Rachel Atherton is gearing up to defend her Downhill World Cup lead after a thrilling performance at Fort William last weekend.
Round Three will take place in Leogang, Austria, this weekend – and Atherton is currently in first place, with last year’s victor and fellow GB rider Manon Carpenter just five pints behind her. France’s Emmeline Ragot is not far behind in third.
The 3.1km run in Australia has seen some substantial changes in preparation for the event, with organisers adding more technical and high speed sections, as well as one new final jump which is longer than its predecessor.
It was pretty surreal
Atherton, who took her first World Cup win in 2006, told British Cycling that last week’s win felt like the first world cup she’d ever won, saying: “I didn’t even think I had the series lead until they called it out. It was pretty surreal and I almost felt like it was the first world cup I had ever won.”
The success came after difficulties with a trapped nerve and crashes in qualification, but she brought it together for the final, saying: “It [was]…one of the most mentally challenging races I’ve ever done and I pulled myself back and turned it round.
“For me to know I can do that and get my head in gear when it matters and put the run together; I guess that’s why I love racing and why I’m a racer through and through. It’s all about that one run.”
Carpenter lost time at Fort William thanks to a crash in the closing stretch, but will no doubt be chasing to defend her title.
Qualifiers take place on Saturday, with the finals hitting the track on Sunday.