This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
After missing much of the past two seasons as she recovers from a shoulder injury, Rachel Atherton (GT Factory Racing) served notice that she is back with a vengeance, by dominating round two of the Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup on Sunday in Val di Sole, Italy.
Val di Sole is known for its highly technical, rough and dusty track, and this year was no different, with new sections of the course buried under soft, loamy dirt that was nearly 30 centimetres deep in places. Crashes abounded, with former Junior world champion Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracen) unable to start after injuring her shoulder earlier in the week during training.
Sabrina Jonnier (Labyrinth Shimano) was the first woman to spend an extended time in the Hot Seat, but she was then bumped out of contention by a pair of Austrian riders - Anita Molcik (Four Elements) and Petra Bernhard (Alpine Commencal Austria) - before a trio of French riders took the top spot in quick succession, with Myriam Nicole (Commencal/Riding Addiction) the first to break the four minute barrier.
However, Nicole's reign at the top is was brief, with Atherton the next rider on course. Atherton, the world champion here in Val di Sole in 2008, was noticeably faster than than any other woman, finishing 4.485 seconds ahead of Nicole. The only rider remaining was the world champion, Emmeline Ragot (MS Mondraker), who had qualified first, but she was no match for Atherton, finishing over eight seconds back in third.
"I still can't quite believe it," commented Atherton. "The track here is so insane, it's so long and physical and wild. I knew that if I was going to win it I had to put everything on the line. I had a pretty good run and nearly crashed a few times, but you've just got to risk it, and I wanted to win."
Ragot takes the World Cup lead, since Atherton did not compete in the first round, with 370 points, followed by round one winner Tracey Hannah (Hutchinson United Ride) at 322, Nicole at 261 points and Atherton with 240.
Video: Rachel Atherton at home
|1 Rachel Atherton (GBr) GT Factory Racing||0:03:49.436|
|2 Myriam Nicole (Fra) Commencal / Riding Addiction||0:00:04.485|
|3 Emmeline Ragot (Fra) Ms Mondraker Team||0:00:08.083|
|4 Floriane Pugin (Fra) Scott11||0:00:15.446|
|5 Morgane Charre (Fra) Passion Velo.Fr||0:00:20.301|
|6 Emilie Siegenthaler (Swi) Scott11||0:00:23.207|
|7 Petra Bernhard (Aut) Alpine Commencal Austria||0:00:23.884|
|8 Anita Molcik (Aut)||0:00:24.333|
|9 Tracey Hannah (Aus) Hutchinson United Ride||0:00:32.308|
|10 Sabrina Jonnier (Fra) Labyrinth Shimano Racing Team||0:00:33.232|
|11 Alia Marcellini (Ita) Torpado Surfing Shop||0:00:34.984|
|12 Miranda Miller (Can)||0:00:36.808|
|13 Jill Kintner (USA) Team Norco International||0:00:38.500|
|14 Mélanie Pugin (Fra) Team Morzine - Avoriaz / Haute - Savoie||0:00:38.970|
|15 Céline Gros (Fra) Team Morzine - Avoriaz / Haute - Savoie||0:00:39.256|
|16 Harriet Rucknagel (Ger)||0:00:39.794|
|17 Carina Cappellari (Swi)||0:00:40.893|
|18 Jessica Stone (GBr) Unior Tools Team||0:00:44.225|
|19 Caroline Sax (Fra) Team Lac Blanc / Solid / Batibois Alsace||0:00:45.108|
|20 Miriam Ruchti (Swi) Sc-Intense||0:00:58.815|
|DNS Manon Carpenter (GBr) Madison Saracen Downhill Team|
|World Cup standings|
|1 Emmeline Ragot (Fra) Ms Mondraker Team||370||pts|
|2 Tracey Hannah (Aus) Hutchinson United Ride||322|
|3 Myriam Nicole (Fra) Commencal / Riding Addiction||261|
|4 Rachel Atherton (GBr) GT Factory Racing||240|
|5 Emilie Siegenthaler (Swi) Scott11||220|
|6 Jill Kintner (USA) Team Norco International||185|
|7 Floriane Pugin (Fra) Scott11||180|
|8 Manon Carpenter (GBr) Madison Saracen Downhill Team||165|
|9 Anita Molcik (Aut)||160|
|10 Petra Bernhard (Aut) Alpine Commencal Austria||154|
|11 Miriam Ruchti (Swi) Sc-Intense||127|
|12 Morgane Charre (Fra) Passion Velo.Fr||126|
|13 Luana Maria De Souza Oliveira (Bra)||84|
|14 Sabrina Jonnier (Fra) Labyrinth Shimano Racing Team||80|
|15 Harriet Rucknagel (Ger)||65|
|16 Alia Marcellini (Ita) Torpado Surfing Shop||55|
|17 Mio Suemasa (Jpn)||50|
|18 Miranda Miller (Can)||45|
|19 Fionn Griffiths (GBr)||45|
|20 Caroline Sax (Fra) Team Lac Blanc / Solid / Batibois Alsace||40|
|21 Mélanie Pugin (Fra) Team Morzine - Avoriaz / Haute - Savoie||35|
|22 Martina Bruehlmann (Swi)||35|
|23 Céline Gros (Fra) Team Morzine - Avoriaz / Haute - Savoie||30|
|24 Gabriela Williams (Cze) Cg Racing Brigade||25|
|25 Carina Cappellari (Swi)||20|
|26 Zarja Cernilogar (Slo)||20|
|27 Jessica Stone (GBr) Unior Tools Team||15|
|28 Tamara Maria Ulrich (Aut)||15|