There was no doubt who the crowd favorite was as Gee drops in towards the finish.
By Adam Newman
It was a family affair at Fort William for the Athertons and GT Factory Racing. Aboard their brand-new GT Fury bikes, Gee and Rachel were setting some of the fastest times in practice and qualifying. Fort William is something of a home track for the clan, and though Gee had won here in 2010, Rachel has always been the bridesmaid and never the bride, with several podium finishes but never a win.
Jill Kintner was the fastest American female in 8th, 21 seconds back.
That all changed Sunday as Rachel took the final women’s run down the unusually dry and dusty Ben Nevis track and stomped out a commanding 10-second victory over fellow Brit Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracan Downhill Team). Frenchwoman Emmeline Ragot (Lapierre Gravity Republic) was third at 11 seconds back.
Rachel dominated the weekend from start to finish.
Mick Hannah had a consistent weekend, qualifying 4th and finishing 5th.
In the men’s race, Santa Cruz Syndicate rider and former Junior World Champion Josh “Ratboy” Bryceland recovered from a crash in practice and fired the first big salvo of the day with a blistering 4:40.796, a time that would have put him in the top qualifying spot. He enjoyed the view from the hot seat for a while until teammate and current world champion Greg Minnaar bested him by just 0.019 seconds.
Minnaar held the hot seat but ultimately finished 8th, just 4 seconds down.
The hugely anticipated debut in World Cup racing for US National Champion Aaron Gwin on board his new team and new bike—Specialized—was a disappointment for the Yankees in the crowd. Gwin He finished nearly nine seconds back in 20th position.
Gwin’s first World Cup at Specialized Racing didn’t go as well as he hoped.
One of the biggest crowd favorites was Harry Heath of the UK, an unattached privateer with an all-black kit. His 11th place qualifying run and a fast start to his race run should certainly help him pick up a team ride, though a flat ended his hopes for glory on the podium.
Fabien Cousinie was forced to take the slow way down after suffering some sort of mechanical…..
Cedric Gracia (CG Racing Brigade) took to the starting gate for the first time at a World Cup downhill race since a massive crash last season at Val di Sole shattered his pelvis. Knowing he wasn’t quite ready to fight for victory, he hooned is way down the mountain, pointing to the crowds and throwing massive whips.
At the finish Cedric was asked his thoughts on the race and he said some fans come to watch racing, some for the show. He certainly knows how to do both.
Danny Hart (Giant Factory Off-Road Team) made the UK crowd happy with his top qualifying spot, and his race run was good enough for 7th.
British riders dominated the weekend with six of the top 13 positions. In fact all 13 were riders from nations with ties to the Queen’s Commonwealth. (New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and Australia.)
Steve Smith (Divinci Global Racing) put his prototype SRAM drivetrain (more on that soon) to good use with a third place finish.
But it was Gee’s weekend. His experience at Fort Bill certainly didn’t hurt his chances, and the record crowds went completely mental when he hit the motorway section at the bottom of the track.
Can the Athertons stay on top at Round 2 in Val di Sole, Italy, this weekend? We’ll find out.
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