A solid start to the season with podiums for Mille Johnset, Kade Edwards, and Rachel Atherton
The track at Lošinj, Croatia was very physical – short and intense – and after weeks of sunshine, the day of the Finals was wilder than ever. A layer of rubber had added to the dust, making the rocks slippier with each run. It was a mixed bag this weekend with all of the riders pleased to show their pace, but nobody really finding their flow across Lošinj’s sharp, slick rocks.
In her first Junior race, Atherton Academy star Mille Johnset placed third with Valentina Holl taking the win.
“I’ve had a swollen ankle all weekend, then I crashed this morning in practice, so I was even more nervous for Finals,” explained Johnset. “I couldn’t bend my knee properly but I was, ‘here goes!’ It was a bit of messy run, I almost crashed again where I came off in practice, there was a really small drop where I nearly went OTB (over the bars), but I managed to recover – it was pretty ragged from then on. I wasn’t happy with the run but I’m really happy with third place!”
Team Director Dan Brown was happy to see the young Atherton Academy junior achieve a podium in her first race: “So Happy for Mille today!, It’s great that there is so much competition in the Junior Women this year – she’s going to have some work to do!”
In the Junior Men, Atherton Academy graduate Kade Edwards also earned himself a podium spot with a respective second place. The top three were very competitive in the first round of the World Cup, giving an indication it’s going to be an exciting season in the junior categories.
Kade, who had qualified first, was disappointed with his run. A mistake at the top cost him a lot of speed, but it’s worth noting that after an injury-plagued early part of the year, he’s only been back on the big bike for two weeks.
Stoked to be on good pace, but gutted not to put the right run together today.
- Kade Edwards
When the top five qualifiers in the elite women’s field came onto the track, Cecile Ravanel was in the hot seat, five seconds clear and poised to take her first ever World Cup podium. But it would be shortlived. Tahnee Seagrave, disappointed with her qualifiers, rode a very aggressive run and was up two seconds by the first split. She lost a little pace through the drops, but recovered in the final sprint to go fastest – and the first to beat Rachel Atherton’s qualifying time in 2.44.48.
Four riders remained. Marine Cabirou fast run slotted her into second, and Myriam Nicole, down 0.5 of a second at the first split, rode the next section clean to take the lead and then extended her advantage to 3.4 seconds by the third time check. When she flew across the line she stopped the clock at 2.40.70 – at full seven seconds faster than Rachel’s winning qualifier! The pressure was on!
Tracey Hannah, riding sore after a crash this week, didn’t quite get into contention, and a big crash in the lower section put her out of the running.
Finally, Rachel Atherton was on course.
Up by 0.6 at split one, Rachel looked smooth through split two – but not as smooth as Pompon across the sharp rocks, and found herself 1.5 seconds behind. She lost a little more time to go down 3 seconds by split three. Although Rachel was fastest again through the bottom pedal, it wasn’t enough – she crossed in second place.
“Disappointed with my run today,” Rachel said afterward. “I struggled to find any flow or carry speed, but that’s the comeback race done!”
The Trek Factory Racing elite men also found difficulty with the rocky course.
Charlie Hatton, who qualified in 34th, struggled today: ” I am happy to get through this weekend without injury or a mechanical and looking forward to Fort William to make amends.”
He finished a promising eighth, 0.3 faster than his qualifying time, and good enough for an eventual 38th placing.
Gee Atherton qualified 22nd, and like his sister Rachel, he rode a fast top section taking the lead by 0.1 at the first split, but in similar fashion, he couldn’t sustain that lead through the top of the rocks, down by about a second and a half through split two. He made up a little time through the final splits, crossing the line in third (2.25.27), enough for an eventual 19th place.
Well, that was a wild one! Stoked to be through the weekend in one piece, and with a solid place to build from.
- Gee Atherton