Rachel Atherton declared victory in Vallnord as one of the best of her life after chalking up her 39th career win in the UCI MTB World Cup.
The world champion was forced to dig deep and experience came to the fore in Andorra, showing skill and composure where others couldn’t to earn a 74th podium finish, the most of any female mountain biker.
Being third last to ride ensured she had a nervous wait but the clock was emphatically in favour of the Brit, crossing the line in 5:00.662 having led the charge in each of the intermediates.
“39 wins – that’s about how old I feel so it’s nice to be able to equal that,” she said. “It’s a super hard track, everyone was struggling and going super fast and I knew it was going to be on the limit.
“I was riding on the edge in the bottom section and I’m surprised I even stayed on towards the end.
“I really favour the top section here, it’s a place where you can really go fast – I set my eyes super-eyed, took a deep breath and just went to send it because I knew I would lose time at the bottom.
“It was pretty mad watching the girls come down, it was so dusty and one of the hardest races I’ve ever competed in.
“You’ve got to make it to the end of the season, there are loads of races still to go so we’ll see how the points stack up then.”
Atherton had qualified in third place in Andorra, stopping the clock in 5:08.997 behind both Nina Hoffmann and Marine Cabirou.
But race day is where the 32-year-old comes into her own and conquering dusty, difficult conditions, Atherton finished nearly three seconds clear of the field.
That saw her take a perfect 200 points into the downhill World Cup standings but it’s Australian Tracey Hannah who still leads the way after the Vallnord outing.
Tahnee Seagrave, who switched the bike for the microphone for reporting duties due to her injury troubles, remains third in the overall rankings.
Meanwhile Danny Hart bagged another top-five finish to continue his strong downhill season for Madison Saracen Factory Team.
The 28-year-old finished in 4:16.650 to end just five seconds off winner Loic Bruni in a hotly-contested race.
Three Frenchman occupied the top four spots but Hart was not the only Brit to feature in the top ten with Laurie Greenland registering the ninth quickest time of the day.
The World Cup weekend continues into Sunday with cross country the order of the day for British riders in Andorra.