World Champion Rachel Atherton today proved she was not only fast enough to blow away the competition, but could do so with consistency - much to the annoyance of her rivals.
Producing a run reminiscent of her scintillating performance at the World Championships, Atherton managed to record another first today; her biggest ever winning margin in a senior event. But even with such domination, the young Brit still looks to improve to the next level in 2009:
"So far this year I’ve not made the qualifying mark for the men’s race, which I’m pretty disappointed about. This is definitely the mark I’ll set for 2009."
Setting standards against the opposite sex is not something alien for Atherton though, as she trains with her two brothers Dan and Gee constantly, gauging her progress against theirs and not other female riders.
"I get fed up when we go out riding not being able to keep up, or always having to go last!" Atherton joked. Unfortunately for her opponents it is clearly something she takes seriously and a mark others will struggle to step up to.
Already though, Atherton is assessing her weaknesses ready for a very different World Championships in Canberra 2009. The course, made up of long pedalling sections does not suit Atherton’s attributes, which are more accustomed to steep courses but we are sure next year more progress will be made.
After two nights of torrential rain the cut up course was in poor condition with knee-deep ruts, slick roots and running water making tyre choice a simple one. With mud spikes selected the top women set out in the dry, Rachel Atherton posting the fastest time. Her series rivals Tracy Moseley and Sabrina Jonnier already looked out of the race, finishing third and fourth respectively but with more rain hitting the course come early afternoon some expected a very different final.
Jonnier was the first with intent to occupy the hot seat with a confident run and no obvious mistakes, but it was her countrywoman Floriane Pugin who provided a very pleasant surprise by taking the lead. With the rain firmly coming into play now Atherton would have to produce a very special final descent to take the overall. What followed was obviously on the edge of anyone’s abilities, Atherton obviously on the edge of control with her foot out of the pedal on several occasions.
The reward was total domination, a winning margin of over ten seconds and the World Cup title to answer her critics over inconsistency marks a big step in maturity over this time last year when she had to come to terms with losing out at her home World Championships in Fort William.