2008 was the year Val di Sole was unleashed on an unsuspected field of elite riders. Rooty, rocky and relentless, it's a brute of a course that remains one of the tougest on the circuit to this day. At the time Micayla Gatto said
, "It hurts your fingers because you have to brake so much!" whereas Miranda Miller went with the slightly more direct, "it’s ill".
2008 was also the year of Rachel Atherton's first Elite World Champs win at Val di Sole. Nobody knew at the time, but that was the season that would kick off Rachel's decade-plus of dominance in the elite women's downhill scene. She took the win by 11.99 seconds over Sabrina Jonnier, the French mountain bike legend who slotted into second place.
The men's race had even more action. Steve Peat was at the top of his career but had still never won a World Championship. He felt it was the last achievement in the sport that he had yet to tick off, and yet he couldn't seem to find that extra edge under the pressure of a single winner-takes-all race run. At Val di Sole, it finally looked like he'd done it. He beat Fabien Barel by nearly three seconds and was in the hot seat with Sam Hil and Gee Atherton left to go. Had he done enough to take the rainbow stripes?
Reigning World Champ Sam Hill came out the start gate swinging, and he continued to put everything on the line all the way down the track. At the first split, he was 5.3 seconds up. At the next split, he'd pulled another second from Peaty with smooth, direct lines. Then, in the last corner of the track, he lost his front wheel and washed out. His lead was gone, and by the time he'd jumped up and pedaled back up to speed, he was half a second behind Peaty.
In the end, it was the last rider down, Gee Atherton, who took the elusive World Champion title from Peaty by 2.6 seconds with an incredibly clean run down the track, joining his sister in bringing home Britain's first elite downhill World Championship wins.