Monday Apr 28, 2014

Gee and Rachel Atherton seal World Cup double in Cairns

After a rocky start to the downhill season super siblings are back to their best

Gee and Rachel Atherton both celebrated victory at another thrilling World Cup Downhill race in Cairns on Saturday despite incredibly difficult conditions.

Heavy rain during practice and qualifying in north Queensland, Australia left the track wet, muddy and slippery for finals day with over half the riders hitting the deck on a challenging track.

The Atherton siblings however powered to the top of the podiums with mistake-free runs to secure their first World Cup wins of the season.

In the opening race in Pietermaritzburg Rachel, suffering from illness, finished second while Gee could only manage a disappointing 10th.

But both of the British riders are now back to their best and will be full of confidence ahead of the next round in Fort William – where they also did the double last season.

It made Fort William look like a walk in the park. It was like riding through glue!

“It was a tough weekend with conditions changing all weekend but the crowd were really pushing the riders on,” said Gee.

“It was a wild run and I’m absolutely over the moon to be on the top step. The first world cup was a rocky start so I’m stoked to win this one and I can’t wait to get stuck in to Fort William.”

After a messy practice round the track was still in tricky condition for qualifying but Samuel Blenkinsop of New Zealand managed to record a time of 4.22 to set the pace just ahead of round one winner Aaron Gwin.

The difficult course claimed many victims, including Adam Brayton who had to be evacuated with a broken leg, but Briton Josh Bryceland shocked the field with a time of 4.04 to take the hot-seat with 13 riders remaining.


Josh Bryceland on his way to second place in Cairns

However, the 24-year-old, still searching for his first elite World Cup win, could only hold on until Atherton powered over the line to finish four seconds quicker, with American Neko Mulally in third.

The result pushes Atherton up into second in the overall rankings while Gwin retains the top spot, thanks to his fourth-place finish, with South African Greg Minnaar third overall.

In the women’s finals Rachel Atherton strolled to her 19th World Cup win by a huge 12-second margin over fellow Brit Manon Carpenter – the rider who beat her to victory in round one.

The two are now tied for points in the overall standings with French rider Myriam Nicole just behind after she finished third in Cairns.

And although Rachel handled the tough conditions well - Nicole was more than 20 seconds behind - she insisted it was not as easy as it looked.

“It made Fort William and South Africa look like a walk in the park,” she said. “It was like riding through glue.”

“It was so muddy and was about whoever made the least mistakes. It’s been a hard start to the year, I didn’t expect to get sick and then have such hard conditions for the second world cup.”

The World Cup travels to Fort William on Thursday 5th June and, with reigning champion Stevie Smith set to return from injury one of the most open competitions in history is sure to continue in similar fashion.

Like many riders Gee Atherton took a tumble in practice, but had no trouble in the finals

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