Val di Sole is known for its highly technical, rough and dusty track, and this year was no different, with new sections of the course buried under soft, loamy dirt that was nearly 30 centimeters deep in places. Under a baking sun, the qualifications for round two of the UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup took place today in Val di Sole. In temperatures that got broke the thirty degree barrier, 283 athletes competed for the 100 spots [20 women + 80 men] in Sundayâ€™s final.
Sabrina Jonnier (Labyrinth Shimano) was the first woman to spend an extended time in the Hot Seat, but she was then bumped out of contention by a pair of Austrian riders – Anita Molcik (Four Elements) and Petra Bernhard (Alpine Commencal Austria) – before a trio of French riders took the top spot in quick succession, with Myriam Nicole (Commencal/Riding Addiction) the first to break the four minute barrier.
However, Nicole’s reign at the top was brief, with Atherton the next rider on course. Atherton, the World Champion here in Val di Sole in 2008, and coming back from a shoulder injury that derailed most of last season and saw her missed the opening round this year, was noticeably faster than any other woman, finishing 4.485 seconds ahead of Nicole. The only rider remaining was the world champion, Emmeline Ragot (MS Mondraker), who had qualified first, but she was no match for Atherton, finishing over eight seconds back in third.
“I still can’t quite believe it,” commented Atherton. “The track here is so insane, it’s so long and physical and wild. I knew that if I was going to win it I had to put everything on the line. I had a pretty good run and nearly crashed a few times, but you’ve just got to risk it, and I wanted to win.”
Ragot takes the World Cup lead, since Atherton did not compete in the first round, with 370 points, followed by round one winner Tracey Hannah (Hutchinson United Ride) at 322, Nicole at 261 points and Atherton with 240.
1 Rachel ATHERTON 3:49.43
2 Myriam NICOLE 3:53.92
3 Emmeline RAGOT 3:57.51
4 Floriane PUGIN 4:04.88
5 Morgane CHARRE 4:09.73
12 Miranda MILLER 4:26.24