• Rachel Atherton continued her winning streak in Lourdes. (Rob Jones)Source: Rob Jones
Tracey Hannah (Polygon UR) finished second to the unstoppable Rachel Atherton (Trek Factory Racing) in the opening round of the UCI Downhill World Cup, in Lourdes, France.
Cycling Central
1 May 2017 - 11:56 AM  UPDATED 1 May 2017 - 10:37 PM

In the men's competition, a late storm knocked the top riders out of contention, with Conner Fearon (Kona Factory) just squeaking in for fifth before the conditions trashed the course.

In the elite women's category, world champion and 2016 overall World Cup champion Rachel Atherton (Trek Factory Racing) took a convincing win, followed by Australian champion Tracey Hannah and top qualifier Tahnee Seagrave (Transition Bikes/FMD Factory).

Hannah was sitting third after the first intermediate splits, but a surge on the bottom of the course moved her into second. Seagrave faltered at the bottom to finish 0.256 seconds behind Hannah. Atherton now has an incredible 14 straight World Cup victories, plus two world titles, since 2015.

Atherton admitted the continuing win streak is starting to affect her; "I cannot believe it. The track was so rough in training. I know Tahnee has been training hard and she beat me in qualifying, so I just knew I had to go out and do what I normally do. I was so nervous, I don't think I can do this for much longer, I was throwing up before racing ... it's so nerve wracking."

The elite men race saw a storm blow in at the top of the course for the final ten riders, the top qualifiers, including Troy Brosnan (Canyon Factory) in seventh, bringing blinding fog, heavy winds and rain, and making the course slippery and treacherous.

Alexandre Fayolle (Polygon UR), the 28th rider to start was in the hot seat at that point, followed by Mark Wallace and Marcel Gutierrez (Giant Factory Off-road). Fearon, who started 11th from the end, had the fog and wind but missed the rain that made the course slick.

None of the top contenders could beat the conditions, with most finishing in the 60s and 70s (Brosnan was 68th), leaving Fayolle to claim the title, followed by Wallace and Gutierrez. Fayolle became the first French man to win a World Cup Downhill event on home soil since 1998 [Christian Taillefer in Les Gets].

Fayolle became the first French man to win a World Cup Downhill event on home soil since 1998 [Christian Taillefer in Les Gets].

"I have dreamed of this since the very beginning of my career," Fayolle said, "I've worked hard and now it has happened. I just can't believe it. I just gave everything I had ... I have no words. I want to share this with my team, my mechanic, my family and every French person."

In the junior men's category, world champion Finnley Iles (Specialized Gravity) repeated as winner followed Kaos Seagrave (Transition Bikes/FMD Factory) and Sylvain Cougoureux (Les Gets Intense). Patrick Butler (Bergamont Factory) was the top Australian, in ninth place.