Home favourite Gee Atherton (Commencal) blitzed his way to the win in a thrilling men’s downhill final at today’s UCI Mountain Bike World Cup round in Fort William, Scotland.
When Mick Hannah (GT) crossed the line in 4:37.75, setting a new course record, it looked like the chances of a British win were slim. But the dry and dusty conditions meant the track was super-fast and Hannah’s record was short lived.
An astonishing four riders went on to set faster times – Aaron Gwin (Yeti – Fox Shox), Cameron Cole (Maxxis – Rocky Mountain), Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) and Atherton. Sam Hill (Monster Energy – Specialized) had chosen not to compete after a bad crash during qualifying.
When Atherton crossed the line in 4:36.18, after clocking 62km/h at the speed trap, the victory looked to be his and the partisan crowd went wild, in scenes reminscent of Steve Peat’s win on the same course in 2005. But last-man-down Minnaar can never be counted out, so Atherton’s fans breathed a collective sigh of relief when he finished 1.21 seconds down.
Atherton said winning at Fort William was a “dream come true” and he was “the most excited I’ve ever been about winning a race”. Asked how he got down the hill so quickly, he said: “It was all the crowd. I could hear them as soon as I came out of the woods. They were just so noisy, so good.”
MEN’S DOWNHILL #2 RESULTS
1 Gee Atherton (GBr) Commencal 0:04:35.70
2 Cameron Cole (NZl) Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain 0:00:00.48
3 Greg Minnaar (RSA) Santa Cruz Syndicate 0:00:01.21
4 Aaron Gwin (USA) Yeti Fox Shox Factory Race Team 0:00:02.01
5 Michael Hannah (Aus) GT 0:00:02.05
6 Samuel Blenkinsop (NZl) Lapierre International 0:00:02.11
7 Julien Camellini (Fra) Chain Reaction Cycles – Intense 0:00:05.23
8 Shaun O’Connor (Aus) 0:00:05.84
9 Nick Beer (Swi) Scott 11 0:00:06.27
10 Matti Lehikoinen (Fin) Chain Reaction Cycles – Intense 0:00:06.38
15 Andrew Neethling (RSA) Trek World Racing 0:04:46.00
World Cup individual rankings after round 2
1 Greg Minnaar (RSA) Santa Cruz Syndicate 420 pts
2 Gee Atherton (GBr) Commencal 405
3 Cameron Cole (NZl) Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain 282
4 Aaron Gwin (USA) Yeti Fox Shox Factory Race Team 240
5 Brendan Fairclough (GBr) Monster Energy – Specialized 239
6 Samuel Blenkinsop (NZl) Lapierre International 219
7 Fabien Pedemanaud (Fra) Scott 11 199
8 Michael Hannah (Aus) GT 173
9 Justin Leov (NZl) Trek World Racing 171
10 Julien Camellini (Fra) Chain Reaction Cycles – Intense 163