The 2017 season is on and it was podiums for all this weekend with first for Rachel, 2nd for Gee, 4th for Kade and the fastest speed-trap for Muddy. For the Atherton Academy it was 2nd for Mille despite a painful crash and a 5th for Luke.
Saturday's practice saw a water-logged track, drizzly weather and loads of crashes but the riders loved being back on track and spirits were super-high as the season kicked off in earnest, even the constant Welsh drizzle couldn't dampen the riders spirits.
Saturday was gorgeous! The sun shone and the pits basked in the spring warmth but track conditions became much more unpredictable as the trail started to dry out - mainly in the muddy pedal section!
It was hard to find much positive feedback from the riders after some very sticky seeding runs. Mille Johnset was first up riding for the Atherton Academy in the Junior Women's category. She seeded 2nd despite a crash at the bottom of the track. Mille said: "It's not so hard to ride here but it's hard to keep the speed up".
In the Men's Youth race, Academy rider Luke Williamson struggled with coming constantly unclipped, ending up in 15th.
In the Juniors and in his first race for Trek Factory Racing DH, Kade Edwards crashed out twice. Once getting hooked up at a steep corner at the top of the track and then running into a tree in the first wooden section.
In the Women's Elite, Rachel didn't enjoy her seeding run, saying: "I was still playing around with my bike set up, there was literally nowhere you could push on, you were going so slow."
In his first race on Welsh soil, Muddy said: "It's fighting you every inch of the way! I had a lot of moments that made me step back a gear, I felt so awkward."
Before Finals kicked off there was an hour and a quarter delay. Waiting at the top in the sun played havoc with Mille's nerves and left her feeling pretty drained, she took a hard fall in the rock garden and struggled down the rest of the course -- still good enough for 2nd place but the young rider was disappointed.
Luke managed to improve on his seeding run to take 5th place - he was pleased to podium and felt that he had learnt from the experience but admitted that he had struggled with this unfamiliar style of track.
In the Junior Men Kade podiumed with 4th but he was far from pleased with his run. Kade said: "The top part of the track was so beaten up and different from seeding, and I didn't ride it well, I pretty much stopped on every turn in the top section, I made up a lot on the bottom but it wasn't enough."
Then Rachel was on track. Manon Carpenter crossed the line into 3rd and the crowd waited for second seed Tahnee Seagrave to appear, but it was Rachel who crossed next a massive 10.1 seconds clear of the field! Rachel said: "Gutted for Tahnee to crash out, but that was a mint run, this is such a hard track to race, you have to be really calm, more delicate than aggressive. The bike felt great for this Finals run, we made some good changes to the suspension after qualies - thanks Joe!"
In the Men's Finals, Danny Hart smashed it in 2.05.92 with Gee a very respectable 2nd in 2.07.62. Gee said: "There was nowhere that you could smash it, I'm happy with 2nd today - and so good to be back racing."
Muddy said: "I'm happy with that - I've learnt so much this weekend about riding in the mud, the roots and the slick- so even though it's not a result that i'd aim for it seemed like I could ride a bike at last on that Finals run - I feel like I'm going to give myself the "most improved award!"
1. Megan James / T-Mo Racing 2.49.48
2. Mille Johnset / Atherton Academy 2.55.28 + 5.8
3. Rosy Monaghan / TCH Factory Racing 3.03.39 + 13.9
1. Jamie Edmonson / FMD Racing 2.23.82
2. Morgan Tyrell / Wideopenmag 2.26.82 + 2.9
3. Luke mumford / Cyclefix Ltd 2.27.984 + 4.16
4. Chris Cumming / Nukeproof 2.30.46+6.
1. Joe Breeden / Intense 2.10.59
2. Matt Walker / Madison Saracen Factory Racing 2.12.35 + 1.76
3. Kaos Seagrave / FMD Racing 2.15.19 + 4.6
4. Kade Edwards / Trek Factory Racing
5. Conor Bate / Madison / Shimano / P&O Ferries 2.19.20 + 8.61
1. Rachel Atherton / Trek Factory Racing DH 2
2. Manon Carpenter 2.38.403 + 10.18
3. Veronique Sadler 2.53.516 + 25.29
4. Sophia Paull 2.58.329 + 30.1
5. Deborah Primrose 3.02.17 + 33.95
1. Danny Hart 2.05.922
2. Gee Atherton / Trek Factory Racing DH 2.07.625 + 1.7
3. Matt Simmonds / Madison Saracen Factory Racing 2.09.219 + 3.29
4. Mike Jones / Chain Reaction Cycles Mavic 2.09.227 + 3.3
5. Charlie Hatton / Intense Racing UK 2.09.602 + 3.68