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DH World Cup round 4: 2nd for Rachel Atherton, 3rd for Mille Johnset

The Trek Factory Racing DH team conquer a savage course at Val di Sole

Historically Val di Sole is one of the riders’ favorite tracks on the circuit, almost entirely natural, steep and challenging in all the right ways, but yesterday in qualifications that love turned to something close to hate as on-off downpours left the track an unpredictable and scary mess.

“It was savage, the track was absolutely brutal,” said Gee Atherton. A practice crash had left him with an injured hand, so he was riding in a lot of pain with his hand velcro’ed to the bars – under the circumstances he was happy to qualify 30th with Charlie Hatton not far behind in 43rd.

Rachel Atherton had a couple of crashes in her practice run and qualified sixth, while in the Junior races Mille Johnset finished third and Kade Edwards seventh, also with a crash.

©Sven Martin

Saturday dawned bright, the sun dried the track to such an extent that the course builders pronounced it, “running as good as it ever will.”

Mille was first on course, and put in a great run on this physically and psychologically demanding track and finished in third place.  “My run wasn’t too bad, I did have a small crash at the top and got stuck so that was bad, but the rest was really good so I’m happy!” Mille exclaimed.

In the Junior Men’s race, Kade Edwards ended with a disappointing fourth. “That wasn’t the run I wanted,” he said after just missing out on the podium. Edwards is already focusing to make amends in next week’s challenge at Andorra.

©Sven Martin

When Rachel came on track in the Women Elites’ race, Veronica Widman was in the hotseat, but it was apparent her time there would be short. Rachel put in a commanding run, over five seconds clear by split one, she extended that lead to a massive 9.5 seconds by split two. She lost a bit of time in the third but stretched out her time again by split four.

Again losing some time in the bottom section, Rachel still had enough in hand to cross the finish and into the hotseat, 5.3 seconds clear of the field.

Five riders were left: Salazar failed to get into contention, Tracey Hannah was slow in sector one but super fast in the bottom part, and slipped into second, 3.4 seconds back from Rachel. Siegenthaler finished fifth and then favorite Tahnee Seagrave was on course.

Although Tahnee looked fast through the top turns, she seemed to be saving energy for the more punishing sections of the course and was two seconds off at split one. Her strategy paid off.  Where Rachel lost 1.5 seconds on the grass,  Tahnee took her cue from the roars of the crowd and pushed hard for the finish – and crossed a mere 0.1 second clear!

©Sven Martin

Monica Hrastnik, the final rider, created a nail-biting ending: nearly four seconds back at the top sector, she took back time all the way to the line to finish a close third and round out the podium.

Massive congrats to Tahnee!. I’m not going to pretend second by 0.1 hurts like hell, but it’s so cool to see all the girls tackle this mental track and smash it!
- Rachel

In the Elite Men, Gee Atherton and Charlie Hatton were both carrying injuries and settled for 26th and 60th  places respectively.

“26th place is pretty crap for me, but it’s all I could manage with an injury,” said Gee. “I am stoked to survive but always want to go faster.”

Charlie added: “Four weeks since fracturing my scaphoid, Val di Sole was always going to be a tough one for me. I had a stupid crash in today’s finals, but I’m glad to be back racing.”

©Sven Martin