Tuesday 30 June 2015

Rachel takes the win and Gee second!

Race Report: British Downhill Series 2015, Round 4, Rhyd y Felin, Wales 27th-28th June 2015 

In one of the most enjoyable weekends racing of recent years, Rachel took the win by almost 14 seconds while Gee came in second, even overtaking a rider on the way! Taylor took a gamble on dry tyres which didn't come off for him - coming in sixth - and Dan made a mistake on his Finals run which cost him a chance of the podium but he definitely enjoyed his foray into downhill! 

First rider up for the team was Atherton Academy's Kade Edwards in the Youth category. Heavy rain during morning practice had made the track a very different proposition from yesterday's practice. Kade was fast through the speed trap but crashed out in the woods section, qualifying 13th in 5:27.631. 

Kade said:"Saturday was one of the most awesome day's riding ever but Sunday practice was pouring rain, awful mud clogging the bike up- it all started to go wrong. In qualis, I crashed four times: the first two were in the woods, Kaos (Seagrave) had to help untangle me. I got going again, got down to the field then fell in the second corner. I got back on, over the drop and in a left-sweeping corner I did the same again. It was horrible."

In the junior women category sponsored by Rachel, Rona Strivens took the qualifying win despite a big crash, crossing the line in 7.38.06.

All of the Elite Women crashed in the slippery conditions for their qualification race. Rachel had a stall in the woods and crashed in the field but still managed to qualify first in 4:50.835, almost seven seconds ahead of Manon Carpenter and 22 seconds ahead of third-placed qualifier Tahnee Seagrave. 

By the Men's qualifying, the sun was out and light winds were helping the track to dry out. It didn't stop the crashes though. Taylor reported that while the open was drying nicely, the woods were still wet and lethal. Taylor washed out in the woods, qualifying 10th in 3.58.978, then both Gee and Dan went down. Dan had a small spill in the woods finishing in seventh (3.55.834) and Gee took a bigger tumble in the top section landing hard on his head. He qualified 36th in 4.34.433. Matt Simmonds took the qualifying win. 

By the time Finals came around the sun and the wind were well established and the track was drying well. In the Men's Youth, Kade had another difficult run with two crashes; he finished sixth in 4.22.230. His first odd was in the fast section of the woods, running into a stump his feet flew off and he landed heavily with his face smashing into his bars. He rode a pretty good woods section after that but got caught up in the first of two rutted corners in the open and got tangled up again. 

Kade said: "Not a good day for me, especially after yesterday was so rad - disappointing."

In the Women's Finals, Rachel made her win look very easy - crossing the line 14 seconds faster than second-placed Manon Carpenter. Rachel said: "That was mint! I just seemed to get all my lines dialled. I totally agree with Kade, Saturday was awesome, loads of runs on an amazing track, no queues, sunshine, hanging out with the big brothers, then qualis was wet, slippery and just generally horrible, and then for Finals the sun came out and it was rad again!"

In the Men's Elite, Gee started well down the ranks after his quali crash. He overtook Scott Mears to cross the line 24 seconds up on the field in 3.26.09, enough for an eventual second place.

10th qualifier Taylor crossed the line in second place, 3.33.343, which was 6.5 seconds back from Gee but Dan clipped his foot on a tree in the greasy top section, crashing out and losing valuable time. He crossed the line in 11th, 3.41.06 enough for an eventual 17th. 

Taylor said: "I had a decent run but I made a few mistakes in the middle section and I'd taken a gamble with dry tyres that didn't pay off!"

Dan said:"I think I really had forgotten how much fun racing Downhill can be. In Enduro, it's so easy to get sucked into your own world, riding with Martin for those long stretches, riding with Gee and Rach and getting to hang out between runs with the whole team is awesome. It's great to see the level of British Downhill Series is higher than ever with loads of great young riders coming through."


Youth Men 

1 Joe Breedoen 3.55.264
2 Matt Walker 3.56.006 +0.742
3 Conor Bate 4.05.409 +10.145
6 Kade Edwards 4.15.4436 + 20.172

Junior Women

1 Hope Jensen 5.56.61
2 Gemma Taylor 5.59.208 +2.547
3 Rona Strivens 6.00.024 +3.363

Elite Women

1 Rachel Atherton 4.05.067
2 Manon Carpenter 4.18.552 + 13.485
3 Tahnee Seagrave 4.20.673 + 15.606

Elite Men

1 Joe Smith 3.24.42
2 Gee Atherton 3.26.994 + 2.574
3 Mike Jones 3.29.391 + 4.971
6 Taylor Vernon 3.33.343 +8.923
17 Dan Atherton 3.41.323 + 17.214

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Race Report: UCI World Cup 2015, Round 2 Fort William

Rachel and Martin take the wins and Gee podiums with a solid 4th!

It was a fantastic day for the GT Factory Racing team today with Rachel Atherton taking her second World Cup at Fort William by almost eight seconds, Martin Maes taking his second Junior World Cup at Fort William, and a 4th for Gee Atherton in the Men’s.

After a washout Saturday, Sunday dawned dry, cool and cloudy. With Qualifying postponed from Saturday because of the wild weather, the race day schedule was jam-packed with Practice, Qualifying and Finals runs.  By 6am Rachel and Martin (racing here in Juniors) were in the pits and warming up on the turbos.


By 6.45am and the start of practice it was pouring with rain again. Martin was first down and reported that the winds at the top were making riding really difficult , while the woods was a “battlefield” with a lot of mud and a lot of crashes.

Rachel was next; she had a good run down, made all the jumps and looked relaxed and confident, boding well for Qualifying.  Gee and Taylor also managed clean runs. The race was on!


Martin was first up in qualifying, and he had another good run. Importantly he was clean through the woods, which scored him a qualifying time of 5.05.67 seconds. He took the hotseat from Jacob Dickson by 1.03 seconds and maintained that lead right through the ranks. Laurie Greenland was in 3rd (+ 2.35 back from Martin). There were a lot of crashes in evidence and a lot of punctures in the wet and loose conditions.

In the Women’s qualifying race, Emmeline Ragot was first to leave the start. She was safely down in 5.51.68 seconds.  Rachel was next on course but an off in the woods meant she was 25 seconds down at split 2, crossing the line 24.17 behind Ragot. Tracey Hannah was 4.5 seconds slower than Ragot  (an eventual 4th) then Manon Carpenter blasted through to take the hotseat in 5.38.37. Katy Curd completed the podium in 3rd, leaving Rachel in 5th overall with more in the tank for Finals.

Into Finals!

The Junior Men’s race was a nail-biting affair from start to finish.  Bradley Swinbank was in the hot-seat when Frazer McCubbing smashed through into the lead by 8.083 (his time 5.11.83) Chris Hatton was in 3rd, then Neil Stewart came down into 2nd the leader board showing 1,2,3,4 for Great Britain. But not for long. Loris Revelli from Italy was the next man down - his time of 5.10 .028 took him into the lead by 1.8 seconds. Notably he’d made up 2 seconds in the bottom section.
Revelli’s stay in the hot-seat was also destined to be a short one as Alex Marin Trillo roared down the hill in 5.05.48. Next run Laurie Greenland took the lead from him with 5.03.49 (1.925 ahead of the field).
Only Jacob Dickson and Martin were left on course, but Dickson crossed the line 17 seconds behind Greenland and so it was all down to Martin.

Unlike last year (Fort William 2014 was Martins first ever international downhill race, ridden just for fun) Martin was noticeably nervous and crashed within the first 30 seconds of his run, but in an amazing show of character Martin got back on his bike and battled on down the course with more than 5 seconds to make up for the win. He was 1.08.723, almost 3 seconds back (equivalent to 20th place,) at split 1 but his technical skills came to the fore through the mid section and he pulled back to +0.89 back (equivalent to 2nd place) by split 2. In the bottom section it’s all about power and Martin’s physical strength and Enduro training came together to make him an awesome 3 seconds on the motorway - he went in to the lead by 2.038, taking his second consecutive Fort William World Cup victory.

Martin said: “I am so stoked. It was much harder to win this year. I felt a bit more pressure but I did a good run, except that I had a small off at the top. Once I was down I knew that it was all or nothing so I got back on my bike and I absolutely threw myself into it – I’m so happy that it turned out good!”

In the Women’s race Rachel’s fellow Brit, 23rd place qualifier Tahnee Seagrave, was in the hot-seat with a time of 5.39.64. Canadian Casey Brown went into 2nd 14.9 seconds back from Tahnee and then Rachel was on course. With the determination that has made her an overall World Cup series winner twice before, Rachel threw off the morning’s doubts to absolutely blast down the course! She was up at the first split by 2.15 seconds, extended that to 2.72 seconds by split 2 and then powered down the motorway section, sending all of the jumps to snatch the hotseat by a mighty 7.989 seconds.  The podium continued to change as Tracy Hannah made a few small mistakes and came down in 4th; Katy Curd came down in 3rd; Ragot went OTB but with her trademark toughness got back on and crossed the line in 3rd. Only Manon Carpenter was left on course. Manon was 3.3 seconds down at split 1, 3.7 seconds down at split 2, then she gave the motorway section all she had in an attempt to make up the time but  she took a massive tumble on the jumps. She scrambled back on and still managed to podium with 4th in 5.54.047.

Rachel said: “That was probably the hardest race of my life. The weather this weekend, track conditions and a crash in qualifying meant that I had to mentally dig really deep to earn the win today but as usual here I was inspired and lifted by the awesome crowd – I never want to disappoint them! 

In the Men’s race Taylor was disappointed with 60th place, but there was a small consolation in his winning the Buff Whip-off competition!

When Gee came on course as the 8th qualifier Aaron Gwin was in the hot-seat with a time of 4.48.812. Marcelo Gutierrez was in second with 4.51.74.
Gee rode smoothly through the top section - just 0.15 down on Gwin by split 1 - but a couple of small mistakes in the woods cost him time and he was 2.5 seconds down by split 2.  He crossed the line in 3rd, 3.12 seconds behind Gwin.  7th qualifier Remi Thirion stalled in the woods, Sam Blenkinsop looked dangerous but finished 1.3 seconds short of Gee, then Greg Minaar was on course, up 0.5 at split 1 he strengthened his advantage by split 2 and crossed the line 1.119 seconds ahead of Gwin to take the hotseat.

Troy Brosnan, Mike Jones and Danny Hart couldn’t get into contention, then fastest qualifier Loic Bruni was on course. He was a tiny 0.01 seconds down at the first split but lost time in the woods, crossing the line in 7th to confirm Greg Minaar’s victory and make him the most awarded downhill mountain-biker ever.

Gee said: “I’m pretty happy with 4th today. I was still feeling a bit delicate from knocking myself out on Friday and I made a couple of mistakes in the woods. Congrats to Greg on another win!!”

Taylor said: “I’m disappointed with today’s result – Fort William is one of my favourite tracks but sometimes it just kicks my ass!”


Junior Men’s

1 Martin Maes 5.01.455
2 Laurie Greenland 5.03.493 +2.038
3 Alex Marin Trillo 5.05.418 +3.963
4 Loris Revelli 5.10.028 +8.573
5 Frazer McCubbing 5.11.83 +10.375

Women’s Elite

1 Rachel Atherton 5.31.654
2 Tahnee Seagrave 5.39.643 + 7.989
3 Emmeline Ragot 5.47.576 +15.922 
4 Manon Carpenter 5.54.047 +22.393
5 Katy Curd 5.54.406 +22.752

Men’s Elite

1 Greg Minaar 4.47.693
2 Aaron Gwin 4.48.812 + 1.119
3 Marcelo Villegas Gutierrez 4.48.812
4 Gee Atherton 4.51.941 + 4.248
5 Sam Blenkinsop 4.53.043 +5.35

Photos: Sven Martin

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Rachel Atherton wins 2nd World Cup in 7 days

Rachel takes her 2nd World Cup win in 7 days - her first ever win at Leogang!

Gee narrowly misses podium in 6th place while Taylor finishes 33rd. 

In both the men's and women's race in Leogang, the wind was definitely a factor, especially on top of the course. Riders enjoyed the track during qualifying - in particular the more natural sections that have been cut in for this year - but as the track was ridden during the race it seemed to change under them!

The women raced first. Emmeline Siegenthaler was in the hotseat when 7th qualifier Manon Carpenter crossed the line about 0.5 seconds ahead of her, but in a dramatic turn of events Manon was disqualified when she went off course on landing and broke the tapes close to the finish (she would have otherwise been placed 4th).

Tracey Hannah, 4th qualifier, crossed the line in 3rd (not enough to podium) then 3rd qualifier Tahnee Seagrave was on course. She rode a smart race carrying good speed down the course to take the hotseat by a massive 7 seconds, despite a mistake in the bottom section. 2nd qualifier Emmeline Ragot was just 0.15 seconds behind Tahnee, so all eyes were on Rachel.

Rachel was very fast through the top section; she lost some time through some holes but strong pedalling put her 2 seconds up by the first split. There were tense faces in the GT Factory Racing team as Rachel made a mistake in the woods, but she held it and carried good speed through the remains of the technical section, gaining at least a second with a straight line through the rock garden. She crossed the line 3 clear seconds ahead of Tahnee to take her first ever Leogang win.

Rachel said: "It started to rain about 10 minutes before my run but it wasn't too bad; i nearly crashed before split 1 but I held it and then tried to relax and push on the pedals once it was safe. It's a fairly wild track now it's so dry! Pretty cool that i finally won in Leogang!"

In the Men's race Loic Bruni had crashed in qualifying, ending up in 66th place. He took the hotseat early and held it through more than 50 riders - though he said himself he hadn't done enough to take the victory (he finished 8th). 

Taylor Vernon had qualified in 50th but today was not his best run and he made a few mistakes on the drying track, enough for a final 33rd. 

8th place qualifier Troy Brosnan was in the hotseat when Gee came on course with Greg Minaar in second by 0.3. Gee was less that 0.3 down at split 1 and looked to be carrying good speed through the technical sections but he crossed the line in 3rd, which was only enough for 6th on the day.

There was much excitement still to come. 3rd qualifier Remi Thirion went into the hotseat by 0.2, then next man down Connor Fearon took the hotseat from him by 1.2 seconds - a huge margin for this course. Fearon had crossed the tape (but not the poles) so his time was safe.

Last man down Aaron Gwin snapped his chain as he left the start gate but in a demonstration run he maintained his momentum to take the win by 0.045 seconds.

Gee said: "Sixth place today is pretty frustrating after some good speed this weekend, but to be fair my run was scruffy, I made a mistake up top and huge respect to Aaron Gwin for that run with no chain!"

Taylor said: "I was too cautious and a bit messy up top today. I got into it by the bottom but i wanted more."


Elite Men

1. Aaron Gwin 3.34.35
2. Connor Fearon 3.34.39 +0.045
3. Remi Thirion 3.35.68 +1.33
4. Troy Brosnan 3.35.92 +1.56
5. Greg Minaar 3.36.30  +1.94
33. Taylor Vernon 3.45.02 + 10.66

Elite Women

1 Rachel Atherton 4.04.10
2 Tahnee Seagrave 4.07.12 +3.01
3 Emmeline Ragot 4.07.279 +3.17
4 Emilie Siegenthaler 4.14.13 +10.02

5 Jill Kintner 4.14.5 +10.39 
6. Gee Atherton 2.37.89 +2.79

World Cup Overall Standings

Rachel Atherton 1st
Gee Atherton 6th
Taylor Vernon 33rd

All Photos: Sven Martin