Britain’s Manon Carpenter was the runaway winner of the first round of the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup DHI in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, beating the ailing 2013 world champion and world cup leader Rachel Atherton into second place.
Carpenter, riding for the Madison Saracen Factory Team, beat Atherton (GT Factory Racing) by 3.908 seconds, after a storming qualifying run that was over nine seconds faster than Atherton’s.
Following her winning run a delighted Carpenter said: “I couldn't have asked for a better start to the season because I was really stressed coming into this race so I am just really glad that I managed to pull it off today.
“I was feeling good after practice yesterday and then it got really loose at the top and bits were getting blown out so I was nervous and I had a few moments so I said that I didn't want to do that in my race run but I'm just glad I got a smooth run in.”
Runner-up Atherton’s performance was remarkable since the world champion had been ill and on an intra-venus drip during qualification.
After her ride Atherton said, “I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to be able to race this weekend, the doctor here was amazing and he really sorted me out."
"It has been a tough fight and a long weekend but I am absolutely stoked that I could come away with second place it is beyond what I imagined I could do and it completely blew my mind!"
American Jill Kintner was third, while Brits Tahnee Seagrave and Ffion Griffiths were 7th and 10th respectively.
Sam Dale was Great Britain’s top rider in the elite men’s event, finishing 7th, with Gee Atherton three places adrift in 10th.
Matt Simmonds was next Brit home in 13th, with veteran Steve Peat in 16th, Marc Beaumont in 18th and Ruaridh Cunningham 21st.
Of the British contingent, it was Josh Bryceland who showed most promise in qualifying, posting the second fastest time behind eventual winner Aaron Gwin, but a chain problem derailed Bryceland’s challenge, the Santa Cruz Syndicate rider rolling-in in 43th.
Taylor Vernon, riding for GT Factory Racing was the best placed British rider in the junior men’s category, finishing 7th, 16 seconds behind winner, USA’s Luca Shaw.