5 Things We Learned at the Vallnord DH World Cup 2019

Jul 9, 2019
by James Smurthwaite  
Jacob Dickson stuffing it into the loose berm exiting the woods. A strong ride from the Irishman took him to 13th.

This season just keeps getting better and better. Here are five things we noticed from the sidelines as we passed the halfway point in the downhill season:

The top section of the track was crucial for the win

It's easy to look at Vallnord and assume the race will be won in the technical, steep chutes that make up the bottom half of the track but the opposite seemed to be true in racing on Saturday. Both the men and women's elite races were won in the top 90 seconds of the track as Rachel and Loic put 3 seconds into the rest of the field in the bike park. It was a lead they would both able to manage to the wins at the bottom (although Rachel did win the bottom split in her run too).
Rachel Atherton took a full three seconds off her qualifying time and along with that the victory here in Andorra.

Were other riders keeping energy in reserve for the bottom or did they just not realise the amount of time to be gained on the flatter top section? Whatever the answer, the current World Champions took full advantage and added another notch to their win tallies.

Thibault Daprela will be one to watch when he graduates to elites next year.

Thibault Daprela may not have won the junior round in Vallnord but he certainly showed he has the pace to be a real contender from the get-go when he graduates to elites next year. Daprela won junior qualifying by 13 seconds, with a time fast enough for seventh in elites, then in finals was leading by nine seconds at split 2, which was only beaten by Bruni and Vergier by the end of the day. A high-speed crash robbed us of the chance to see how fast he could really go but there's no doubt we'll see plenty more dominant performances from him before the year is through.
Thibaut Daprela doesn t miss - a monstrous 12 second margin this afternoon and a top 10 equivalent in elite.

Loic Bruni's overall challenge is starting to look very strong

There has never been any doubt around Loic Bruni's pace but it has been four years since he put together a full season of results that let him challenge for the overall. In 2015, he finished second after picking up four podiums but he still finished more than 250 points behind a dominant Aaron Gwin. This is the first time Bruni has ever won more than one World Cup in a single season and now has a lead of 65 points with three wins in his pocket and momentum on his side going into a home race in Les Gets next weekend. The race is for the overall is far from over though as Troy Brosnan and Amaury Pierron are within 150 points and ready to jump on any mistake.
The moment Loic Bruni realised he d taken his third win of the season.

The rise of the privateers continues

The privateers have been showing up a lot of Factory riders this year and that has only continued at Vallnord. Nina Hoffmann qualified fastest and went on to deliver one of the most memorable race runs in history, Johannes Von Klebelsberg backed up his performance in Leogang with his first-ever top ten and David Tummer, while not technically a privateer, was still pitting out of a van and ended up just off the podium. In the junior ranks, Matteo Iniguez, racing in a French National jersey, took his first-ever World Cup win too. The privateers are fired up and ready to take some more scalps through the rest of the year.
Johannes Von Klebelsberg rocking the denim to a 14th place finish.

Andorra still provides one of the toughest challenges in downhill.

We've been coming to Andorra for more than a decade but it still challenges riders with relentless steeps and burly tech. This year, the deep dust lying on the track and hanging in the air made this race similar to a wet race with precision and control more crucial than ever. The track is set to change next year with a new bottom section leading to a different part of La Massana for a new finish arena. Hopefully, it doesn't detract from the amazing character of this one of a kind track.
Bruce Klein failing to launch in an explosion of moondust.


  • 136 19
 #7 The audio dropping out for Brunis run was a blessing. It was a bit cringe hearing Claudio tell us that the top of the track wasn't that important when there was a clear pattern developing, then wondering about sector 3 and why some riders were mega fast in there when the dust levels you could clearly see were totally different for riders and probably most hilariously him being totally puzzled that Kerr had lost three seconds or so and blaming it on the gap when there's large chunks of track at that point not televised.
Him and rob have done a stellar job over the years but I feel like they could do with some fresh blood in the commentary box. Imagine Cathro & Jackson with special guest peaty. Maybe with all the fresh faces and better coverage its showing the commentators to be a bit out of touch with the pinnacle elite racers mindset, ability & limits now.

Easy for me to say this sat at home I know and in truth the coverage has only got better over time so I'm stoked on this and its still free!!
  • 56 6
 Couldn't agree more. Claudio constantly states things that are incorrect or contradictory to what we are witnessing. Like you said he's done a great job for the sport but he's not a live commentator IMO. And that hat LOL
  • 48 2
 Honestly i wouldn´t get rid of Rob as he´s doing a good job hyping things and keeping the attention going, but i could do without Claudio. His insights are semi professional at best at this point, be it from a riders perspective or (especially) on technical aspects. It´s always, "oh 29er, he must be fast". You can clearly see his information nowadays comes from research, not from involvement in the scene. I don´t wanna shit on the guy too hard, but imho there are a lot of guys (Cathro!) that would be able to give so much more insight and knowledge.

That said, Red Bull really should give us the option to switch off the commentators completely. That raw run was sooo nice to watch and it would be even better for all the riders they do not care about as i honestly don´t need them debating the advantages of 29ers or electronic shifting while there is a rider on the track. It completely kills the viewers involvement when the announcers obviously don´t give a f*ck about the run.
  • 17 0
 While I enjoy the coverage from Rob and Claudio, I definitely agree it could be improved. While they both have experience and insight into the DH world, essentially they're both color commentators. If you watch the XC coverage, the combo of Rob's enthusiasm and Bart's calm technical analysis make for excellent coverage. I feel like they need to find something in the middle for the shorter, more intense DH runs. Not to be too much of a Cathro fan-boy, but I feel like his nerdy excitement for the sport would be a perfect fit with Rob's energy.
  • 9 1
 "probably most hilariously him being totally puzzled that Kerr had lost three seconds or so and blaming it on the gap when there's large chunks of track at that point not televised."

This. He does something like this at every bloody round and it's just bollocks. He's been doing it so long now that I'm not sure whether there is some mad conspiracy to make him only talk about the parts of the track that are visible on the live feed. He used to race bikes for a living, he must _know_ that you don't lose 3 seconds by taking a single slightly different line
  • 6 6
 @Loki87: You can always turn down the volume
  • 18 0
 I know what you guys mean... but after switching accidentally to German I fell in love with Rob and Claudio again. The German guys where not from the mtb scene at all. Just some Sport TV commentators... that was really awkward!!! I really appreciate that mtb id one of the few sports that have Ex professionals from there own scene in the box!!!
  • 14 3
 That's so true. I am quite tired of listening to Claudio's comments, he is just so wrong some times, like that one about the BK gap.
Actually you can tell by the tone of Rob that he does not agree fully with Claudio but I guess he has to keep on going for the sake of the transmission.
@OllieB278 Indeed to have Cathro would be awesome, the guy is just spot on.
  • 3 1
 @JOZLEDEACHE: Best comments of Claudio (and Rob) last year when Maes was in the hot seat for ever in La Bresse WC and Lenzerheide Worlds: "is the track getting slower"? In La Bresse, that was sort of understandable but again at worlds? By then they should have realized Maes is just f*cking fast but simply had a shit start number. Waiting to hearing this again at Worlds in Mont Saint-Anne!
  • 7 2
 Rob for King!
  • 9 6
 Ratboy would be the best commentator. Not like I'm really listening anyway.
  • 5 0
 @cassiusclaim: dont like warner and claudio? Try spanish....
  • 2 2
 @cassiusclaim: I coudln't agree more - wondering on how they picked those guys... no emotions just lame commentating...
  • 9 2
 I totally get what you're saying, but c'mon - Claudio is still as good as he always has been, when he was loved by everyone. Relative to what we could have (see German commentators or that bearded guy who commentated on past Rampages), Claudio's still great.
Also, regarding his inaccuracies and mistakes; perfect information doesn't = interesting or exciting. Look at Murray Walker from F1, he was universally loved, but he was about as accurate as Trump when it came to reeling off facts.
  • 31 4
 Pinkbike dorks need to stop with the Cathro shit-good post analysis and thats it, he's no commentator-ever....and Eliot giggling the whole time would get old too. Rob is a commentating god, Claudio is not good, but stop with these other insane ideas.
  • 2 0
 Cathro and Jackson, turn the volume down a notch... now there's some solid ASMR for you :-P
  • 5 0
 Yeah I know in the past my complaint with Claudio is that even in races where there were only small percentages of the track visible he would base all of the timing insights on only the visible parts- stuff like "oh he must have gone slower than we thought through that section" after being down on a split but 3/4 of the split not being visible. Also the judgement on riders not risking it, not wanting it, or calling out "mistakes" and then finding out that the rider was up etc. He does a lot for the sport, I'm not saying I could do better as I know it is an impossibly hard job, but my vote would also be to try some new blood with Rob in the booth. Not sure who that could be- I think Cathro and Elliot are some great brains behind the sport but not sure they are the best fit either for the off the cuff rapid assessments of live commentating. Also I agree someone a bit more grounded in the energy to balance out Rob- maybe Gee when he retires? Peaty? Fabien Barel? Minaar might be awesome with his very chill style and incredible knowledge but I'd prefer to see him keep racing forever.
  • 6 3
 Rob is a brilliant commentator, I don't think anyone could do better. Claudio is new to the game, so give him a chance!
  • 4 0
 I like the combo - the straight face and the hype guy. Warner is an outstanding commentator full stop - xc, mtb, moto. I think Claudio performs his role well and when you are trying to provide 3hrs of technical insights, it gets easy to pick anyone apart. He make corrections event to event so that's good to see.
  • 4 0
 @nordland071285: New to the game? He's been doing it for 3 years now.
  • 8 1
 Tracey Mosley and Rob
  • 4 0
It´s not the same though. I wanna hear those tires on the ground and the visitors cheering the riders.
It´s not that i hate the commentators but rather enjoy to see the racing without the distraction of someone talking. Muting the video kinda kills the experience.
  • 3 0
 @yakimonti: you nailed it. Rob is a given. Put some english speaking ex-mtb guy next to him and you will see much more flow and laughs developing.
  • 2 1
 @kieran: I'm with you on Mosley, or another ex-pro woman who was at the top of the ranks. The women's racing is just as good as the men's, even though it's only the top 5 that are contenders instead of the top 15.

That said, compared to many other sports, the combo of Rob and Claudio is top notch.
  • 1 2
 @Brent-F: I like most of the commentary up until Rob starts screaming, which is any decent run, then I turn it down. I would be interested to see if someone like Cathro could provide the excitement without the shrill screaming.
  • 1 0
 +1 for Cathro in the commentary box
  • 3 0
 I will try out the spanish comentators for the next race, just because I don't understand it. I'm tired or Claudio and the germans are just awful. Hopefully the spanish ones are hyping me up atleast
  • 2 0
 @yakimonti: I'm glad I'm not the only one that can't handle hearing him laugh at every response
  • 5 0
 Claudio spoiling the split times before they show up on screen drives me crazy.
  • 2 0
 @Loki87: I don't really think things need to be "hyped" though, DH is exciting enough as it is.

However an optional clean feed free of commentary would be the ideal solution IMO. The effects track is already there, so it's just an additional audio stream. It should keep everyone happy.
  • 1 0
 @cassiusclaim: Wasn't Tibor one of the commentators? He's definitely from the mtb scene (although he quit being super involved 2 years ago or so). Doesn't sound like he did a very good job though...
  • 2 2
 @yakimonti: In terms of insane ideas I don't think suggesting one of the best riders over the last 20 years that's recently retired, one rider who only this season stopped racing world cups full time or one fringe world level/national level rider with English as their first language to work in the commentary box to keep it up to date and flow a bit better. We've seen Warner on the track checking it out but has anyone seen Claudio? The three I mentioned are on that track all weekend.
Has anyone watched it with someone that's not super into DH because I can see them struggling to work out what Claudios on about a lot of the time and it turns people off to it.
As I said in the post its still free and awesome and compared to ten years ago its incredible, I just wonder if they want to keep this upward trajectory should they improve this? Do you have any suggestions? Not that I think redbull will be reading this but just interested to see who other people think.
There was uproar a few years back in the UK when two recently retired footballers (Gary Neville & Jamie Carragher) replaced the established older generation commentators/analysis team for the prime time spots. Especially as they were from two huge teams that are massive rivals. Since then the quality and insight improvement has increased exponentially.
  • 1 0
 @yakimonti: Yep he´s giggling way tooooooooo much.. Super annoying when nothing funny is said for him to force that bloody giggle..
  • 28 2
 Each year we hear "this u21 rider will crush the competition when he'll go in Elite next year" : Greenland, Iles, Walker, Maes.. Turns out they always need a year or two to adjust.
  • 9 0
 Exactly. There is much more pressure on their shoulders in Elites + there is so many contenders every race!
Not doubt that in the end they deliver huge performances, but they need a bit more maturity to do so.
  • 7 1
 Or never do.
  • 4 0
 They're u19 not u21
  • 2 1
 @Aksel31: True. I always get a bit worried when I read all this hype around Valentina Höll. What are her "fans" going to say when she doesn't deliver on her first year in the elites?
  • 15 1
 #6 Minnaar remains the GOAT.
  • 13 24
flag nojzilla (Jul 9, 2019 at 5:19) (Below Threshold)
 2 more podiums an Rachel overtakes him
  • 21 3
 @nojzilla: Apples and oranges.
  • 19 1
 Anne-Caroline Chausson is the GOAT!
  • 6 12
flag nojzilla (Jul 9, 2019 at 6:24) (Below Threshold)
 @IntoTheEverflow: Yes, I am comparing a FeMale DH racer to a Male DH racer..
well done for pointing out the blindingly obvious
  • 4 0
 @IntoTheEverflow: bananas and pears
  • 4 13
flag Extra300L (Jul 9, 2019 at 7:39) (Below Threshold)
 @nojzilla: absurd comment. When she can come down the mountain as fast and consistent as the men then she's the goat. Give you she's the goat for the women.
  • 3 1
 @donpinpon29: testicals an breasticals
  • 7 12
flag nojzilla (Jul 9, 2019 at 8:41) (Below Threshold)
 @Extra300L: only absurd if you're a sexist prick, if she ends up with the most world cup podiums regardless of what's between her legs then she becomes THE most successful DH'er an isn't that's what the GOAT means? By your reasoning a female could never ever be that.....
An she's (more than likely) faster than you so deal.
  • 9 3
 @nojzilla: If DH were regardless of what is between someones legs, then she would never have stood on any world cup podium.
  • 4 3
 @nojzilla: You are correct she will never be that, ever. Nothing to do with being sexist. When she can beat the men then she's the GOAT. As I said you can argue she is the GOAT of females, but not of all. There are 10000x more men riding bikes, the competition difference is enormous. There is no counter logical argument to this as much as many of you hate it. Down vote all you want. Does not change the facts. I like watching the women race as much as the men. They can all ride better than I can. Just look at the times. They top female is at the bottom of the list of men's times. Is that sexist or a fact? Keep the name calling coming.
  • 3 3
 @IntoTheEverflow: This is why there are female and male categories in almost every sport on the planet. If there were not they ladies would have no success competing against the men. More down votes please.
  • 6 2
 @Extra300L: so she can have more success but not be the greatest?? THATS bullshit and you know it is. you're confusing fastest with most successful....
And a logic that states somebody can be the most successful but not the greatest because they couldn't compete against somebody with a gender advantage IS sexist...
If a middle weight boxer had more success, more wins, more KO's medals than a super heavy weight but couldn't compete in the heavy weight class.... would you dismiss their title?
  • 6 2
 @nojzilla: wow, this got out of hand quickly. Ok let me rephrase, Minnaar is still the GOAT in the mens category.
Knocking on the door of 40 and still a podium threat at every round is impressive whichever sex you happen to be (unless a male competing in female catagory - oops, new can of worms ;-))
  • 3 3
 @nojzilla: Sorry, and it is unfortunate that most people cannot be the GOAT. The argument is who is the GOAT, and no a female at this point in time, and I state again, at this point in time is, or will be the GOAT for reasons I mention above. I believe I acknowledged Rachel as being a candidate in the women's ranks. Boxing argument does not hold water. Boxing is categorized by weight. You can say pound for pound there is a GOAT. Go ahead and have that argument and put your female boxer up against the male boxer in the same weight class. Sorry, lights out. Pick another sport, go ahead. Darts? I have not dismissed anyone's title or achievement. When someone throws out the acronym GOAT I responded.

Okay good point by tremeer023 let the men compete against the women. Then what do you say?
  • 3 1
@Extra300L: SO.... Greg gets the title GOAT by being the most succsefull racer in world cup podiums but, when/if racheal gets more world cup podiums an therefore more succsess. she still will only be the female GOAT?
well then surley Greg can only ever be male GOAT?

"You can say pound for pound there is a GOAT. Go ahead and have that argument and put your female boxer up against the male boxer in the same weight class. Sorry, lights out."
You just made my point for me...........
the super heavy wieght has a genetic advantage over the middle wieght just as a male DH racer has a gender advantage over a femal DH racer
  • 1 1
 @Extra300L: So is the "GOAT" Gregs title that no one cane ever take or, A title that can be earned by succsess regaurdless of gender???
I think Gwin is also knocking on the "GOAT" door by a few WC podiums
  • 2 1
 @nojzilla: Thank you, we are now in agreement. Except for one thing. There is only one GOAT unless you want to make a sub category of GOAT. Which is fine.
  • 3 1
 @Extra300L: so if somebody, regardless of gender has more success they become GOAT. unless your sexist or just a f*cking troll
  • 2 1
 @nojzilla: or unless they got those results in a less competitive field.
  • 2 1
 @riderseventy7: how is it less competitive? you could debate that it's unfair for somebody short like Greenland to race against somebody tall like Greg who gets the benefits of 29 inch wheels because he has the leverage to handle them. but, no men race men an women race women. So again... the debate turns women can't compete against men an therefore are lesser in achievement?
  • 2 1
 @nojzilla: Less people competing = less people to beat = less comptetive.
Larger gaps between the top positions = more margin for error = less competitive.
Less competitive = more easily attainable results.
It’s not hard to understand. It is utterly amazing that the difference needs to be explained.
  • 1 0
 @nojzilla: It has nothing to do with a gender advantage or disadvantage, it is purely numbers.

The womens field is growing, so the GOAT very well could be a woman in the future. They’re getting there, but they’re not there yet.

And speaking of numbers, Minaar being the “GOAT” is questionable. His results have come over a long time, compare that to Gwin and Gwin has a much better win ratio.
The whole idea of the “GOAT” is simplistic and silly anyway. Dominant riders from this generation didn’t have to race the dominant riders, tracks and equipment from a generation ago. Don’t get too hung up over it, it’s just a sound bite.
  • 13 4
 I was surprised Claudio called out Brosnan straight up for not risking enough to win?
Also didn't Warner call Troy the Bridesmaid a couple years back for always getting second?
Claudio is so annoying at times, a serious shit talker in kind of a passive aggressive way.
  • 14 1
 I honestly think that some of the oddities of his commentary have to do with an insufficient mastery of English in a live commentary situation. I think he sometimes just isn’t precise and/or quick enough, then is kind of trapped in a sentence and ends up making a commentary that he didn’t quite mean the way it came out. You can sometimes see what he was originally going for and then witness how he is derailed mid-sentence. Something similar happened I think when he made that comment about Troy Brosnan: I think he didn’t originally mean to say anything bad, it was probably meant as a compliment about his consistency at first and then, because he felt the need to elaborate, he clutched the nearest tree of talking about giving it your everything, 100 and even 120%, and then found himself in a situation where he trapped/tricked himself into saying what he did end up saying...and because of the language barrier he isn’t flexible enough to readjust on the go.
  • 18 7
 We want Eliot Jackson riding for the Race Preview and also in the booth with Warner!
  • 18 6
 #6 Pinkbike still hasn't gotten rid of the godawful colored tags.
  • 10 5
 Had to turn on the PC to see what the fuss was all about. You guys should get a life if that gets on your nerves, really. Smh
  • 8 1
 It shouldn't be so annoying... but it totally is.
  • 5 1
 @nozes: Pinkbike currently looks like a site made in 2005. Big Grin
  • 8 1
 The top is not a bike park, it is pedally and doesnt really have big berms in the corners with some critical lines for holding speed through the following section where it is easy to loose lots of time (or gain it if you look at it that way), the roots up top cant be seen due to the sun which blows out the light.
The top of the track is critical, riders are so close and well schooled when it comes to the tech that now the endurance part of the track is critical. Easy to make up time or loose time when its flatter and more technical to carry speed than it is to make up time when it gets steeper as there is only a certain speed you can go.
I raced masters last year with a broken bike, the bottom was fine (apart from catching people), it was obvious how critical certain corners are up top, make a mistake on tight lines with light where you cant really see and you were trying to pedal back up to speed (right hander after the first jump, carrying off the 1st bridge into the near flat corners before the 2nd bridge, 2 corners after the jump after the 2nd bridge). The bottom was fun in the pouring rain during practice haha. The top was torture though. even when racing in the dry the top was pure torture, not a dh race section IMO.
  • 7 1
 Anyone who isn't getting paid, in cash, is a privateer.
That's surely the definition of "Pro", ie it is your profession, your source of income.
Doesn't matter if you get a free bike/tyres etc, if it isn't your livelihood, you're a privateer
  • 3 0
 Got on the chairlift with Thibault and we attempted to beatbox for my video - we didn't do so good - super nice guy and devastated to learn his bike was stolen - from what I've heard it was something that almost never happens in Andorra !
  • 4 0
 I think they got it back
  • 1 0
 @IllestT: oh nice - I has no social media so didn't quite follow the story
  • 4 1
 I kept hearing that the top was open and like a bike park, sounds like a great place to I don't know maybe put a camera???

I understand they can't cover every inch of the trail, but this race it felt like we didn't get to see any of the important parts of the race.
  • 2 0
 What are you talking about? The top had no impact between the two top women... Rachel and Tracy were neck and neck and until the 3rd or 4th split, where rachel was up by 1s... It wasnt til tracy's crash in the last 100m was the race decided.

maybe the top had an impact on the rest of the womens field, but not those two.
  • 4 0
 Needles and warner. Cathro and EJ are doing a good job track side. I think it’s time for Claudio to step down.
  • 1 0
 Of course, the section we didn't get to see was where the race was won lol
  • 1 0
 One more thing we’ve learned- before a race tighten your shoe laces harder Lol...
  • 2 4
 Rob and cathro would be a dream team
  • 5 0
 A nightmare more than a dream. Do not advocate for this....keep Cathro on track analysis.
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