Historically Val di Sole is one of the riders' favourite tracks on the circuit, almost entirely natural, steep and challenging in all the right ways but yesterday in qualifications that love turned to something close to hate as on-off downpours left the track an unpredictable and scary mess.
Gee said ''it was savage, the track was absolutely brutal.'' A practice crash had left him with an injured hand so he was riding in a lot of pain with his hand velcro'ed to the bars - he was delighted to qualify a solid 30th with Charlie not far behind him in 43rd.
Rach had a couple of crashes in her practice run, qualifying 6th, Millie was 3rd and Kade 6th with a crash.
Saturday dawned bright, the sun dried the track to such an extent that the course builders pronounced it ''running as good as it ever will''
Millie was first on course and put in a great run on this physically and psychologically demanding track to ride into 3rd. Millie said ''My run wasn't too bad, I did have a small crash at the top and got stuck so that was bad but the rest was really good so I'm happy!''
Kade was dissapointed with todays 4th. ''That wasn't the run I wanted'' but hes already re-focusing for next week's challenge at Andorra.
Then it was time for the Woman's Elites. When Rach came on track, Veronica Widman was in the hotseat but it soon became clear that her time there would be short. Rach put in a commanding run, over 5 seconds clear by split1, she extended that lead to a massive 9.5 by split 2. She lost a bit of time between 2 and 3, still 8.6 clear and extended again to 10.2 clear by split 4. She lost a bit of time in the bottom section (around 1.5 seconds) but crossed into the hotseat 5.3 clear of the field. Five riders left on course, Salazar failed to get into connection, Tracey Hannah was slow in sector 1 but super fast in the bottom section, she pulled back a lot of time to go into 2nd 3.4 back from Rach. Siegenthaler crossed into 5th and then Tahnee Seagrave was on course.
Tahnee looked fast through the top turnss, then seems to be saving energy for the more punishing sections of the course, around 2 seconds back atsplit 1. Her strategy proved a good one with 1.5 seconds lost by Rach on the grass, Tahnee took her cue from the roars of the crowd and pushed harder for her finish - 0.1 second clear. Monica Hrastnik created lots of nerves, nearly 4 seconds back a split but taking back time all the way, she crossed into 3rd.
Rachel said, '' massive congrats to Tahnee, I'm not going to pretend, 2nd by 0.1 hurts like hell, but it's so cool to see all the girls tackle this mental track and smash it!''
The Men's Race was a sensation! British rider Laurie Greenland was in the hotseat with just two men left on course. The first of those was Danny Hart, he looked fast, was in the lead in sector 9 and 10 but lost a fraction of a second in the last left hander, crossing just 0.1 back from Greenland. But Amaury Pierron first place qualifier and winner of the last 2 rounds was still at the top of the hill. Pierron chose different lines, 0.2 up by split 1, a few mistakes cost him so that he was down at split 2 and 3 but by split 4 he smoothed things out to go back into the green crossing in 3.36.78 to take his 3rd consecutive World Cup Win.
Charlie & Gee were both carrying injuries so had to settle for 26th & 60th.
Gee said ''26th place is pretty crap for me but it's all I could manage with an injury, stoked to survive but always want to go faster''
Charlie said ''four weeks since fracturing my scaphoid, Val di Sole was always going to be a tough one, I had a stupid crash in today's finals but i'm glad to be back racing.''
1 - Vali Holl 4.43.05
2 - Anna Newkirk 5.00.41 +17.35
3 - Millie Johnset 5.00.67 +17.61
1 - Thibault Daprela 3.53.41
2 - Henry Kerr 3.54.54 +1.13
3 - Patrick Butler 3.56.79 +3.37
4 - Kade Edwards 3.57.81 +4.4
1 - Tahnee Seagrave 4.26.42
2 - Rachel Atherton 4.26.54 +0.12
3 - Monica Hrastnik 4.28.02 +1.6
1 - Amaury Pierron 3.36.78
2 - Laurie Greenland 3.37.31 +0.5
3 - Danny Hart 3.37.44 +0.66
26 - Gee Atherton 3.47.24 +10.4
60 - Charlie Hatton 4.09.82
Rach leads the Women's Elite, Kade lies 3rd in Mens Juniors, Millie is 5th in the Womens Juniors and Gee & Charlie are 23rd & 42st respectively. In the team rankings Commencal lead, Trek Factory are 3rd.