All photos credit Red Bull Content Pool
The last time the DH World Cup visited Andorra was in 2019 and that race is probably the one we talk about most on the podcast. With just Amaury Pierron, Troy Brosnan and Loic Bruni remaining at the top of the hill, Loris Vergier laid down a storming run. His 4:11.478 was 5 seconds quicker than Danny Hart, who he knocked out of the hotseat. That’s that then, we all thought. Unlike the vast majority of venues though, the pits in Andorra are at the top of the hill and because of this there was a PA system relaying the race. Loris’ time came through the PA and Loic Bruni heard it. Knowing he was going to have to produce something special to beat it, Bruni went hell for leather and was 3 seconds up on Vergier at the first split. He held on to that lead but by the time he crossed the line his advantage was down to just 0.4. Hopefully, this weekend’s race is half as exciting.
You can relive that and Rachel Atherton’s 2019 winning race run here:
Why am I talking in such detail about a race that happened three years ago? Well, if I was to simply pen everything I know about the race this weekend it would be a very short preview. The team at the Vallnord Bike Park have developed a new track for the World Cup and there’s only been one race on it so far, the Copa Catalana the week after the Leogang World Cup. Pau Menoyo Busquets took the win in the Men’s with Loris Vergier second and Hugo Frixtalon in third and Myriam Nicole took the win in the Women’s race, although there was no one else of her class in the field.
From what we’ve seen the track looks quite ‘bike parky’ at the top with a lot of berms and jumps. Then it gets steep and rough. It’s on the other side of the hill to the old track and it looks like it’s considerably shorter. Pau’s winning time was 2:48, Bruni’s winning run in 2019 was 4:11.
On the latest episode of the podcast, Camille Balanche told us that Myriam had serious concerns about the wind on some of the jumps at the top and they assured her that would all be fixed in time for the World Cup so we’ll have to see.
Neko Mulally’s helmet cam from the Copa Catalana is here:
Personal opinion: It’s always good to see new tracks but the old track was a classic and as it hadn’t been raced for 3 years it might’ve been good to give it one final hurrah.
One rider who won’t be competing this weekend is Luca Shaw who broke wrist in his crash in Lenzerheide.
Neither will Remi Thirion who’s still recovering from a broken arm. The Frenchman took completely different lines to everyone else in a classic win here in 2013
One thing we can talk about are the overall standings as we’re at the halfway point in the World Cup season.
- Amaury Pierron 830
- Matt Walker 556
- Benoit Coulanges 515
- Finn Iles 501
- Danny Hart 466
Another victory this weekend and surely the title will go to Amaury Pierron. With 3 wins from 4 races it’s the most dominant performance we’ve seen in the men’s category since Aaron Gwin in 2017. It’s great to see a ‘new’ Top 5 forming. In come Walker, Coulanges and Iles and out go Brosnan, Minnaar and Vergier. Bruni you’d have to say would probably still be in there if it wasn’t for his broken collarbone. Thibaut Daprela is having a ‘difficult second season’ but watch out for him this weekend with it being Commencal’s home race.
- Camille Balanche 895
- Myriam Nicole 795
- Vali Hoell 586
- Eleonora Farina 560
- Monika Hrastnik 384
It’s a two-horse race and it’s hard to pick a favourite. Cami with the points and the consistency or Myriam with the experience and the raw speed? Expect Myriam to set the pace this weekend with Camille furiously chasing her down. Vali is on the same pace but keeps making mistakes. Once she cuts those out she’ll start taking wins.
- Jackson Goldstone 220
- Jordan Williams 210
- Lachlan Stevens-McNab 165
- Remy Meier-Smith 158
- Henri Kiefer 131
Five years ago, there was an epic Junior battle between a Canadian child prodigy and a Brit riding for Madison Saracen. Now, Finn Iles and Matt Walker are battling it out at the top of Elite category and it won’t be long before Jackson Goldstone and Jordan Williams are doing the same. Just like 2017, the Canadian appears to have the edge but the Brit took the World Championship that season and has had a better start to his Elite career.
- Gracey Hemstreet 225
- Phoebe Gale 210
- Jenna Hastings 165
- Izabela Yankova 115
- Aimi Kenyon 115
With three wins from four races Gracey Hemstreet is just as dominant as Amaury Pierron in Elite Men and this title race might be all but over too with another victory for the Canadian this weekend, however GB’s Phoebe Gale has yet to finish outside the top 2 and will be pushing Gracey hard again this weekend.
- Commencal Muc-Off 330
- Dorval AM Commencal 291
- Santa Cruz Syndicate 241
- Madison Saracen 188
- Trek Factory Racing DH 162
Commencal are definitely the force to be reckoned with in the sport at the moment and expect that to continue at their home race this weekend. Who am I picking? Well, before a crank has been turned, I’ll go with two of their riders, Myriam Nicole and Thibaut Daprela. Let’s have your predictions in the comments below.
Watch Vallnord DH Finals here on Saturday 16th July
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