Atherton takes second win of season

The race for the World Cup title in the men's downhill became a two-horse race on Saturday, at round four in Champéry, Switzerland. Gee Atherton (Commencal) took his second win of the season to pull to within 13 points of Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate), who finished second.

The rain, which had turned the steep 1500 metre course into a slippery mud slide during qualifying, finally backed off for race day, but the damage had been done and, in some ways, the drying conditions made things worse. As the thick mud began to dry, it clung to bikes and turned to the consistency of peanut butter, doubling the weight of bikes and slowing forward momentum to a crawl.

"It was really tough," said Atherton. "You know, some races you really enjoy, and others it's a battle the whole time. This I was just fighting the whole way, the run was hard work; it was like a battle from top to bottom. It was a matter of just finding that line, hanging it out and having it pinned, and not pushing too hard and crashing. I guess I was right on that line and right on the limit the whole time. I was half crashing all the way down the hill, just holding on, and luckily I got it dialed."

Minnaar had similar comments: "It was like Scalelectrix [model electric cars], it was one big rut the whole way down, so you just had to balance well and ride the rut as best you could."

Only six riders occupied the Hot Seat during the race, starting with the first rider on the course, Ben Cathro, who held the lead for nearly a third of the field before being unseated by Ruaridh Cunningham (Chain Reaction/Intense). Cunningham knocked an impressive 16-plus seconds off of Cathro's time, and was in the Hot Seat for 20 riders before his teammate Chris Kovarik bumped him by mere four-hundredths of a second.

Kovarik held on for 18 riders until U.S. champion Aaron Gwin (Yetis Fox Shox) took the lead down another two seconds.

At this point there were 20 riders still to race, but when Minnaar came through the finish six riders after Gwin and nearly nine seconds faster, it started to look like the World Cup leader had shaken off a poor qualifying run and was on track for his third victory of the season.

However, the South African knew better: "My training run was terrible... getting stuck in the gate with the rain [starting], there's not much we could do about it. But a result's a result, so you just have to move on and try your best and turn it into a positive. So I'm glad to turn it around and improve on that 15th in qualifying. I knew my time was beatable, and not a race-winning run. I'd made costly mistake on an easy section, and I knew I'd lost a lot of time in there, but it was hard to make no mistakes on this track."

Minnaar was correct, as Atherton was fastest through both intermediate splits and flew into the finish nearly three seconds faster than his rival. Only top qualifier Sam Blenkinsop (Lapierre International) was left to ride, and he could not match Atherton's run, slotting into fourth behind Brendan Fairclough (Monster Energy Specialized).

"I'm pretty stoked to put that time in on that track," said Atherton. "I knew Greg had the Hot Seat, and I knew I had my work cut out, and that it was going to be hard to knock him off. It is my second win of the season and I am over the moon right now."

Minnaar continues to lead the World Cup standings with 830 points but, due to his poor qualifier and Atherton's win and second place in qualifying, the British rider is only 13 points back with two races to go.

"I'm holding onto the [World Cup] lead by the skin of my teeth at this point," commented Minnaar, "and with two to go, it's not much of a gap. Gee and I will have to fight it out right to the end."

Race Notes

Nico Vink crashed hard in the men's race, hitting his helmet on the ground. It led to a 20-minute delay while he was airlifted out.

Full results

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Elite men
1Gee Atherton (GBr) Commencal0:04:02.19
2Greg Minnaar (RSA) Santa Cruz Syndicate0:00:02.79
3Brendan Fairclough (GBr) Monster Energy / Specialized / Mad Catz0:00:04.56
4Samuel Blenkinsop (NZl) Lapierre International0:00:04.81
5Damien Spagnolo (Fra) Mondraker Factory Team0:00:05.32
6Brook MacDonald (NZl) MS Evil Racing0:00:07.34
7Fabien Pedemanaud (Fra) Scott 110:00:10.34
8Aaron Gwin (USA) Yeti Fox Shox Factory Race Team0:00:11.56
9Chris Kovarik (Aus) Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense0:00:13.71
10Ruaridh Cunningham (GBr) Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense0:00:13.75
11Mickael Pascal (Fra)0:00:13.77
12Marc Beaumont (GBr) GT Bicycles0:00:14.33
13Matti Lehikoinen (Fin) Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense0:00:15.78
14Mitchell Delfs (Aus)0:00:15.91
15Nick Beer (Swi) Scott 110:00:16.65
16Shaun O'connor (Aus) Kenda-Playbiker0:00:16.87
17Sam Dale (GBr)0:00:17.31
18Steve Peat (GBr) Santa Cruz Syndicate0:00:17.52
19Pierre Charles Georges (Fra) Solid Aclass Factory Team0:00:18.46
20Bryn Atkinson (Aus) World Trail/Specialized0:00:21.23
21Bernard Kerr (GBr) Norco World Team0:00:21.85
22Danny Hart (GBr) Giant Factory Team0:00:22.83
23Cyrille Kurtz (Fra) Team Lac Blanc Massif Des Vosges0:00:23.96
24Fabien Cousinie (Fra) Blackmountain Morewood United0:00:24.28
25Oliver Burton (GBr)0:00:24.30
26Markus Pekoll (Aut) Solid Aclass Factory Team0:00:24.60
27Antonio Ferreiro Pajuelo (Spa) XMS Racing Squad0:00:25.91
28Matthew Scoles (NZl) Team Cingolani - Protone0:00:27.55
29Cédric Gracia (Fra)0:00:27.88
30Lorenzo Suding (Ita)0:00:27.99
31Richard Thomas (GBr)0:00:28.49
32Troy Brosnan (Aus) Monster Energy / Specialized / Mad Catz0:00:29.02
33Wyn Masters (NZl) Kenda-Playbike0:00:29.11
34Adam Brayton (GBr)0:00:29.35
35Cameron Cole (NZl) Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain0:00:29.84
36Bernat Guardia Pascual (Spa) Massi Team0:00:30.07
37Florent Payet (Fra) Blackmountain Morewood United0:00:30.09
37Ben Cathro (GBr) MTBcut.tvRow 37 - Cell 2
39Thibaut Ruffin (Fra) Commencal Superiders0:00:30.50
40Steve Smith (Can) MS Evil Racing0:00:30.63
41Robin Wallner (Swe) Team Sunn Montgenevre0:00:30.79
42Harry Heath (GBr)0:00:31.21
43Joseph Smith (GBr) Kona0:00:32.31
44Justin Leov (NZl) Trek World Racing0:00:33.03
45Matthew Simmonds (GBr) Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense0:00:33.65
46Luke Strobel (USA) MS Evil Racing0:00:34.04
47Martin Frei (Swi)0:00:35.51
48Dennis Dertell (Swe)0:00:35.64
49Harry Molloy (GBr) 661/DMR/Last Bikes0:00:36.62
50Dan Stanbridge (GBr) Dirt Norco Race Team0:00:36.86
51Nejc Rutar (Slo) MBKOrbea0:00:38.25
52George Brannigan (NZl) Ancillotti Doganaccia Racing Team0:00:39.47
53Scott Mears (GBr)0:00:39.89
54Michael Hannah (Aus) GT Bicycles0:00:40.32
55Billy Caroli (Swi)0:00:40.95
56Faustin Figaret (Fra) Team Sport Bike0:00:41.15
57Thomas Braithwaite (GBr)0:00:41.69
58Ben Baker (GBr)0:00:42.54
59Julien Camellini (Fra) Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense0:00:42.57
60Robert Smith (GBr)0:00:43.22
61Carlo Gambirasio (Ita) Surfing Shop0:00:43.89
62Benny Strasser (Ger)0:00:44.28
63Andrew Neethling (RSA) Trek World Racing0:00:44.58
64Ralph Jones (GBr)0:00:45.00
65Ben Reid (Irl) Dirt Norco Race Team0:00:45.22
66Thomas Jeandin (Swi)0:00:46.61
67Kyle Strait (USA)0:00:48.03
68Esteban Deronzier (Fra) Morzine-Avoriaz/Haute-Savoie0:00:49.38
69Kristof Lenssens (Bel)0:00:50.15
70Yannick Colomb (Fra)0:00:51.21
71Matej Charvat (Cze) K.T.R. Racing Team0:00:52.06
72Marcelo Gutierrez Villegas (Col)0:00:52.21
73Arthur Racaud (Fra) US Cagnes VTT0:00:52.72
74Neko Mulally (USA) Trek World Racing0:00:54.83
75Joseph Nation (NZl)0:00:55.44
76Bertrand Gilles (Bel)0:00:58.72
77Romain Paulhan (Fra)0:01:07.79
78Duncan Riffle (USA) Giant Factory Team0:01:08.78
79Jack Reading (GBr)0:01:13.53
80Fergus Lamb (GBr) Perth City Cycles0:01:14.41
81Olivier Nicole (Fra)0:01:16.91
DNFNico Vink (Bel)Row 81 - Cell 2
DNFJoris Bigoni (Fra)Row 82 - Cell 2
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Elite men's teams
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense85pts
2Scott 1170Row 1 - Cell 3
3Santa Cruz Syndicate48Row 2 - Cell 3
4Commencal40Row 3 - Cell 3
5Suspension Center40Row 4 - Cell 3
6Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain35Row 5 - Cell 3
7Monster Energy / Specialized / Mad Catz32Row 6 - Cell 3
8Commencal Superiders32Row 7 - Cell 3
9Norco World Team32Row 8 - Cell 3
10Lapierre International30Row 9 - Cell 3
11Mondraker Factory Team28Row 10 - Cell 3
12Trek World Racing28Row 11 - Cell 3
13MS Evil Racing26Row 12 - Cell 3
14Yeti Fox Shox Factory Race Team23Row 13 - Cell 3
15RC Alpine Commencal Austria23Row 14 - Cell 3
16Morzine-Avoriaz/Haute-Savoie21Row 15 - Cell 3
17GT Bicycles19Row 16 - Cell 3
18Dr-Gravity Union18Row 17 - Cell 3
19Solid Aclass Factory Team17Row 18 - Cell 3
20Kenda-Playbiker15Row 19 - Cell 3
21Giant Factory Team9Row 20 - Cell 3
22Team Lac Blanc Massif Des Vosges8Row 21 - Cell 3
23Blackmountain Morewood United7Row 22 - Cell 3
24XMS Racing Squad4Row 23 - Cell 3
25Team Cingolani - Protone3Row 24 - Cell 3

World Cup Standings after four rounds

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World Cup individual standings
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Greg Minnaar (RSA) Santa Cruz Syndicate830pts
2Gee Atherton (GBr) Commencal817Row 1 - Cell 3
3Samuel Blenkinsop (NZl) Lapierre International569Row 2 - Cell 3
4Brendan Fairclough (GBr) Monster Energy / Specialized / Mad Catz510Row 3 - Cell 3
5Aaron Gwin (USA) Yeti Fox Shox Factory Race Team495Row 4 - Cell 3
6Cameron Cole (NZl) Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain450Row 5 - Cell 3
7Fabien Pedemanaud (Fra) Scott 11360Row 6 - Cell 3
8Matti Lehikoinen (Fin) Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense333Row 7 - Cell 3
9Damien Spagnolo (Fra) Mondraker Factory Team318Row 8 - Cell 3
10Justin Leov (NZl) Trek World Racing311Row 9 - Cell 3
11Steve Peat (GBr) Santa Cruz Syndicate305Row 10 - Cell 3
12Marc Beaumont (GBr) GT Bicycles301Row 11 - Cell 3
13Danny Hart (GBr) Giant Factory Team295Row 12 - Cell 3
14Shaun O'connor (Aus) Kenda-Playbiker263Row 13 - Cell 3
15Matthew Simmonds (GBr) Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense259Row 14 - Cell 3
16Nick Beer (Swi) Scott 11251Row 15 - Cell 3
17Steve Smith (Can) MS Evil Racing247Row 16 - Cell 3
18Michael Hannah (Aus) GT Bicycles245Row 17 - Cell 3
19Bryn Atkinson (Aus)239Row 18 - Cell 3
20Luke Strobel (USA) MS Evil Racing235Row 19 - Cell 3
21Julien Camellini (Fra) Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense218Row 20 - Cell 3
22Brook Macdonald (NZl) MS Evil Racing211Row 21 - Cell 3
23Andrew Neethling (RSA) Trek World Racing207Row 22 - Cell 3
24Mickael Pascal (Fra)205Row 23 - Cell 3
25Ben Reid (Irl) Dirt Norco Race Team203Row 24 - Cell 3
26Florent Payet (Fra) Blackmountain Morewood United201Row 25 - Cell 3
27Mitchell Delfs (Aus)199Row 26 - Cell 3
28Joseph Smith (GBr) Kona195Row 27 - Cell 3
29Sam Dale (GBr)193Row 28 - Cell 3
30Ben Cathro (GBr)192Row 29 - Cell 3
31Wyn Masters (NZl) Kenda-Playbiker185Row 30 - Cell 3
32Matthew Scoles (NZl) Team Cingolani - Protone182Row 31 - Cell 3
33Chris Kovarik (Aus) Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense181Row 32 - Cell 3
34Ruaridh Cunningham (GBr) Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense165Row 33 - Cell 3
35Aurélien Giordanengo (Fra) Mondraker Factory Team165Row 34 - Cell 3
36Samuel Hill (Aus) Monster Energy / Specialized / Mad Catz160Row 35 - Cell 3
37Thomas Braithwaite (GBr)155Row 36 - Cell 3
38Nico Vink (Bel)154Row 37 - Cell 3
39Thibaut Ruffin (Fra) Commencal Superiders153Row 38 - Cell 3
40Romain Paulhan (Fra)148Row 39 - Cell 3
41Antonio Ferreiro Pajuelo (Spa) XMS Racing Squad146Row 40 - Cell 3
42Robin Wallner (Swe) Team Sunn Montgenevre143Row 41 - Cell 3
43Josh Bryceland (GBr) Santa Cruz Syndicate138Row 42 - Cell 3
44Filip Polc (Svk) MS Evil Racing138Row 43 - Cell 3
45Troy Brosnan° (Aus) Monster Energy / Specialized / Mad Catz137Row 44 - Cell 3
46Markus Pekoll (Aut) Solid Aclass Factory Team136Row 45 - Cell 3
47Harry Molloy (GBr)135Row 46 - Cell 3
48Pierre Charles Georges (Fra) Solid Aclass Factory Team133Row 47 - Cell 3
49Cédric Gracia (Fra)125Row 48 - Cell 3
50Bernat Guardia Pascual (Spa) Massi Team122Row 49 - Cell 3
51Joshua Button (Aus) Kona121Row 50 - Cell 3
52George Brannigan° (NZl) Ancillotti Doganaccia Racing Team118Row 51 - Cell 3
53Kyle Strait (USA)112Row 52 - Cell 3
54Joe Barnes (GBr)105Row 53 - Cell 3
55Dennis Dertell (Swe)99Row 54 - Cell 3
56Fabien Cousinie (Fra) Blackmountain Morewood United98Row 55 - Cell 3
57Bernard Kerr (GBr) Norco World Team94Row 56 - Cell 3
58Adam Vagner (Cze)94Row 57 - Cell 3
59Richard Thomas (GBr)92Row 58 - Cell 3
60Matej Charvat (Cze) K.T.R. Racing Team92Row 59 - Cell 3
61Cyrille Kurtz (Fra) Team Lac Blanc Massif Des Vosges88Row 60 - Cell 3
62Robert Smith (GBr)88Row 61 - Cell 3
63Oliver Burton (GBr)87Row 62 - Cell 3
64Joris Bigoni (Fra)87Row 63 - Cell 3
65Emanuel Pombo (Por)86Row 64 - Cell 3
66Adam Brayton (GBr)83Row 65 - Cell 3
67Marcelo Gutierrez Villegas (Col)83Row 66 - Cell 3
68Fergus Lamb (GBr)78Row 67 - Cell 3
69Marcus Klausmann (Ger) Ghost A.T.G. Pro Team78Row 68 - Cell 3
70Marco Milivinti (Ita) Team Cingolani - Protone78Row 69 - Cell 3
71Lorenzo Suding (Ita)77