With no number 1 plate as Atherton is unable to race, of the 25 starters in the Women Elite DHI it was the top five qualifiers who had shown their pace: Myriam Nicole (FRA), Tracey Hannah (AUS), Marine Cabirou (FRA), Emilie Siegenthaler (SUI) and Tahnée Seagrave (GBR) all looked capable of the win. Was this Hannah’s best chance? And with 29-year-old Nicole and 24-year-old Seagrave both returning from injury, would their freshness and fitness count?
USA rider Samantha Soriano set the early pace before Vaea Verbeeck of Canada drew the big cheers from the home crowd as she pushed ahead by a huge margin of 16sec. There was another loud shout for 2017 UCI World Champion Miranda Miller, but it wasn’t the day for this Canadian as she dropped into second place.
Then, with the running order decided by world rankings, Nicole went – and wow – took the lead by 18.8 seconds. One-by-one the middle order ran and no-one came close until fellow Frenchwoman Melanie Chappaz came into second place – though still 18sec down.
Then Seagrave, so close, +1.2 for the British rider going into silver medal position. And Siegenthaler – consistently fast, and slotting into third, +5.4. Eleonora Farina of Italy? Fourth. Camille Balanche (SUI) set off fast but put herself out of contention by running off track. Veronica Widmann (ITA) was running on the limit but crashed out at high speed.
Nicole was assured a medal, but could she hold off her compatriot Cabirou – Junior UCI World Champion in 2015 – and the multiple UCI World Championships podium finisher Hannah for the win? Cabirou ran fast and close, but crossed the line in third. Hannah went hard but just couldn’t match the pace and faded to fourth.
The fairy-tale comeback for the injury-prone French star was complete. Myriam Nicole claimed the rainbow jersey with a winning run of 4:19.607. Almost as impressive a comeback, Seagrave took the silver medal, and Cabirou the bronze, extending France’s medal haul.