Britain’s Rachel Atherton finished second at the opening round of the 2015 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup downhill at Lourdes, France on Sunday on a weekend that also saw British riders pack out the top ten in the elite men’s competition, with Mike Jones producing an exceptional performance to finish third behind Aaron Gwin of the USA and home rider Loic Bruni.
The women’s competition saw Emmeline Ragot of France produce a flawless ride, posting a time of 3:32.625 on the loose, rough and dusty Lourdes track. Second to last to race after a strong qualifying run, Atherton came close to taking the win, two seconds up at the split.
But a mistake just after the timing point saw Atherton lose momentum and, on a track that was all about carrying speed, Atherton couldn’t recover, the GT Factory Racing rider stopping the clock 2.060 seconds down on the French rider.
World Cup #1, Lourdes,France. Brutal track,rad crowd!Geeman raced with a broken wrist,I got 2nd well happy!! pic.twitter.com/d2RUULqPjs— rachel atherton (@rachelatherton) April 12, 2015
Defending world cup and world champion Manon Carpenter was fifth best in qualifying and produced a composed run to finish fourth, 7.906 seconds back on the winning time.
What a race yesterday!! Happy to come away with 4th on such a crazy track, looking forward to the next one— Manon Carpenter (@ManonCarpenter) April 13, 2015
Fellow Briton Tahnee Seagrave was seventh, 13.308 down on the winner.
The result left Atherton trailing Ragot 200 points to 225 in the world cup standings, which also take into account qualifying performances. Carpenter lies fifth, on 145 points with Tahnee Seagrave in seventh on 96 points.
The elite men’s event saw British riders take third to seventh places, an impressive demonstration of the strength in depth in British downhilling. The result came despite Gee Atherton placing 48th after riding with a broken wrist sustained in qualifying, and in the absence of Steve Peat, out due to an anterior cruciate ligament problem.
Youngster Mike Jones of Chain Reaction Cycles was the best of the Brits, 6.405 seconds behind the unstoppable Aaron Gwin of the USA, who put together a stunning run despite being unable to complete his qualifying run the previous day. Gwin was disqualified after leaving the course and not re-entering at the same point but his place in the finals was protected due to his 2014 results.
Four tenths behind Jones in fourth was 2011 world champion Danny Hart, followed by Sam Dale and Brendan Fairclough in fifth and sixth respectively.
Defending world cup champion and 2014 world championships silver medallist Josh Bryceland was seventh, 7.681 seconds behind Gwin, in his first international competition since breaking his left foot at Hafjell in September.
The result showed that Bryceland was close to his best, despite spending four months non-weight bearing following his horrific injury in Norway.
Frenchman Loic Bruni tops the world cup standings after round one thanks to his combined qualifying and race runs, with 210 points to Aaron Gwin’s 200, while Jones lies third with 157. Bryceland’s strong qualification and race run left him with 120 points, good enough for fifth.
There was British success too in the junior men’s competition with Kona Factory Racing’s Laurie Greenland taking an excellent second place, just three tenths of a second behind the winner, Australia’s Andrew Crimmins.
Round two of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup downhill takes place in Fort William, Scotland on 6-7 June.