Reigning UCI Mountain Bike World Cup downhill champions Rachel Atherton and Amaury Pierron put down their marker for a 2019 repeat with victory at a weather-hit Fort William. Here is all you need to know:
– Briton Tahnée Seagrave and world champion Loic Bruni triumphed in the 2019 season opener at Maribor with Atherton and Pierron determined to hit back in Scotland.
– Rain and wind saw Bruni and Seagrave both suffer dramatic crashes before the race itself with the latter forced out entirely, after she injured her collarbone.
– The women went first with Italian Veronika Widmann and German Nina Hoffmann both posting great times in wet, blustery conditions that swept across the mountain.
– World champion Atherton, though, has won six World Cup titles and used her experience to record a superb 5:15.560 with leading qualifier Tracey Hannah last.
– Australian Hannah was up at the third split, but lost time to go behind at the fourth with a fast last section not enough to deny Atherton her 38th World Cup victory that puts her within three of the women’s all-time 41 mark set by Anne-Caroline Chausson of France.
– Atherton, 31, said: “That was the most nail-biting thing ever. I am absolutely buzzing – a win at Fort William is special enough without doing it for the first time for Atherton Bikes. That is all I have been thinking about all winter. The weather is really horrific. It is really hard to concentrate on your bike set-up and your line choice. Everyone is covered in mud. It is carnage. It is the worst weather I have ever experienced.”
– Hannah, 30, added: “Rachel is a beast on Fort William, so I had to really have a confident strong mindset from the beginning. I had to go as hard as I possibly could.”
– The men followed in conditions that turned for the better with Frenchman Bruni posting a great early time considering how bad his crash had been in qualifying.
– Aaron Gwin suffered a bad early crash to wreck his hopes leaving Canadian Finn Iles to beat out team-mate Bruni with Troy Brosnan the next in the leader’s seat.
– Pierron, though, drew on his 2018 success to pull out a brilliant run and take a lead which compatriot Loris Vergier could not better for his second Fort William win.
– Pierron, 23, revealed: “I struggled a lot on the first run and we did some adjustments on the bike so I want to thank a lot my family and team. It is awesome. I felt good on track and had a lot of fun.”
Fort William women’s downhill result:
1. Rachel Atherton GBR 5:15.560
2. Tracey Hannah AUS +1.611
3. Nina Hoffmann GER +8.822
4. Marine Cabirou FRA +13.374
5. Veronika Widmann ITA +15.735
UCI MTB World Cup women’s downhill overall:
1. Rachel Atherton GBR 430 points
2. Tracey Hannah AUS 400
3. Marine Cabirou FRA 290
4. Nina Hoffmann GER 285
5. Tahnée Seagrave GBR 230
Fort William men’s downhill result:
1. Amaury Pierron FRA 4:28.578
2. Troy Brosnan AUS +3.582
3. Loris Vergier FRA +3.631
4. Finn Iles CAN +7.203
5. Danny Hart GBR +7.518
6. Greg Minnaar RSA 4:36.893
7. Matt Walker 4:37.025
8. Loic Bruni 4:37.526
9. Brook MacDonald 4:37.587
10. Ed Masters 4:38.260
UCI MTB World Cup men’s downhill overall:
1. Troy Brosnan AUS 350 points
2. Amaury Pierron FRA 330
3. Loic Bruni FRA 301
4. Danny Hart GBR 292
5. Loris Vergier FRA 215