Round six of the Downhill at the Rockyroads UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Val d'Isere, France, turned out to be a much more difficult course than anyone anticipated, with many top riders crashing and performing below expectations.
Rachel Atherton (GT Factory) took her fourth win of the season to extend her lead in the women's standings, while Brook MacDonald (MS Mondraker) took his first ever World Cup win in the men's race. Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing), despite finishing fifth, locked up the men's overall title with one round remaining.
In the women's race, Atherton, the fastest qualifier, once again showed that her return this season, after struggling with injury, is complete.
"I am so happy," said Atherton. "I think this is the most nervous I have been all year. This track is very, very difficult. One day it's dry and then it's really, really wet, so tyre and suspension changes are so important and you don't know how it's gonna be on your race run. Everyone was just playing it like a guessing game."
Atherton now holds an 80 point lead over Emmeline Ragot, with Myriam Nicole a distant third at 892 points.
Despite having his consecutive World Cup win streak stopped at four, Gwin wasn't too upset: "I have no excuses, I had a pretty good run," he said. "For how I felt, I am happy. To win the overall again, it is so amazing."
Gwin now has 1,260 points with one race remaining, an insurmountable 260 point lead over Greg Minnaar. The fight for second overall is far from over, with Gee Atherton only 19 points out of second.
The Women's Cross-Country saw Gunn Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) take her second win of the season and Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower) his fourth - Schurter took the men's overall series title, while world champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna) won the women's.
Dahle Flesjaa jumped into an early lead in the women's five lap race, joined by Georgia Gould (Luna) and defending UCI World Cup champion Julie Bresset (BH - SR Suntour - Peisey Vallandry) and stayed there throughout.
"It was very close to the perfect race," said Dahle Flesjaa. "It's back to the old days where I was leading from the start to the finish. Yes, I had a good day. I knew before that I am starting to be in top shape for this season and this is the perfect feedback for what will be expected in the coming weeks."
Dahle Flesjaa's second win jumped her into second in the overall standings, with 1,048 points to Pendrel's 1,290.
Schurter showed that his form is better than ever by leading the men's race from start to finish. The newly titled national Swiss champion rocketed off the front of the field on the first lap, opening up a gap on a chase group containing team mate Florian Vogel, Marco Fontana (Cannondale), Ralf Naef (Multivan Merida), Sergio Gutierrez (Wildwolf-Trek), Burry Stander (Specialized) and Julien Absalon (Orbea).
"My tactic today was to start really fast," explained Schurter. "It was a perfect race for me. With Marco (Fontana) and Flo (Florian Vogel) together, we were a strong group in the lead."
Schurter finishes the season with 1,200 points to Stander's 1,058, with defending champion Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) third at 865 points.