By Rob Jones, Cyclingnews.com
Saturday, September 15, 2012 8.32pm
Brit wins final round in Hafjell
2012 Women's Downhill World Cup Podium: Emmeline Ragot, Rachel Atherton, Myriam Nicole Keith Valentine/www.phunkt.com
This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Rachel Atherton (GT Factory Racing) took her first World Cup title since 2008 on Saturday, after winning the final round of the downhill mountain bike World Cup in Hafjell, Norway.
The Hafjell track is new to the World Cup, but has already drawn strong praise from riders for its varied and technical terrain. After rain earlier in the week, the course dried considerably for a sunny and windy race day.
American Jacqueline Harmony, 10th fastest in qualifying, set the first sub-4:25 time for the women, a time that proved to be strong enough for fifth, and her first podium appearance. Harmony held the hot seat for two riders before Canadian national champion Casey Brown knocked over 10.5 seconds off to take the lead. Brown held the lead for four riders until the newly crowned world champion, Morgane Charre (Passionvelo.fr), bumped her by nearly two seconds.
However, everyone was waiting for the final three riders to come down, which included the two who have been battling for the World Cup title all season: Atherton and Emmeline Ragot (MS Mondraker). Ragot qualified third fastest, and came through the speed trap significantly faster than anyone else, the first to beat Atherton's qualifying time with 4:03.828. Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracen) was the second fastest qualifier, but crashed hard in the middle of her run, leaving it up to Atherton.
Atherton had finished a disappointing fifth at the world championships, struggling with back problems and, at the first split Ragot was ahead by three-tenths of a second. But the British rider put in a brilliant lower half to her run, to win by 2.283 seconds, and take her first World Cup overall title since 2008.
"I am so happy the race is done," Atherton said. "The track was really hard, really challenging and really physical. I was probably the most scared I have been all year. I am really tired, I pushed all the way. It is an awesome track. I am really happy."
"It is cool [because] I haven't won the overall title since 2008, with all the injuries I've had. It is cool to finally be back at the top. I missed out at the world championships last week with an injury. It is just an amazing feeling, it hasn't quite sunk in yet."
Atherton won the 2012 title with 1450 points, despite missing the first round, with Ragot 140 points back, followed by the absent and injured Myriam Nicole (Commencal/Riding Addiction) with 892 points.