By: Colin Meagher
It was more British Steel on the Gravity side of the equation as sibling domination shows up on the top step of the Downhill box for the Windham wins: Atherton and Atherton. For the Overall, it was a nail biter, but Gee Atherton came out on top, and while Sabrina Jonnier had a bad day in the office, she came out on top.
At one o'clock pm precisely, the ladies went off, with Lauren Daney in the start shack at the top of Windham Mountain. Precisely 46 minutes, 51 seconds and 21 one-hundredths of a second later, Rachel Atherton was beaming from the hot seat, another "W" added to her record.
"I was so incredibly stoked to take the win here, especially missing most of the season, and all of last year," gushed an excited Atherton.
In the other race, the women's World Cup overall, Sabrina Jonnier came up aces despite a less than stellar performance--the French racer came in 11.39 seconds off pace and had to settle for eighth on the day.
"I just couldn't find focus," lamented Jonnier. "This morning, on the rock drop, I had to do it three times before I felt comfortable, and in my run, I was all over the place. It was not good."
A race within a race; that was the men's Downhill race. Sure, Steve Peat qualified first, and while it was a toss up between whom the fans were rooting harder for, Peaty or Aaron Gwin, it was all going to boil down to whom, between Greg Minnaar and Gee Atherton, could come out on top and claim the overall.
It was Nick Beer in the hot seat when Gee Atherton set out on the track, and it was with no small amount of disappointment that the Swiss rider took a hike, giving up the seat for Gee. Four riders to go, the next one down Greg Minnaar, with both the win and the overall on the line. Minnaar smoked into the finish line...+00.37 seconds down. Crusher for Minnaar, relief--for a few seconds, anyway--for Gee. After all, there were three very fast riders still to go: Sam Blenkinsop, Aaron Gwin, and Steve Peat.
None of them came close, with Blenki home at +1.91, Gwinnie hot on his heels at + 2.60, and Steve Peat--courtesy of wadding it up almost in the finish--back at +12.98 seconds. The day and the overall were Gee's.
"I am beyond words," was Gee's lone comment before being whisked off to doping control.
On the day, it was Rachel Atherton, Tracy Moseley, Emmeline Ragot, Mio Suemasa, and Floriane Pugin. For the women's overall, it was Sabrina Jonnier, Emmeline Ragot (only 85 points back), Tracy Moseley, Floriane Pugin, and Nicole Myriam. For the men, it was Gee, Minnaar, Blenki, Gwin, and Nick Beer. Overall, it was again Gee, then Minnaar, Blenki, Gwin, and Marc Beaumont for the overall.
The rubber chicken in today's World Cup final: the overall winner's jersey, and the number one.
Words don't do this justice. Kinda hard to believe none of the racers in today's final wanted to take this one out for a spin on the track at Windham.
When you travel with your own music, and you're cracking a beer at 10 am the day of the finals, you know it's gonna be a good time.
The track was littered with ''bus stops'', places were riders had to ride the fine line just so or crush the brakes--and throw away anything resembling a good time.
Sabrina Jonnier was in the zone while warming up. Unlike a lot riders, Sabo doesn't listen to tunes when finding that place where the perfect line exists as she preps for her runs.
Emilie Siegenthaler was listening to a bit of Q-Tip to get in the groove for the track as she warmed up.
The dapper and confident Gary Wolff of Team Rocky Mountain-Maxxis was feeling it today even if Sabrina Jonnier wasn't. As she put it, ''I had a bad day at the office.'' Still good enough to take the overall in the women's race, though.
Last stop for Rachel Atherton on the way to the start shack.
Fionn Griffiths with the double thumbs up. Unlucky number 13 reared it's ugly head for her in yesterday's 4X Final when she was DQ'd for cutting a gate, never mind that photo evidence at the gate in question showed she rode that corner clean.
Claire Buchar railing the sweeper coming out of the first woods section.
First World Cup DH for Jill Kintner, but not a great one; a crash pushed her back off the podium.
Atherton focused on the podium.
+2.72 for Emmeline Ragot had her take the third step today, but second overall.
Tracy Moseley was looking for lost seconds on her finals run today, and she found some, but not enough to shut down Rachel Atherton.
Duncan Riffle looking inside for that perfect line.
Day four back on a bike since Ft William and Sam Hill showed he was shaping up rapidly for Mt St Anne, settling in for thirteenth.
Cedric Gracia was definitely back on form, showing flashes of brilliance as he careened down the course. Qualifying was tenth, but the race run was nearly 8 seconds down.
No one communicates ''Pinned'' like Chris Kovarik.
Unless it's Brendan Fairclough.
Sabo was locked squarely on target at this point in the course, but just couldn't maintain focus. ''No excuses; I just rode slow.''
Steve Smith of MS-Evil was looking good as he shot out of the starting gate. But he came in 3 seconds back.
Marc ''Slugger'' Beaumont was hoping to duplicate the race run he had in Val di Sole, but alas, he was +3.43 seconds.
Minnaar wanted this win as much as he wanted the overall. ''I feel like I lost the overall in Fort William. As much as I like that track, that was the season low for me. But Gee had a great season and a great run. He deserves this.''
Gwin was looking good, but was six seconds down at split one, and just could not coax any more speed out of the track until the last few hundred yards when the Yeti rider was able to creep up to fourth place on the day.
The philosophical Peat was running on a time over a second faster than Atherton, ''I simply boosted too big on the last drop heading into the finish area and wadded it up. It sucks, but that's racing.''
Gee almost seemed reluctant to really sink into the hot seat in the background. With more than a few fast riders left, that was understandable, but at day's end, Gee owned it.
Gee was quick to console Peaty on his crash.
The one, the only, Gee Atherton: World Cup Overall Men's Champion.
Sweet, sweet, victory.
So the fat lady has sung. Six races down and six new crowns for the season. But it's not quite all over, with the World Champs up next week in Mt St Anne. If people thought this was a wild week, just wait until next week.