Another day without a drop of moisture in the air and the surf was up here in the high mountains of Andorra. The break was your standard left to right and back to left again all the way to the valley floor, with many riders getting barrelled clean off the track in the axle-deep dust. Prolonged high temps left great waves of feather-light powder to contend with, often masking the collapse of trusted ruts and berms. Faith in the Catalan dirt was dwindling and rightly so as the crash rate hit record highs. It was probably the toughest race of the season so far, but its unpredictable nature led to some real heroism up in the woods and naturally it was good to watch.
Three of the four wins on the day were taken by those in the rainbow stripes. Vali Holl, Rachel Atherton and of course Loic Bruni, who became World Champion here for the first time back in 2015. In the junior men's race, Thibaut Daprela's unbeaten spree came to an end as he tumbled out of contention, leaving fellow countryman, Matteo Iniguez, to chalk up his first ever win. In the junior women, Vali Holl battled on with her wounded shoulder and put more points on the board ahead of number two, Anna Newkirk, still managing a bewildering 12-second advantage on the day. After a dubious qualifier, Rachel Atherton was able to stride one victory closer to the big 4-0 and the towering record set by GOAT, Anne-Caroline Chausson. Crucially, Atherton swiped back some precious points from white jersey wearer, Tracy Hannah, reducing the margin to just 60 points.
This was a race with that World Champs feel all round; checkers or wreckers in the dust and it seemed that caution on track might just pay dividends for a little while, as such a high proportion crashed out of the men's race. Remi Thirion made a spectacular return to the sharp end and spent good time in the hot seat before a flurry of the big names seemed to find a way to keep pushing on the treacherous course. Loris Vergier rode with that familiar aggression, flow and extreme smoothness we saw from him here last season and it was so very nearly enough. However, it is Loic Bruni with all the momentum right now and lord knows the fitness and the skill to go the distance. 0.4 seconds decided it and now the man from Cagnes-Sur-Mer has two jerseys to wear - white on white with the rainbows poking through. How great will it be to see the top Frenchman battle it out on home soil next weekend... or will a non-resident steal the show?