By Rob Jones, Cyclingnews.com
By the time racers turned up at Windham, New York on Sunday for the sixth downhill round of the 2010 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, France's Sabrina Jonnier (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) already had the overall women's title sewn up.
With a 155-point lead over reigning world champion Emmeline Ragot (Suspension Center) after qualifying on Friday, the big question was who would win on the day – and who was on top form for this weekend's UCI World Championships.
Mio Suemasa (Funn Bike) set an early fast time, which ended up being good enough for fourth, but was then ejected from the hot seat by Rachel Atherton, who knocked over seven-and-a-half seconds off her time.
Neither of the final two riders – Ragot and fastest qualifier Tracy Moseley (Trek World Racing) – could come close to Atherton's time. The Briton, back from missing much of the season with a shoulder injury, showed that she will be a force to contend with this weekend.
"I'm so surprised," she said. "It's so dry and fast, and having not raced for so long... I just didn't know. I was just so happy I got to the bottom, it was such a complete surprise to win. I had nothing lose so I put it all on the line. Just late braking, pushing it that extra bit. I can't believe it.
"I know now I'm ready for the Worlds. This weekend I thought, 'well, whatever happens, happens'. I'm just so happy to be racing again. No pressure. Now I've made some pressure for myself, because I know I can push myself this hard."
Jonnier, who finished eighth in the final, took the title with 1,130 points, followed by Ragot at 1,045 and Moseley with 909. "I couldn't get my head into racing this week," said Jonnier. "I don't know what it was, but I was making a lot of mistakes all week and not riding well. I'm just happy to have this finished so I can concentrate on the World Championships."