still pretty good and second is not too bad,” said Ragot.
“The track was really fun out there and there were a lot of people on the course. Unfortunately I just hit a tree early on and from then on I knew I couldn’t do it.”
Having been out the fifth rider out starting blocks and across the line, Australia’s Tracey Hannah had occupied the leader’s hot seat for eleven riders until Ragot and Atherton’s efforts left her twelve seconds off the pace and into the bronze medal position.
Her third place finish still being a remarkable achievement though considering she broke her collar bone just seven weeks ago.
“The World Champs had been the focus of my year up until my injury so I came here with not all that higher expectations,” said Hannah. “I’ve only been on my bike for three days since I broke my collar bone so winning a medal had never been in my thoughts at any stage before the race.”
“As I finished and saw I was ahead of Caroline I knew I was in with a shout and after being in the hot seat for some time I got more and more nervous as each rider came down but you just never know until the very end.
“I’m still really really happy though!” she added.
An off day for the French trio of Morgane Charre (sixth), Floriane Pugin (ninth) and Myriam Nicole (eleventh) and a middle sector crash by Great Britain’s Manon Carpenter (seventeenth), together with a superb run by Jill Kintner handed the American fourth position
Caroline Buchanan’s dream of claiming three world titles in just two months, having wrapped up the BMX top award at the end of July and with her bags already packed for the four cross worlds which take place in just a few weeks’ time, unfortunately was not to be for the Australian rider as she settled for fifth spot on the standings.
With just the men’s downhill competition left on the cards after the women’s clash, the fat lady started to warm up her vocal chords shortly after Atherton’s victorious efforts as she prepares to bring a close to a special two weeks of mountain biking for Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and the entire world.
More information can be found at www.mtbworldchamps.co.za
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – UCI MTB & TRIALS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
1.Rachel Atherton (GBR) 4:28.043
2.Emmeline Ragot (FRA) 4:36.675
3.Tracey Hannah (AUS) 4:40.438
4.Jill Kintner (USA) 4:41.468
5.Caroline Buchanan (AUS) 4:41.655
6.Morgane Charre (FRA) 4:43.680
7.Emilie Siegenthaler (SUI) 4:46.312
8.Casey Brown (CAN) 4:46.568
9.Floriane Pugin (FRA) 4:48.812
10.Micayla Gatto (CAN) 4:48.949