The final North American stop in Windham, New York, of the 2012 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup concluded with Rachel Atherton winning her third race of the series to move into the overall women's lead.
Third ranked Myriam Nicole started uncharacteristically early after crashing in qualifying, and set the first sub-three minute time for the women. It would stand up until the final five women, when it was beaten by four riders. First, Emilie Seigenthaler knocked 1.3 seconds off. Jill Kintner, the fourth fastest qualifier, crashed, breaking her arm. Then Tracey Hannah, winner of round one, rode and took over the Hot Seat, two seconds faster than Seigenthaler.
However, World Cup leader Emmeline Ragot
was right behind her, and looked to be on a good run, over three seconds ahead by the second split time. Unfortunately for Ragot, she was hit by a crosswind on the final jump, crashing within sight of the finish line, pushing her behind Hannah after she ran across the line, dragging her bike.
Atherton, the fastest qualifier, was last to ride. The British rider was fastest at both splits but then almost crashed herself after a jump, due to the wind which blew her sideways while she was in the air. The GT rider remarkably managed to avoid going down, fishtailing off the course before recovering without coming to a stop.
She managed to finish a slim 0.262 seconds ahead of Hannah.
"I headed into that jump and I was just like, ' I'm not gonna have enough speed', and I was tucked and I pulled, and the wind caught me, and I hung up and I bounced onto my front wheel, and I was like, 'I can't crash' and held on through the dust, over the berm, through one set of tapes, nearly hit a photographer and I pedaled back on track then carried on. I had no clue. I crossed the line point two up, and I can't believe it."
This set up a controversy: Atherton clearly did not re-enter the course where she had exited it, which traditionally has meant disqualification. However, the rules were changed in recent years, allowing the Commissaire President to avoid disqualifying a rider if he or she did not gain an advantage.
It was clear that Atherton had not gained an advantage, but for Ragot's MS Mondraker team it left a bitter taste when they lost the leader's jersey over what they felt was an incorrect interpretation of the regulations.
"When I crossed the line I didn't even think that I'd be disqualified," explained Atherton. "I celebrated and then they said we're not sure if the commissaire is ok. So we waited and waited. Everyone kept saying 'Yah you have the win'. It kind of puts a dampener on things, but at the end of the day the commissaires was ok with it. I lost all my time, I was two seconds up at the split and I lost all that time, so it's the commissaire's decision. It has been an amazing season so far. The girls are getting so fast. Emmeline is on fire and she pushes me on. I have to step my game up every race. It is exciting to have everyone going so fast."
Atherton takes over the World Cup lead after five rounds with 950 points, 30 points in front of Ragot. Nicole continues to hold third with 751 points, followed by Hannah at 732.
Windham New York World Cup Downhill - Women
1 Rachel Atherton (GBr) GT Factory Racing 02:52.1
2 Tracey Hannah (Aus) Hutchinson United Ride 02:52.3
3 Emmeline Ragot (Fra) MS Mondraker Team 02:52.4
4 Emilie Siegenthaler (Sui) Scott11 02:54.6
5 Myriam Nicole (Fra) Commencal / Riding Addiction 02:55.9
6 Micayla Gatto (Can) PerformX Young Guns 02:56.7
7 Manon Carpenter (GBr) Madison Saracen Downhill Team 03:01.4
8 Miriam Ruchti (Sui) SC-Intense 03:02.7
9 Petra Bernhard (Aut) Alpine Commencal Austria 03:04.0
10 Morgane Charre (Fra) Passion Velo.Fr 03:04.9
11 Mio Suemasa (Jpn) FFC 03:05.7
12 Jacqueline Harmony (USA) 03:06.2
13 Sabrina Jonnier (Fra) Labyrinth Shimano Racing Team 03:08.5
14 Miranda Miller (Can) SRAM/Santa Cruz 03:10.4
15 Anita Molcik (Aut) 03:10.8
16 Fionn Griffiths (GBr) GR Racing 03:11.1
17 Lauren Rosser (Can) Mojo wheeles north 03:17.4
18 Caroline Sax (Fra) Team Lac Blanc / Solid / Batibois Alsace 03:21.5
19 Jaime Hill (Can) 03:29.7
20 Jaime Rees (USA) 03:34.5