Gee Atherton beat arch rival Greg Minnaar at a tense series finale in Windham, USA on Sunday to win the sixth UCI Mountain Bike World Cup downhill round of 2010 and clinch the overall title.
The Briton and South African had been battling for the lead all year, with Atherton (Commencal) coming into the event just seven points ahead. He lost that advantage in qualifying, coming in fifth, just behind his Santa Cruz Syndicate rival, so it was clear the final would be a nail-biting affair.
Gee was the first of the two title chasers down the mountain, and he hit the slopes in the knowledge that his sister Rachel had just won the women's race. Riding fast and loose on the upper section, and pushing hard towards the bottom, he beat the previous fastest rider, Switzerland's Nick Beer (Scott 11), by 3.38 seconds.
As Atherton settled into the hot seat, his rival left the start gate. Minnaar was just seven-tenths of a second slower through the two intermediate splits but he wasn't quite able to make up the gap and crossed the line 37 hundredths of a second behind.
With the overall lead sewn up, the focus shifted to the winner on the day. First Kiwi rider Sam Blenkinsop (Lapierre International) failed to topple Gee, then home favourite Aaron Gwin (Yeti-Fox Shox) slipped by.
This left only current World Champion, and top qualifier, Steve Peat with a chance. Ahead at both splits it was looking good for the Santa Cruz Syndicate rider, but just as he came into view of the finish he hit the deck. This left a triumphant Atherton with his third World Cup win of the year and the overall title.
"As you can imagine, I feel at the top of the world," he said. "It's a great way to end the season. I'm stoked I've won it but Steve was up on me and he crashed... but that's just racing, I guess.
"This title has been a long time coming. We've been in contention before but never this close. I'm so stoked to have claimed something I've put so much time and effort into. The whole team have performed incredible [sic] this season, working tirelessly, and there's no way I could have even got close without them.”
However, this year's battle between Atherton and Minnaar is far from over, with the UCI World Championships taking place this week (1-5 September) just across the Canadian border at
"I feel ready for the Worlds," said Atherton. "This was a good race to lead into it. It's been a tough track to race on all week, so you know everyone's going to be definitely raring to go for next weekend."
Troy Brosnan (Monster Energy-Specialized-Mad Catz) won the junior World Cup title after setting the first sub-2:36 time – fast enough to place him 18th overall. His team-mate Sam Hill returned from injury to race at Windham but was only able to finish 13th.
The team prize went to ChainReactionCycles-Intense – Matti Lehikoinen, Matt Simmonds, Julien Camellini, Chris Kovarik, Ruaridh Cunningham and Claire Buchar – who netted 432 points to place them ahead of Scott 11 (411), Santa Cruz Syndicate (356), Commencal (352) and Trek World Racing (314).
Manager Nigel Page said: "It's been a hard season of ups and downs for individual riders on the team but everyone has performed really well throughout the season and as a team we've been really consistent which gave us enough points to take the top spot in the team rankings.
"We're all delighted. It was the goal for the team this season to finish top three and to actually win the title is amazing. We hope it's good news for all our great sponsors that have supported us this year and over the last three years since the team started."
For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.