Report: UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Fourcross R2//DHI R1
Two British wins at Maribor made it a memorable weekend in the mud for the opening round of the World Cup Downhill, and round two of the Fourcross. We have the first results, a brief report and full replays of all the action.
Fourcross: Griffiths returns to top, Marosi takes muck-fest
ACTION REPLAY: UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Fourcross Round 2
Full Result - Men | Women
Fionn Griffiths returned to the top step of the Fourcross podium for the first time since mid-2009, with a win at round two of the series. In conditions that were more conducive to bog-snorkeling than mountain biking, Griffiths took full advantage of a crash involving favourite Anneke Beerten and World Champion Caroline Buchanan, riding around the carnage and into the winners enclosure.
British riders didn't have such good fortune in the men's event, where progressing was based more on avoiding random mud-pits than out-and-out speed. Dan Atherton may have qualified second fastest, but that counted for little with four men on the track. The best showing for the Brits was ninth - but in a race where even the assured World and World Cup Champion Jared Graves could only finish second, there was perhaps room for a more pragmatic approach to the Maribor race.
As the series travels to Fort William, Scotland for round three of the fourcross competition, Graves still leads the overall, extending his advantage in the Series.
Downhill: Rachel Atherton completes perfect comeback, Minnaar back on top
ACTION REPLAY: UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Downhill Round 1
Full Result - Men | Women
A quarter-second was all that separated the Atherton's from another double-victory in Maribor on a World Cup weekend which saw five Brits in the top ten of the opening round of the 2010 Series.
Rachel Atherton was top of that list - winning the first round of the women's Downhill World Cup by a massive ten second margin and in the process completing a perfect comeback from injury in 2009.
As Atherton descended the treacherous Maribor track, made dangerously slick by a prolonged week of rainfall, it was easy to forget that the 2008 World Champion had missed the 2009 entirely following a collision with truck while training on the road. And, although the winning margin was slightly less than in that famous Rainbow-jersey ride, there was no doubt Atherton had once more redefined the standard in women's downhill racing.
Sabrina Jonnier was first to be on the receiving end of the win, 9.73 seconds stood between her second step on the podium and Atherton's first, while countrywomen Floriane Pugin and Myriam Nicole proved that the French have strength in depth - the nation taking second, third and fourth spots in Maribor.
Tracy Moseley was next Brit home finishing eighth - just two seconds off the podium, with Fionn Griffiths recovering from the previous day of fourcross to finish 12th, a quarter second up on Katy Curd.
That was the same margin Gee Atherton was deposed from the hotseat by, some hours later in the men's competition - Greg Minnaar taking the win by the slimmest of margins on a course now ravaged by the weather.
Slick in places and with peanut-butter mud in others, riders were challenged throughout the course which lasted under three and a half minutes for the best riders.
Through Maribor's famous rock garden Atherton looked untouchable, taking a line nobody else managed, his wheels hardly touching the surface. Minnaar was close here, but ultimately just short of the lead. Through the lower slopes and the off-camber line, Atherton was loose, foot out, while Minnaar kept both feet on the pedals. This ultimately meant a quicker acceleration to the line and although the second split was in Atherton's favour, the final time across the line was less generous.
Brendan Fairclough rounded out the top three, proving his maturity on the bike and with the 2010 World Cup season featuring so many steep, alpine courses, this could be the year he makes it big in the overall standings.
World Champion Steve Peat didn't have such a favorable day on course, a big stall in the rock garden (which also claimed Sam Blenkinsop) clearly taking the urgency from Peat's race run. Joe Smith however scored big taking eighth, with Danny Hart - making his senior debut - twentieth.
Round two of the downhill World Cup now moves to Fort William on June 5/6, where you'll have the chance to see Britain's best downhillers on home soil.