Slovenia offered a very wet, windy and slippery start to the world cup downhill season this weekend with conditions that created a fantastic challenge for the top riders and led to some interesting results. For full details and another great video from MTBcut click ‘more’.
It would be fair to say that Rachel Atherton didn’t have a great run up to her race this weekend. She spent 2009 off the race circuit, after being injured in a collision with a vehicle, and she arrived in Slovenia with a broken finger sustained in training. As if that wasn’t enough of a disadvantage, she also had a huge stackÂ in her qualifying run, further injuring her hand and putting her down the start order. It showed how strong a competitor Rachel is when she stormed down the track, taking fastest times at each split, and earning the hot seat, where she sat for the rest of the race. The final result was Rachel Atherton 1st, by an amazing 10 seconds, Sabrina Jonnier 2nd and Floriane Pugin 3rd. Myriam Nicole qualified first but damaged her rear mech on one of the many rocks and had to coast to the finish line, still ending up an impressive 4th.
In the men’s race, the Monster Specialized team seemed set to dominate, with Sam Hill qualifying first and Brendan Fairclough second. Greg Minnaar qualified third with Gee Atherton taking 4th place and world champion Steve Peat taking a disappointing 11th. Come race day, Ben Cathro took an early hot seat, before being displaced by Joe Smith who stayed there for some time, until Aaron Gwin and then Fabien Pedemanaud took turns keeping the seat warm. Gee Atherton finally took the lead, knocking over two seconds off the best time in the process. Next down was Gregg Minnaar, who has never won at Maribor before, and although he looked cautious in the technical top section, he was fast in the second section and took top place by a quarter of a second!
The only two riders left to come were the Monster Specialized boys, Hill and Fairclough, and I think everyone expected them to take the top spots. First Brendan took to the course but made a big mistake on a rooty section and lost all his speed, it looked like he would be down the field but he rode an amazing bottom section and put himself in third place. Brendan was obviously pushing it because he was sick in his helmet during the run! Hill was next but made a few mistakes, ending up in 5th, much to his obvious disappointment.
So the final standings for the men’s race were, Gregg Minnaar 1st, Gee Atherton 2nd, Brendan Fairclough 3rd, Fabien Pedemanaud 4th and Sam Hill 5th. A fantastic result for Gregg and a great start to his season.