After a long break, with no racing for the majority of July, the World Cup returned for some downhill and cross country action in Mont Sainte Anne, Canada.
The threatening thunderstorms held off, making for fair, dry racing, although there were still plenty of slipper rocks for both events on each course. With the season end in sight, the battles for overall lead are intensifying.
UCI MTB XCO World Cup Round 5
The track at Mont Sainte Anne is stand out on the World Cup Cross Country circuit because it's just so technical. Rough rock sections, steep uphills and tricky fast lines including a small river jump all made for some great racing.
It was a return to the World Cup circuit for British rider Annie Last. Last has been out of action for over a year recovering from a stress fracture in her back, and participated in the Commonwealth Games MTB Cross Country race last week. Starting from way back, she fought her way through and narrowly missed up on a top ten spot placing 11th overall.
On the technical course, the riders rapidly spread out with Jolanda Neff taking a very early lead and maintaining it throughout the race. Catharine Pendrel fought back at the end, but couldn't quite steal the victory, placing 2nd .03 seconds behind Neff.
Battling for the other podium spots were Katerina Nash, Lea Davison and Emily Batty placing 3rd, 4th and 5th respectively.
The riders don't have long to recover from the gruelling course, however, as the next race is this weekend at Windham in the USA.
UCI MTB DH World Cup Round 5
With one of the longest and most technical tracks on the World Cup circuit, Mont Sainte Anne has steep rocky and awkward sections galore.
British hopeful Katy Curd was knocked out of the game early, with two punctures on her qualification run putting her out of play for race day.
Micayla Gatto, Tracey Hannah and Tahnee Seagrave all put in sterling performances, with Seagrave coming quickest and taking the hot seat as the final three came down, guaranteeing her a place on the podium.
Third from last down the hill, and third in the series standings overall was World Champion Rachel Atherton. The long break in the World Cup DH calender in July clearly did Atherton the world of good. Struck by a viral infection at the start of the season, she clearly struggled through the first few races.
In Mont Sainte Anne, she displayed an amazing return to form with a performance that put her nearly 15 seconds ahead of the pack at the first split, a lead she maintained taking the top seat on the podium.
Atherton was followed by Emmeline Ragot and Manon Carpenter. Ragot put in a stonkingly smooth run, and although excruciatingly close to Atherton's time it was still a minute .047 of a second back.
Finally, it was the turn of Manon Carpenter, who is having a great season. After taking her first World Cup win in Pietermaritzburg at the season opener, she went on to win in Leogang. Her run on the rocky track of Mont Sainte Anne started slow, but Carpenter actually made up time on the difficult lower half of the track, where most of her competitors lost time, and she finally came a heart-stopping 0.7 of a second faster than Atherton to take her third World Cup victory.
Watch Rachel and Manon go head to head down the course with this awesome video from Red Bull TV.
With racing this close, and with only small points differences between riders at the top of the series standings, it's all to play for next week at the 6th round in Windham, USA.
Get the full results from the UCI Results Page.
Didn't catch the action live? You HAVE to watch this race, it's nail biting stuff! Catch courtesy of Red Bull TV.
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