Wow… How’s that for an insane Fort William World Cup! We all know that the Kiwi World Cup riders shred but I’m guessing no one had this 1,2,3 listed in their Dirt fantasy predictions. Gee Atherton of team Commencal thrilled the home crowd to take an inaugural win at the second leg of the UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup in Fort William, Scotland. In a nail biting finish to a superb weekend of racing, the middle Atherton sibling avenged his brother’s and sister’s bad fortunes and solidified his chase on the overall World Cup title.
The weekend looked to be a sad affair for the Atherton family as Dan the eldest exited Saturday night’s 4X event in the quarter-finals. This was then followed by little sister Rachel; she got pipped to the win by just over a second by French woman Sabrina Jonnier.
This left Gee with it all to do and he didn’t disappoint.
Atherton’s time of 4.35.70 set the mark with only 5 riders left to descend, although all came close at the intermediate times it was Gee’s lower section that really set him apart from the rest of the field.
Cameron Cole of New Zealand, the number two seed, came closest to toppling the Brit in front of the 15,000 strong crowd, just two tenths of a second down at the intermediate split, Cole could not regain enough on the Brit to take over the lead.
This left South African Greg Minnaar the only person capable of silencing the home crowd. Greg trailed only four tenths at the last split and was looking good, but the current World Cup leader and former World Champ did not quite have enough in the tank to topple Gee.
As the South African crossed the line to claim third, Gee stood up to salute the masses and a deafening noise erupted at the Nevis Range resort.
“Winning in Fort William means so much to me, I honestly can say that it is right up there with winning the World Championships in 2008. It comes almost as a relief to me, all the hard work, not just this winter but the last few years. Today made it all worth it. The crowd was just unreal and I’d like to thank every one of them for making me push that little bit harder up there,” said Gee.
The Brit is now biting at the heals of Minnaar in the overall just 15 points behind, while the youngest in the Atherton family, Rachel, is mirroring the same situation in the women’s event as she chases down Jonnier.
Next stop for the World Cup circuit is Leogang, Austria where the family will look to continue the great start to the season.
MEN’S DOWNHILL #2 RESULTS
1 Gee Atherton (GBR) Commencal 04.35.70
2 Cameron Cole (NZL) Team Maxxis Rocky Mountain 00.00.46
3 Greg Minaar (RSA) Santa Cruz Syndicate 00.01.21
4 Aaron Gwin (USA) Yeti Fox Shox 00.02.01
5 Michael Hannah (AUS) GT 00.02.05