Another nail biting finish at the sixth round of the World Cup Series in France saw professional racing cyclist Gee Atherton narrowly miss out on winning by less than a second.
The penultimate round of the series hit the Voseges region of France where thousands of spectators packed the small hillside to watch the world's best riders on a short but testing track. Departing high above the town, the course took in the alpine tracks, rocky outcrops, and tight singletrack.
With the weather changing by the hour it left riders guessing as to what set up to run and what the weather was going to throw at them next. Qualifying on Saturday was contended under dry conditions despite heavy rain on the Friday evening. Gee showed he was on target for a good result with a solid third spot and not too far from the top spot.
However, on Sunday the weather turned. With torrential rain all night long the course transformed into a different track compared to the previous days; deep mud ruts soon appeared and standing water made visibility pretty poor.
The early pace was set by Mark Beaumont who put in a great time only to see it smashed by South African Greg Minaar, who was looking good until Gee's run. Gee flew the top section, setting the fastest first split time and looking like he could hold it for the duration. Under the sloppy conditions a mistake was inevitable and Gee made a few as he tackled the middle section. During the second interval, Gee had slipped back sixth tenths from Greg leaving him a lot to do on the bottom half. He attacked the big drops and compressions that led down to the finish and clawed back a few tenths, but it wasn't enough to topple Minaar. Two riders remained on track but neither could top either Greg or Gee's time giving the South African the win and Gee a solid second place.
In the same race Gee's brother Dan continued his amazing return from injury with a season's best 40th place. With one race left in the season you can guarantee Dan will be pushing to improve this still.
The final Atherton sibling, Rachel, had her own difficulties over the weekend. A crash in practice on Saturday morning left her having to sit out of the qualifying round. However on Sunday she bounced back and put in a great run. Her interval times were looking good until a mistake on the lower section caused another crash. A little slow to jump up she lost a lot of time but still crossed the line in the lead. With the crash it was clear she wouldn't stay there long. First Sabrina Jonier went faster, then Floraine Pugin before finally Tracy Moseley set the fastest time to take the win leaving Rachel in fourth spot. A great ride considering the two crashes she had over the weekend.
Both Gee and Rachel sit in third spot overall with just the final round remaining. The venue for the finals is the very same track that saw Gee and Rachel both win the 2008 World Championships, Val di Sole in Italy. The team will be looking for a repeat of this result as they head there in two weeks time.