Breathless. Perhaps the best way to describe the rollercoaster of racing that unfolded on the steep Andorran slopes this afternoon. A real classic that built to a mighty crescendo and saw two former winners return to past glory and clinch a well overdue return to the top step, chapeau Myriam and Troy.
The day began with the hills around Vallnord looking like they were losing a battle to hold the rain at bay with many of the jagged peaks engulfed in battleship grey, it held off for the most part although I’m sure the final few men sitting in the start gate would have been fearing the worst. Again. Once more Finn Iles and Matt Walker found themselves sat alongside each other in the time sheets but a 5 second margin is shear domination on Iles’ behalf who is really setting out his stall for his move upto elites next year, the top dogs better watch out as a new force will soon getting in the mix, along with Walker.
With Rachel Atherton finding herself further down the times after qualifying many people would have expected her to rocket back up the pile but it wasn’t to be, still a 4th place after coming back so quickly from a dislocated shoulder is highly commendable. The two biggest shocks of the weekend came in the shape of Marine Cabirou and Eleonora Farina who laid down two scorching runs to end up in 3rd and 5th respectively. The La Massana track takes no prisoners as Tracey Hannah found out to her peril; the women are really having to lay it on the line this year with the racing so close. That left Myriam Nicole to carve her way to a very popular victory at the home of Commencal, making that 4 different winners in the first 4 races.
The men’s race took over from where the women had left off. Tension, drama, and super tight racing. Many fell victim to the arduous terrain when they had gone green. Pierron, Brannigan, Fearon, Moir, all hero to zero in a matter of seconds. After a quick dose of carnage the racing really kicked off with Danny Hart lighting the timing screens ablaze in green, holding impossible lines and making the wildest shapes, Hart had found his feet in the 2017 season. Greg Minnaar then set about displacing him with a cunning run, the wise head of Minnaar finding a line towards the bottom no one else could have mustered up. With the rain increasing all the time it looked like he’d done the business. Could Troy really do it? He’d qualified fastest so many times only to be pipped at the post… We should never have doubted. A gripping run kept everyone guessing until the last seconds, the stopwatch never lies and with one last final flurry of green the finish line erupted.