Josh Bryceland won his first Downhill World Cup of the season and Rachel Atherton made it four in a row at a thrilling weekend of racing in the legendary Mont Sainte Anne.
The best riders in the world touched down in the Canadian ski resort for the 25th year and the track produced one of the most exciting races in its history with just over 0.2 seconds separating the top three men.
Reigning World Cup champion Bryceland climbed back to the top of the podium after struggling with injury throughout the winter while Frenchman Loic Bruni finished close behind in second, for the third time this year, with Troy Brosnan taking third.
Bruni is still looking for his first ever World Cup win but is now just 25 points behind overall leader Aaron Gwin, after the American crashed in qualifying and finished seventh on race day.
Bryceland is too far back to make a late charge to defend his World Cup title with two rounds to go but was delighted to be back to his best after his injury nightmares.
“I’ve been patient,” he said. “It’s been hard coming back and then getting other injuries but I’ve just bided my time. It all just fell into place. I’ve been buzzing this weekend.
“The track is a brute. I picked some really good lines. First day of practice I was struggling but I found a smooth way. I thought Troy was going to get me though. Bruni just missed out again – what a season.”
After Gwin bailed in qualifying he claimed the hot seat early in the finals but Bruni, his closest rival in the overall standings, stole the number one spot by over five seconds.
With plenty of riders left to drop the Frenchman had to endure another long wait but held off most of the competition, including Greg Minnaar, who set the all time record for World Cup wins with his 18th victory at the last round in Lenzerheide.
However, Bruni has some more waiting left to do before he can celebrate that first victory after Bryceland stole victory by just 0.2 seconds with an incredible run.
The length of the course made the tiny margins even more remarkable and fastest qualifier Brosnan came agonisingly close to ruining Bryceland’s comeback, ending up in third, just 0.225 seconds behind the Brit.
In the women’ race, Atherton was the clear favourite on arrival in Canada after winning at the last three stops, but Myriam Nicole put in a good performance on her return from injury to finish third.
Defending champion Manon Carpenter knocked the French rider off the hot seat and held on to the top spot until her fellow Brit smashed her time by over three seconds to seal her 23rd World Cup win.
With Emmeline Ragot missing the race with a shoulder injury, Atherton is now 375 points clear at the top of the standings and could secure the overall title at the next event in Windham.
“I’m so happy. Mont Sainte Anne always kicks my ass, it’s a really hard track,” she said. “I feel good this year and everything is just working well.
“Getting beaten last year by Manon definitely gave me motivation. Every athlete has a time at the top and lucky for me my time is this year.”
Although the English rider could wrap things up next weekend in Windham anything could happen in the men’s race as another exciting World Cup season enters the crucial stages.