Rachel Atherton wins opening round of UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup in France

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World champion Rachel Atherton started the defence of her UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup with a stunning win in Loudres, France on Sunday.

Trek Factory Racing’s Atherton led home a British one-two-three in the elite women’s event with Tahnee Seagrave second and Manon Carpenter third.

The 29-year-old three-time world champion stopped the clock in 3:50.383, over four seconds quicker than Transition Factory Racing’s Seagrave.

The victory was Atherton's 27th world cup win.

"It’s been one of those weekends, all or nothing," Atherton said.

"I knew I was going to have to ride as well as I could and maybe crash. It’s gnarly how hard we have to push.

"The weather has been awful, it’s been really hard. The women and juniors practise at 8.30 in the morning and it is still really wet, cold and the track is so slippery.

"And now we are racing it is pretty dry, so you know you can push more but you are not sure how much."

In the men’s event, Danny Hart took third in 3:11.817 as American Aaron Gwin took the win in 3:09.131.

World bronze-medallist Josh Bryceland finished seventh, Gee Atherton eighth and Brendan Fairclough made it four Brits in the top ten, in tenth.

Round two of the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup takes place in Cairns, Australia on 23-24 April.