Rachel Atherton continued her flying form in Leogang this weekend, stepping onto the top spot on the podium for a world record tenth consecutive win, beating Anne-Caroline Chausson’s previous record of nine wins.
The result – and the time gap of 5.370 seconds – were in spite of having a less than perfect run, and Atherton admitted to pre-race nerves:
“It’s pretty crazy. I didn’t really think about it, but was so nervous this morning. To win ten in a row is just crazy. Every race I think, it may be the last one and that I can hopefully keep it going. My run was pretty messy really. I didn’t want to crash and I kept making mistakes. I got a bit wild, putting my foot out. I think, you have to ride so on the edge, with the girls being as good as they are. I’m just happy and tired now.”
The 3.1 kilometre / 1.9 mile long “Speedster” track through Bikepark Leogang proved slippery and muddy, in complete contrast to last week’s round at Fort William. Tahnee Seagrave missed the Fort William dust due to injury, but despite not yet being fully recovered she grabbed the second podium place, with Canadian Miranda Miller taking third.
Top 5 of Women Elite:
By the time the 84 starters in the Men’s Elite race lined up the track had dried somewhat, leaving perfect conditions. At first Greg Williamson (GBR) had a spell in the hot seat, until Troy Brosnan (AUS) took his place after a stunning run. The Australian made himself comfortable as Greg Minnaar (RSA) and Danny Hart (GBR) both failed to unseat him due to small mistakes. The suspense built as a win for Brosnan seemed to come closer to reality, although with Aaron Gwin (USA) still to run the hot seat was probably feeling pretty sweaty. Don’t forget – Gwin won last year despite a broken chain…would a mechanical free run see him repeat the win?
Following an extremely fast qualifying time, 20 year-old Frenchman Loris Vergier had a storming run and finally unseated Brosnan from his throne. Vergier, the Junior World Champion from 2014, said: “I’m so proud. The track was perfect and the condition was great. I totally enjoyed riding here.“
And then it was time for Aaron Gwin’s run. After the first split, Gwin was well behind. The spectators were preparing themselves to celebrate the young Frenchman, but Gwin then found his stride on his way to the “Roots of Asitz”. Thousands of fans in the finishing area stared in awe at the big screen, whilst the 28-year-old started to eat up Vergiers lead. The climax was reached, when Aaron Gwin hit the third split, which put him 0.531 seconds in front. The crowd went crazy. Gwin was not looking back and stunned everyone with a 3.131 second lead as he crossed the finish line. “I knew I was loosing a little time at the top, because I hit a few things kind of weird. I wasn’t really feeling it. By the time I got out of that last root section, I knew the tech stuff was over and I was a little bit frustrated. I was like ‘dude, you need to get going and hammer down‘. I just tried to pin it at the end. I made one little mistake and came unclipped for a while, but I luckily got back in.“
Top 5 of Men Elite: