Making her first World Cup appearance in the rainbow jersey of the World Champion, Rachel Atherton (Animal Commencal) won an exciting downhill final ahead of Frenchwoman Sabrina Jonnier (Maxxis) and fellow Brit Tracy Moseley (Kona).
"Winning today is kind of saying to everyone my world title wasn't just a one off," said Atherton after defeating Jonnier by a mere 1.43 seconds.
"This is the first time I've won two World Cups in a year, and it's my first win here. Last year, I had a puncture. Two years ago, I was too young and my muscles weren't big enough," she said, laughing.
Despite no rain on race day, the course was still generally wet from frequent rains all last week, making it slippery, especially over the roots and rocks. The course dried significantly between the semi-final run and the finals, but the ruts created by riding the course wet over several days made for some treacherous racing on a course considered by most to be demanding even when dry. The softer course as meant less rest and even more pedaling than usual on a course that is relatively long and requires plenty of pedaling already.
Atherton's final run wasn't flawless, but she said it was the kind of course that was more about making the fewest and least significant errors. "I made a lot of mistakes on this final run and I almost crashed on the last turn. Then I told myself 'Calm down.' It's a long track and you can make mistakes and still be good.
"There's no way you can get down without making mistakes on this track - well not for a girl," said Atherton, qualifying her reply before adding with a laugh, "Maybe for the men?"
In contrast, Jonnier had some troubles during her final run. "I made too many mistakes, but I had a big smile on my face on the way down. I had some problems this morning (in the semi-final)." Happy with her second-place run, she reflected, "I wasn't strong enough apparently - maybe next time. I knew Rachel would be strong - she's been pretty strong this year."
Jonnier confessed to struggling with the conditions. "Yes, I'm not used to riding in the mud. I think I'm probably the worst girl riding in the mud. The English girls have this one me."
Moseley was the other English woman to finish in the top three. "My run was pretty good on the top section. Then I had a brake fade problem part-way down, so I was conscious about not coming into corners too fast," she said. "I was pretty tired by the final run. It wasn't perfect, but there were no major mistakes. I'm satisfied."
For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com