Gee Atherton thrills home crowd in the Highlands

Brit wins Fort William World Cup downhill

Gee Atherton (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, this weekend.

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 four cross event in the quarter finals. This was then followed by little sister Rachel, who got pipped to the women's downhill win by just over a second by Frenchwoman 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 five riders left to descend, although all came close at the intermediate times it was Gee's lower section that 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. Minnaar 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," said Gee Atherton.

"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 were just un-real and I'd like to thank every one of them for making me push that little harder up there."

The Brit is 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.

The next stop for the downhill World Cup circuit is Leogang, Austria, where the Athertons hope to continue the family's winning ways.

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