UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Downhill
Round 1: Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Men | Women
Manon Carpenter and Gee Atherton were the top finishers at the opening round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup downhill - although neither could find the top step of the podium.
Carpenter raced her first downhill World Cup as a senior, having completed 2011 with the junior World Championship title and was immediately up to speed. Setting a good split time in qualification, which was only undone with a crash on the lower section of the track, it was clear Carpenter was a rider to watch in the finals and with no Rachel Atherton, Sabrina Jonnier or Floriane Pugin, the opportunity arrived for a career best result.
Carpenter obliged with a 4.34.755 which Tracey Hannah (Aus) could better by one second, leaving Carpenter as a continium of British women's downhilling which has seen Tracy Moseley and Rachel Atherton dominate in recent years.
In the men's race Gee Atherton was the highest placed Brit with fourth position, in a top twenty which featured only three British riders - compared to four in the top ten at the same event in 2011.
Despite finishing one place lower than last year, Atherton will be able to take encouragement that he was the last rider to finish within one second of the winning time set by Greg Minnaar, with the rest of the field a further three seconds adrift.
Minnaar's win moved him onto a par with all-time great Nico Vouilloz in terms of World Cup wins, underlining the strength of the current era of downhill racing, while Steve Peat, competing in his hundredth downhill World Cup was second-best Brit in 15th.
1 Greg Minnaar (RSA) 3.57.980
2. Aaron Gwin (USA) +0.00.632
3 Michael Hannah (RSA) +0.00.994
4 Gee Atherton (GBR) +0.01.303
5 Steve Smith (CAN) +0.04.384
15 Steve Peat (GBR) +0.07.670
18 Marc Beaumont (GBR) +0.08.874
1 Tracey Hannah (Aus) 4:33.806
2 Manon Carpenter (GBR) +0.949
3 Emmeline Ragot (Fra) +2.810
4 Jill Kintner (USA) +8.492
5 Miriam Ruchti (Sui) +10.896
12 Fionn Griffiths (GBR) +18.557