We thought we'd had a great weekend already mountain biking in Tignes by the time we got to Val d'Isere on Sunday afternoon, but what a way to end my first trip to this neck of the woods, watching the DH World Cup finals with a win from Rachel Atherton, her brother Gee coming in a close second and fellow brit Josh Bryceland finishing in third!
We'd been eagerly watching the videos on line with track-walks and practise runs of the downhill world cup track in Val d'Isere, and boy did it look steep! Getting there and seeing it in person was just as impressive - so steep and technical in places and they ride this in just over 2 minutes?!?! Wow.
When we arrived the last two of the women's riders were coming down; Emmeline Ragot stomped into first place but this didn't last long. Rachel Atherton flew high off the last jump (bigger than a lot of the male racers) and nailed it across the finish line to steal the victory. Amazing riding. Since we'd gotten a great spot at the finish zone, we were lucky enough to see the top 3 women riders coming out and managed to catch a quick couple of photos of them all, and then a word with winner Rachel (hero #1). She said the track and the big jump at the end was pretty scary plus it was quite windy too, which only added to the difficulty. She was beaming from ear to ear and really didn't mind us grabbing her for a photo, in which we were beaming from ear to ear too - thanks Rachel that made our day!!
Here are the top 5 for the womens race:
1. Rachel Atherton - GBR
2. Emmeline Ragot - FRA
3. Floriane Pugin - FRA
4. Myriam Nicole - FRA
5. Manon Carpenter - GBR
On to the men's race; we found a good spot on the bottom section of the track right next to the two jumps, near the big screen and with a view up towards the top of the track. From here we could check split times, who was riding, crashing, doing the biggest and most stylish jumps and generally keep a good eye on everything going on - brilliant!
The tension built and built as we got closer to the final few riders, time after time the no. 1 rider was bumped as someone new took the lead. There were huge cheers and screams as Steve Pete flew past (he finished 12th) a couple of crashes by the top French riders, tyre-blow outs and skids that almost took out the cameraman at the bottom at one point, only adding to all the drama.
Not all the male riders hit the last jump in a big way, but then a few thankfully did cheeky tail whips to get the crowd going. One rode down just on his back rim after shdredding off his inner and tyre (huge cheers for him) plus anyone that crashed out carried on to huge claps and cheers when they finally crossed the line. There were plenty of 'oohs' and 'aaahs' as we saw the split times appearing on the screen, and nail-biting waits for positions as we watched riders pedalling like crazy to get over the line. The atmosphere was fantastic!
Here are the top 5 for the mens' race:
1. Brook Macdonald - NZ
2. Gee Atherton - GBR
3. Josh Bryceland - GBR
4. Greg Minnaar - RSA
5. Aaron Gwin - USA
As soon as the riders emerged from the end zone, we were on a mission for stalking a few more heros. We saw Marc Beaumont (GBR rider who placed 7th) in the GT pits selling t-shirts to happy fans. We asked for a photo which he was only to happy to oblige with. We told him he was an OK salesman but made a much better rider - snap!
Walking back towards the end of the track we sae Aaron Gwin (hero#2) - snap!, Rob Warner (legendary DH commentator & hero#3) - snap! And then Gee Atherton - snap! Fantastic - lots of pictures to update our facebook profiles for the next week and for this report of course...!
The awards were given out on stage not far from where we were, so we sorted of followed / stalked the riders over there and finished off the day, beer in hand, watching them spraying champagne and lapping up the cheers from the crowd. Can't wait til the next one!
For more information on what other activities there are to do in Val d'Isere in summer, check out this page here.