Photo Epic: Rise and Shine - Timed Training, DH World Championships Vallnord 2015

Sep 5, 2015
by Nathan Hughes  
Timed training doesn't count. Except at World Champs, where actually it still doesn't, but it's all we get! No qualies, no points and not even a seeding to juggle the starting order... The TT on the penultimate day is the only show of cards we're allowed. So while nothing may have changed and riders inevitably gave differing amounts of effort of whatever reasons, there are still morsels of clue on offer as to who might be about to go the distance and stomp the golden run of their lives.

After an early morning training that began before the sun even breached the mountains, riders took to one severely beaten up, gloopy track that was, perhaps counter-intuitively, in much worse shape than under the heavy downpours of yesterday. This afternoon Rachel Atherton hammered the women's field in this 'non-competition' by a shade off 20 entire seconds and Greg Minnaar, the repeat dark-horse winner that he is, set the fastest time of the day at 4:49, just 0.15 ahead of 'local boy', Thirion. With the course visibly drying before rider's eyes with every turn, we could be looking at a very different animal tomorrow, but of course one no less exciting. World Champs 2015 are here, they are now and set to be off the chain, in quite possibly more ways than one...


The Andorran landscape with some unidentified golden orb hovering on the horizon above the cloud.
  The Andorran landscape with a mysterious, unidentified, golden orb hovering on the horizon above the cloud.

A far cry from yesterday s scenes... and thank god for that.
  A far cry from yesterday's scenes... and thank god for that. 7am training isn't so bad with a few sun beams.

Proof that there is indeed blue sky in Andorra.
  Finally proof that there is indeed blue sky in Andorra.

This is what zero traction looks like.
This is what zero traction looks like.
As the sun came out the conditions in the woods began to deteriorate rapidly. After two straight days of rain the sun is going to make the track far worse before it makes it better.
As the sun came out the conditions in the woods began to deteriorate rapidly. After two straight days of rain the sun is going to make the track far worse before it makes it better.

This was no a problem when the rain was falling. After two days of rain sunshine may not necessarily be a good thing.
  This was not a problem when the rain was falling. After two days of rain, sunshine may not necessarily be a good thing.

Bryceland had a great day in the woods coming back in his TT from 22nd at split 1 to finish 3rd just 0.3 back.
  Bryceland had a great day in the woods coming back in his TT from 22nd at split 1 to finish 3rd, just 0.3 back.

Josh QUOTE
Last year's silver medalist and podium no-show.
The odds of Ratty snatching the gold this year have to be fair way better than fifty to one.
The odds of Ratty snatching gold are surely greater than 50:01.

bigquotesI think it's been one of the funnest weeks of the year so far, mate... all good at the Santa Cruz pit! We did a few runs the first day, then it pissed down so we got drunk haha. Then yesterday we thought it's definitely gonna be wet so we'll have to practice it, so I practiced it just slipping and sliding around with a big smile on my face. It was definitely hard work though... the hardest thing was to stay relaxed, if you could then you'd ride really sweet. This morning; got involved...woke up saw some stars, thought I'd set my phone wrong cos it was pitch black and then did a steady practice and timed run. I don't know if you can read much into the times because everyone's doing all sorts of weird sh*t. I'm buzzing though, feeling dead confident and looking forward to tomorrow. I think the key for me is not to get caught up in it all and try to ride my own race. The length of it could be toughest part; your heart rate's already higher just because of the scenario and by the time it's done I'm sure I'll be hanging! I don't think my fitness is where it was quite last year, but as far as type of terrain goes it's is my kinda thing. If I can save energy at the top and be smooth, commit to my lines down the bottom then I think it could go pretty well, but of course we'll have to wait and see - Josh Bryceland - Santa Cruz Syndicate

Lucas navigates the anti-gravity sludge.
  Anti-gravity sludge.

Danny Hart pushes through the heavy and slick mud as the sun began to shine brightly on the track for the first time all week.
  Danny Hart pushes through the heavy and slick mud as the sun began to shine brightly on the track for the first time all week.

Pekoll bouncing through the trees. The Austrian managed to switch his plate digits around nicely for a strong showing in the timed training.
  Pekoll bouncing through the trees. The Austrian managed to switch his plate digits around nicely for a strong showing in the timed training.

The track was literally steaming all day today as the hot sun began to dry out the excessive moisture of the past two days.
  The track was literally steaming all day today as the hot sun began to dry out the excessive moisture of the past two days.

Sam Blenkinsop has looked fast all week and we finally had his pace confirmed by the clock. 11th at split one 9th at split two 4th at the finish just 1.6 back.
  Blenkinsop has looked fast all week and we finally had his pace confirmed by the clock. 11th at split one, 9th at split two, 4th at the finish, just 1.6 back.

Blenky s tree house with tactical views of the chute down to the finish arena.
  Blenky's tree house with tactical views of the chute down to the finish arena.

Myriam s dirty sleeve is all the suggestion you need she s got more to give here on her home from home track.
  Myriam's dirty sleeve is all the suggestion you need she's got more to give here on her 'home from home' track.

Casey Brown battles the heavy mud that clogged tires and weighted down bikes during the early morning practice session.
  Casey Brown battles the heavy mud that clogged tires and weighted down bikes during the early morning practice session.

Did the other women play it safe while Rachel put in a pinned run or is she indeed on such a level that she can take almost 20 seconds out of here nearest rival Tomorrow we will know the truth for sure but there is no dobt in anyone s mind that Rachel is the one to beat here in Andorra.
  Did the other women play it safe while Rachel put in a pinned run, or is she indeed on such a level that she can take almost 20 seconds out of here nearest rival? Tomorrow we will know the truth for sure, but there is no doubt in anyone's mind that Rachel is the one to beat here in Andorra.

Steve Smith and teammate Mark Wallace will be Canada s best hopes for World Championship medals tomorrow.
  Steve Smith and teammate Mark Wallace will be Canada's best hopes for World Championship medals tomorrow.

Who needs bike park berms when you can just make your own.
Who needs bike park berms when you can just make your own.
The line around this pedal dragging rut is not for the faint of heart requiring riders to gap into the bottom of the corner that leads to one of the steepest parts of the track.
The line around this pedal dragging rut is not for the faint of heart, requiring riders to gap into the bottom of the corner that leads to one of the steepest parts of the track.

The defending champ navigating some ultra-polished bedrock on a tentative TT into 3rd.
  The defending champ navigating some ultra-polished bedrock on a tentative TT into 3rd.

The long and rough tracks have played to Marcelo s favor all season and it looks like Andorra is no exception. 9th in timed runs and just 5 seconds of the fastest time of the day.
  The long and rough tracks have played to Marcelo's favor all season and it looks like Andorra is no exception. 9th in timed runs and just 5 seconds of the fastest time of the day.

Tahnee took a big spill today crashing badly before the steep and slippery wooden bridge. Luckily she will okay to get back on the horse in pursuit of another medal to match or better her top 2014 performance
  Tahnee took a big spill today, crashing badly before the steep and slippery wooden bridge. Luckily she will okay to get back on the horse in pursuit of another medal to match or better her top 2014 performance.

Martin Maes enjoying his time on the DH bike this week and looking to leave Andorra with some rainbow stripes.
  Martin Maes enjoying his time on the DH bike this week, and looking to leave Andorra with some rainbow stripes.

Brook MacDonald setting up to smash one of the many axle deep ruts the snake through the bottom woods.
  Brook MacDonald setting up to smash one of the many axle deep ruts the snake through the bottom woods.


Loris Vergier showing once again that he will be a podium threat . Just 4.8 off the top time and one of the fastest riders we saw all day through the steep bottom woods.
  Loris Vergier showing once again that he will be a podium threat. Just 4.8 off the top time and one of the fastest riders we saw all day through the steep bottom woods.

Connor Fearon has had flashes up pure brilliance all season contrasted with moments of ultimate disaster. 7th in timed runs means he is on pace for a good one here at World Champs.
  Connor Fearon has had flashes of pure brilliance all season contrasted with moments of ultimate disaster. 7th in timed runs means he is on pace for a good one here at World Champs.

Tracey Hannah had a smooth run and admitted to being surprised that it was enough for 2nd in timed training. Look for her to turn things up a notch when it counts tomorrow.
  Tracey Hannah had a smooth run and admitted to being surprised that it was enough for 2nd in timed training. Look for her to turn things up a notch when it counts tomorrow.

Brosnan chased by his shadow towards the woods. The more the sun shines the more you have to fancy his chances. Not that mud puts him off too much remembering his World Champs 2011 junior win.
  Brosnan, chased by his shadow towards the woods. The more the sun shines the more you have to fancy his chances. Not that mud puts him off too much, remembering his World Champs 2011 junior win.

Troy QUOTE

bigquotesIt's been pretty wild from first practice day till now, the track's changed completely, it's just full of ruts and holes everywhere. I'm feeling it a lot more now, but I don't reckon I've really found my pace yet. Today I was sitting down pedalling the whole top section in the timed run and even waved at a couple of fans, but then got into gear after the bridge and around the big jumps to the bottom I was trying to go pretty fast. I just didn't want to blow my legs up before tomorrow as it's such a physical track. You come out the gate and throw down a 30 second sprint straight away, your lungs are gone, your legs are gone and then you've gotta work your way down the steepest, gnarliest track of the season. It's for sure going to be won down the bottom, but at the same time you can't be wasting any time at the top! I definitely want to get out there tomorrow and go after the gold and get the rainbows, but whatever happens, happens and I'll still come down with a smile on my face... It's only one run and it's gonna be a crazy one - Troy Brosnan - Specialized Racing DH


Troy s race machine gets brought back down to temperature.
  Troy's race machine gets brought back down to temperature.

Some local guy who was ripping out throats in the forest all afternoon.
  Some local guy who was ripping out throats in the forest all afternoon.

There was absolutely no surprise to see Remi Thirion set one of the fastest times of the day. Just 0.14 back on a smooth and controlled run leaves us wondering what he is capable of when he holds it wide open during tomorrows final run.
  There was absolutely no surprise to see Remi Thirion set one of the fastest times of the day. Just 0.14 back on a smooth and controlled run leaves us wondering what he is capable of when he holds it wide open during tomorrow's final run.

Remi QUOTE

bigquotesSecond is definitely good after my injury to show I have the speed. I made a few mistakes, but on this track in these conditions what can you expect? It's tricky out there, the course is very physical and technical too, luckily today was getting better with some sun. Yesterday was fun, but the ruts everywhere made it very hard. Now I will go down the valley for some physio and massage and will relax. My ankle isn't really great, but with the tape it's okay. This year I'm stronger at the bike park sections than I was here last time around, I have my new bike and I've been training hard so I am pleased to improve my results year after year. We will see what happens tomorrow! - Remi Thirion - Commencal Riding Addiction


The deep ruts seemed to be the preferred line today as mud off the main line became slick and heavy as it baked in the sun. Tomorrow however should be another sunny day and we expect to see the straight and rowdy lines making the difference in final runs.
  The deep ruts seemed to be the preferred line today as mud off the main line became slick and heavy as it baked in the sun. Tomorrow, however should be another sunny day and we expect to see the straight and rowdy lines making the difference in final runs.

Gee QUOTE

bigquotesThe track's a tough one at the best of times and conditions this week have been, well, pretty unpleasant. It's looking up now and speeding up a bit though! I had a bit of a nightmare in the TT... I had the bright idea to not do any practice runs this morning because it was so wet, so I set off in my timed session still half asleep and inevitably hit the floor on a stupid turn in the middle. First one of the day's always tough... came down 17th. It's been fun and wild in the wet, but a bit of lottery; tomorrow's gonna be a different game I think. I'm keen for the stripes. I want them. Once race day comes around there's no games to be played it's just a straight forward race, you've just got to crack on. You get the World Champs stripes for a year and it's awesome. All you can try to do is get them again for another, the same as everyone else - Gee Atherton - GT Factory Racing

Six seconds back on a bit of cruiser... the danger man s already looking dangerous and the sun hasn t yet finished up it s track reparation work.
  Six seconds back on a bit of cruiser, with a crash... the danger man's already looking dangerous and the sun hasn't yet finished up its track reparation work.

Tree head-butts and sludge-filled treads aside the wizard impressed all who saw him flying through the steeps this afternoon.
  Tree head-butts and sludge-filled treads aside, the wizard impressed all who saw him flying through the steeps this afternoon.

Gwin QUOTE

bigquotesThe sun's out now and by the end of the practice the track was really coming along, drying up a ton so by tomorrow I think it's gonna be awesome. I left my practice a little later which was good because everyone was balled up in the queue at the bottom and I was still up on track. It was super gnarly for the TT and I knew it was gonna dry out so I wanted to cruise down and see what a full run felt like as I hadn't done one yet. That felt good, but I rammed my face into a tree trying to stay clipped in and commit to the turn; I got off-balance and it didn't work out! Other than that it was okay, my time was still up there with the crash so if everything goes well tomorrow I should be right in the mix especially with the conditions coming round to suit my style a little more. To win the series is kind of the main goal for me every year so to wrap that up was amazing and now this is really a fun, low pressure race for me to be honest... You either win it or it doesn't matter, next year's another one haha! - Aaron Gwin - Specialized Racing DH


Greg Minnaar looked to be struggling in practice the past few days but one thing we always say is that when it counts no one steps up their game like Greg. Fastest in timed runs means he does indeed have the pace here to challenge for the 4th World Championship title of his decorated career.
  Greg Minnaar looked to be struggling in practice the past few days, but one thing we always say is that when it counts, no one steps up their game like Greg. Fastest in timed runs means he does indeed have the pace here to challenge for the 4th World Championship title of his decorated career.

Loic Bruni and Loris Vergier. Teammates Friends and now rivals as Loris has really stepped up his pace at the close of the season. Loic had a few crashes today while testing the track s limits while Loris kept it steady to set the 6th fastest time in the timed runs.
  Loic Bruni and Loris Vergier. Teammates, Friends and now rivals as Loris has really stepped up his pace at the close of the season. Loic had a few crashes today while testing the track's limits while Loris kept it steady to set the 6th fastest time in the timed runs.

Aaron with a long afternoon ahead of him with a full strip down and rebuild.
  Specialized mechanic, Aaron, with a long afternoon ahead of him with a full strip down and rebuild of Troy's Demo.

the biggest changes in equipment going into finals for most riders and mechanics is brakes and tires. The mud and grit has been brutal on rotors and while the track wasn t quite dry enough for cut spikes today it certainly will be tomorrow.
  the biggest changes in equipment going into finals for most riders and mechanics is brakes and tires. The mud and grit has been brutal on rotors, and while the track wasn't quite dry enough for cut spikes today it certainly will be tomorrow.

For Big Ben...
For Big Ben...
...and Her Majesty. Tomorrow it s on.
...and Her Majesty. Tomorrow it's on.




About the Photographers

Nathan Hughes • Age: 28 • Years Shooting: 2
Nathan Hughes was snared as mainstay Pinbike media crew for the 2013 World Cup season and has been trapped behind the lens and the keyboard ever since. In between the biggest bike events of the year Nathan can be found on client shoots, making far-off travel stories and trying to catch a moment to spin the pedals himself. A great appreciation of the wilderness, the fear of a normal life and the quest for the perfect picture will have him hooked and looking to raise the bar for years to come.


Dave Trumpore • Age: 35 • Years Shooting: 4
Dave spent the bulk of the past 17 years racing professionally before realizing that despite qualifying for the random World Cup final here and there, the next generation was just way too fast and way more talented. Upon hanging up his racing boots in 2010, it would be a few years until Dave picked up a camera and started shooting the odd race here and there as a way to stay in touch with all the friends he had made over the years, and the rest as they say is history. In just a few years time his photos have graced the pages of just about every MTB magazine and major media outlet, while his commercial client list includes a who's who of the cycling industry, and he is lucky enough to shoot regularly with some of the best riders on the planet. Currently at Pinkbike, Dave shoots the Downhill WC and the Enduro World Series as well as contributing to the occasional editorial story.


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36 Comments

  • 97 5
 Quality coverage, these photos are the shit. Awesome work PB. Come on rat boy!!
  • 71 2
 There are a lot of people in full-on racing pajamas. Even the Geeman was wearing DH pants, and snaps of Gee in DH pants are harder to come by than snaps of his sister in a mini-skirt.
  • 7 0
 I vote for a Rob and Claudio course preview for next year!
  • 4 0
 @Stranger-Danger Still way easier than spotting Greg on a bike without a short!
  • 10 0
 Gwin 6th with a crash, and he spoke with such humility. Absolute champion in every aspect of the sport. As an Aussie, I'm hoping Troy, Hill, or Fearon take it out, but if Gwin wins as expected, it couldnt go to a more deserving rider. Mucho respecto.
  • 11 1
 Rats, I was hoping for a downpour and Danny Hart for the main feature
  • 7 0
 Great to see all these awesome photos. Makes up for being stuck here and not being able to be there in person.....would love to spectate in the woods at this race!
  • 5 1
 Amazing. Love the insight from the riders, the photos, and the tidbits of knowledge that PB picks up and passes on to us. So incredible to prepare to watch an event like this –from across the world– and feel like I know the cue-sheets for Warner and Claudio in the box who are actually there. Thanks Pinkbike!
  • 8 0
 Looks like a pain in the ass to be a mechanic for this race.
  • 3 6
 if you think they don't have a pressure washer you would be mistaken lol
  • 2 0
 Sure but the mud screws with brakes, rotors, suspension, tires etc.
  • 8 1
 STOKED OFF MY TITS
  • 3 0
 Good to hear that the course is drying out. Looked like it would be a bit of a bust with all that gloppy shit. I like mud but when it slows riders down i'm not so keen.
  • 1 0
 What's up with hating on Gee?? He's serious about his sport. So what? I wish my family was as high functioning as the Athertons. It's obvious that they work hard and that they all love each other. Something wrong with that??
  • 4 0
 Steamy dirty photo's!
  • 3 0
 I like when Mother Nature tries to get involved
  • 6 2
 GWIN
  • 3 0
 Its showtime....hoping Greg takes it...champion of champions!!
  • 2 0
 Well that got me pumped!
  • 1 0
 If this would be my local bike park i would be in heaven
  • 1 0
 Can't wait to see these guys rail this track
  • 1 0
 This time tomorrow morning...sooooooooo stoked!!!
  • 1 0
 Where and when can you watch this live?
  • 1 0
 Redbull.com/bike, there's a countdown and it'll tell you what time it starts in your local time. Waking up at 4 AM
  • 6 6
 Hope it rains again, makes for a better watch and a more exciting race!
  • 1 0
 Good coverage!
  • 1 0
 Well said words by Troy!
  • 2 3
 Gee can just go f*ck a dead llama
  • 3 5
 I want those grips! In fact, I NEED those grips!!!
  • 13 1
 Those are not grips, they are just velcro grip protection for mud and water while the bike is in the uplift and before the run or race so the grips will be dry and clean
  • 1 2
 Well if any manufacturer is reading this: MAKE THEM...THEN TAKE MY MONEY!
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