Monday Aug 10, 2015

Gwin dominates in Windham, Atherton seals overall win

Incredible ride edges Gwin closer to victory after Rachel cruises to early World Cup glory

Aaron Gwin is one race away from the claiming the UCI Downhill World Cup title after a stunning victory in Windham while Rachel Atherton is already celebrating her fourth overall win.

Atherton wrapped up the Women’s World Cup title before finals had even taken place at the penultimate stop of the season after she claimed the crucial points by winning qualifying.

There was plenty riding on the men’s finals however with three men fighting for overall glory, but Gwin did not disappoint the vocal American fans on his home course.

The Specialized rider blew the competition away to finish first in qualifying before yet again producing one of the best race runs the World Cup has ever seen, destroying Greg Minnaar by over three seconds.

Frenchman Loic Bruni suffered a flat tire to effectively rule him out of the title race, but his countryman Loris Vergier claimed a surprise third place, as Gwin extended his lead at the top of the standings to 135 points with just one race left.

“I just try to take it one race at a time and do the best I can,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of rough weekends so this feels good.

“There’s no feeling like racing in your home country. If there’s one race I want to win every year, just for the fun of it, it’s this one.

“It was a pretty good run. The track was so wild. I wasn’t really sure, it felt good, but everyone else is riding so well.”

Vergier was the first man to really impress in the men’s final. The current Junior World Champion and World Cup winner held off a host of veteran riders to finish third overall.

He was finally knocked off the podium by South African Minnaar, with just three riders left to drop, but in-form Australian rider Troy Brosnan couldn’t challenge the 18-time World Cup winner with his race run.

Bruni then looked in good shape as he chased a first World Cup win until bad luck struck and he ended up finishing in 65th, rolling over the line with a flat back tire.

Still it wouldn’t have made much difference on the day as Gwin, in his trademark style, laid down a memorable run to beat Minnaar by over 3.5 seconds, with a time of 2:38.108.

Rachel Atherton tops the podium after reclaiming the World Cup title from Manon Carpenter

In the women’s race, the last threat to Atherton’s claim to the throne disappeared when Emmeline Ragot suffered a horrific crash and missed qualifying. With the World Cup title already in her hands the pressure was off on race day.

However, the British rider didn’t hold back and smashed reigning champion Manon Carpenter’s time by over nine seconds on the shortest track of the season to win the 25th World Cup of her career – and fifth of the season.

Tahnee Seagrave rounded off an all-British podium but it seems unlikely that anyone will stop Atherton claiming her sixth-straight race win when the tour lands in Italy for the World Cup finale at Val di Sole.

“This is definitely the most World Cups I’ve won in one year,” said Atherton. “I’ve won four before so five is pretty cool. I’m just trying to take each day as it comes.

“The World Cup overall means a lot. You have to be consistent all year. Week after week, the nerves, the worry, I’m pretty pleased to have it back.”

Atherton will now have one eye on carrying her momentum from the World Cup over to the World Championships which take place in Andorra in September.

However, that will be the last thing on Gwin and Minnaar's mind with an overall title still to play for - even if the American already has one hand on the trophy.

With one race to go only Greg Minnaar has a chance at catching American Aaron Gwin

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