Qualifying Photo Report: Altitude Sickness - Vallnord World Cup DH 2018

Jul 13, 2018
by Nathan Hughes  




To clarify, we're talking 'sick' as in 'rad', 'rad' as in 'phat'... but you knew that. Yes, the La Massana course may peak at just 1895m, but today no one was safe from the sickness in the mountains... Once early morning mists from overnight rain burned away, the Catalan sun brought things up to a boil and the riding got real hot, real quick. The push to get lines dialled and commitment levels up to race speed was on, but a greasy film of moisture made the roots and bedrock extra treacherous on a course where perfect brake control is paramount. Well, let's say even more 'paramount' than usual, evidenced by big names still getting separated from their bikes by the time qualies came around.

One fine day on the hill culminated with a very interesting qualifying session that saw Luca Shaw take the number one spot by 2.5 seconds in the elite men, making it a hat-trick of top qualies for 2018. Hart rode to 2nd, just 0.003 ahead of Greenland, with MacDonald and Val Di Sole's turn-up, Thomas Estaque, close behind. Did Pierron go easy? Did last year's champ, Brosnan? Just two of so many questions. Further questions remain also in the junior men's category, as Henry Kerr roared to surprise victory ahead of Thibaut Daprela and Kade Edwards, while usual suspect, Kye A'Hern, almost failed to qualify. The women's categories seem a little less mysterious perhaps, as Vali Holl took 23 seconds out of her peers and Rachel Atherton one of the biggest margins in elite women's qualifying - 12.7 seconds ahead of Tracey Hannah. Still, let's not go forgetting, the real race goes down tomorrow.




A moment to collect your thoughts before 5 minutes of brutal physical and mental games with the La Massana track. EWS champ Cecile Ravanel back in the start gate of a World Cup Downhill.
A moment to collect your thoughts before 5 minutes of brutal physical and mental games with the La Massana track. EWS champ Cecile Ravanel back in the start gate of a World Cup Downhill.

Mark Wallace has been steadily climbing the ranks this season but today was one to forget crashing and missing the 60th place cut-off. Luckily as a protected rider it s no biggy.
Mark Wallace has been steadily climbing the ranks this season, but today was one to forget, crashing and missing the 60th place cut-off. Luckily as a protected rider, it's no biggy.

After a third in Logan and a second last week in Val di Sole Henry Kerr has been on a role in the junior mens category. This week he would qualify first ahead of series leader Thibaut Daprella by over 2 seconds.
After a third in Leogang and a second last week in Val di Sole, Henry Kerr has been on a role in the junior men's category. This week he would qualify first ahead of series leader Thibaut Daprella by over 2 seconds.

By the seat of his pants... top tip for the junior podium Kye A Hern made the last spot for the finals today in 15th.
By the seat of his pants... While often standing on or near the tip top of the junior podium, Kye A'Hern just made the last spot for the finals today in 15th.

Tahnee Seagrave getting locked and loaded for her first practice run this morning.
Tahnee Seagrave getting locked and loaded for her first practice run this morning.

Connor Fearon is in a whole gaggle of riders separated by a handful of seconds just outside the top 10.
Connor Fearon is in a whole gaggle of riders separated by a handful of seconds just outside the top 10.

Joe Smith hooking through the loose bike park berms in the open he rounded off the day in 15th.
Joe Smith hooking through the loose bike park berms in the open, he rounded off the day in 15th.

Number 2 in the series on a final spot check before qualie runs.
Number 2 in the series on a final spot check before qualie runs.

A huge crash in qualifying for Loic Bruni had him finishing second to last today. He has always done well here in Andorra and if he can regroup in time for tomorrow s race you can bet he will be a threat once again.
A huge crash in qualifying for Loic Bruni had him finishing second to last today. He has always done well here in Andorra and if he can regroup in time for tomorrow's race you can bet he will be a threat once again.

There s time on the table for Remi Thirion tomorrow with some slower top splits he ll be wanting to slot into the top 10 or even higher.
There's time on the table for Remi Thirion tomorrow with some slower top splits. He'll be wanting to slot into the top 10 or even higher.

Matt Walker certainly isn t finding the jump to elites to be out of his depth and ended up inside the top 10.
Matt Walker certainly isn't finding the jump to elites to be out of his depth and ended up inside the top 10.

Iles slipped into the top 20 this afternoon but his form on track suggests bigger things could be on the way.
Iles slipped into the top 20 this afternoon, but his form on track suggests bigger things could be on the way.

Loic Bruni inspecting his bike that mechanic Jack Roure meticulously prepared overnight.
Loic Bruni inspecting his bike that mechanic Jack Roure meticulously prepared overnight.

Emilie Sigenthaler looks good for the podium 4th today and 4 seconds up on Ravanel.
Emilie Siegenthaler looks good for the podium, 4th today and 4 seconds up on Ravanel.

Loris Vergier was 3rd and 2nd at the splits before getting into difficulty... watch out for a hot seat spell as a minimum tomorrow.
Loris Vergier was 3rd and 2nd at the splits before getting into difficulty... watch out for a hot seat spell as a minimum tomorrow.

Last weekend Thomas Estaque made it onto a World Cup podium for the first time in 5th. Today he qualified in that same position 4.2 seconds off the fastest time the day.
Last weekend Thomas Estaque made it onto a World Cup podium for the first time in 5th. Today he qualified in that same position, 4.2 seconds off the fastest time of the day.

Sam Dale privateering his way to the big show for the second time this year to make it 2 for 2.
Sam Dale privateering his way to the big show for the second time this year to make it 2 for 2.

Joe Smith leads out Henry Fitzgerald in the training session before qualifying runs.
Joe Smith leads out Henry Fitzgerald in the training session before qualifying runs.

Once the morning haze burned off it was a scorching hot day under the sun here in Andorra. With nothing but sun in the forecast tomorrow for race day it should be an awesome Word Cup final.
Once the morning haze burned off it was a scorching hot day under the sun here in Andorra. With nothing but sun in the forecast tomorrow for race day, it should be an awesome World Cup final.

It s been a rough few months for Miranda Miller but she s safely through to the big show tomorrow.
It's been a rough few months for Miranda Miller but she's safely through to the big show tomorrow.

Gaetan Vige has one of the best riding styles out there but has struggled to find speed this season. 46th today means he gets to have another crack at it in tomorrow s final.
Gaetan Vige has one of the best riding styles out there but has struggled to find speed this season. 46th today means he gets to have another crack at it in tomorrow's final.

Brook Mac ready for a heater of a run that would place him in 4th right behind team mate Greenland.
Brook Mac, ready for a heater of a run that would place him in 4th, right behind teammate Greenland.

the original star in Andorra Remi Thirion is into the big show with a 24th in qualifying.
The original star in Andorra, Remi Thirion, is into the big show with a 24th in qualifying.

Paula Zibasa attacking the steeps but will need to find 5 seconds to catch her friend Mille Jonset and get on the podium.
Paula Zibasa attacking the steeps, but will need to find 5 seconds to catch her friend Mille Johnset and get on the podium.

Vali Holl once again crushing any hopes of victory for the other junior women.
Vali Holl once again crushing any hopes of victory for the other junior women.

Vali Holl dominating the junior womens field as per... today by some 23 seconds.
Holl rolling in off the steep bridge towards a lead of some 23 seconds.

3rd plade for Tahnee Seagrave just one second behind Tracey Hannah but a massive 13.5 behind her rival for the overall title Rachel Atherton.
3rd place for Tahnee Seagrave just one second behind Tracey Hannah, but a massive 13.5 behind her rival for the overall title, Rachel Atherton.

It takes every available inch of travel in the legs as well as the suspension to squash the final drop at race speed.
It takes every available inch of travel in the legs as well as the suspension to squash the final drop at race speed.

Not quite the same levels of qualifying heroics as last week from Monika Hrastnik but she s in contention for the podium places.
Not quite the same levels of qualifying heroics as last week from Monika Hrastnik but she's in contention for the podium places.

Conspiracy theorists will say Pierron took things a little easy in qualie to keep the pressure off tomorrow...
Conspiracy theorists will say Pierron took things a little easy in qualies to keep the pressure off tomorrow...

Kade Edwards sent it into third in the junior men s race today but has some work to do if he wants to find an extra five seconds for tomorrows final.
Kade Edwards sent it into third in the junior men's race today, but has some work to do if he wants to find an extra five seconds for tomorrows final.

People s champ Phil Atwil continues his comeback - 13th shows great promise on the Andorran steeps.
People's champ, Phil Atwill, continues his comeback - 13th shows great promise on the Andorran steeps.

3rd in junior women for Mille Johnset but a long long way behind Vali Holl.
3rd in junior women for Mille Johnset, but a long long way behind Vali Holl.

Tracey Hannah is looking on pace today pipping Seagrave by less than a second. Of course both do have ways to go to fill the void up to Atherton for the final.
Tracey Hannah is looking on pace, today pipping Seagrave by less than a second. Of course, both have ways to go to fill the void up to Atherton for the final.

Laurie Greenland snuck into 3rd spot just 0.06 of a second behind Danny Hart. If the time gaps between the top 5 are any indication tomorrow s final is going to be a close one.
Laurie Greenland snuck into 3rd spot just 0.06 of a second behind Danny Hart. If the time gaps between the top 5 are any indication, tomorrow's final is going to be a close one.

Some last minute line advice from Polygon UR team owner Fabien Cousinie to Tracey Hannah before practice got underway.
Some last minute line advice from Polygon UR team owner Fabien Cousinie to Tracey Hannah.

Troy Brosnan always goes well here in Andorra to say the least. Higher splits and a 7th place qualie show he could go the distance here again.
Troy Brosnan always goes well here in Andorra, to say the least. Higher splits and a 7th place qualie show he could go the distance here again.

Magnus Manson emerging from the shadows and entering the final plunge towards the line.
Magnus Manson emerging from the shadows and entering the final plunge towards the line.

On the gas again was Sam Blenkisop who would finish just over 5 seconds back to take 8th on the day.
On the gas again was Sam Blenkinsop who would finish just over 5 seconds back to take 8th on the day.

Look closer. Benoit Coulanges was only 3 seconds off qualifying despite riding half the track on the rim. He was 11th and 14th at the previous splits. Gutted.
Look closer... Benoit Coulanges was only 3 seconds off qualifying despite riding half the track on the rim. He was 11th and 14th at the previous splits. Gutted.

The eroded rooty inside of a turn getting chipped away to allow a little more lean and little less chance of grabbing a brake.
Hanging roots on the inside of an eroded turn get chipped away to allow a little more lean and little less chance of grabbing a brake before elite men.

Pierron looked cool calm and collected down through the steep Thirion chutes for qualie.
Pierron looked cool, calm and collected down through the steep 'Thirion' chutes during qualies.

Amaury Pierron watches as rider after rider knocks his qualifying time down a spot eventually settling 4.5 seconds back in 6th. With all the pressure on his shoulders to deliver tomorrow for Commencal in their home town it s not going to be easy for the young WC series leader.
Amaury Pierron watches as rider after rider knocks his qualifying time down a spot, eventually settling 4.5 seconds back in 6th. With all the pressure on his shoulders to deliver tomorrow for Commencal in their hometown, it's not going to be easy for the young WC series leader.

Brook Macdonald slaping berms with authority en route to 4th in qualifying just one spot behind his teammate Laurie Greenland.
Brook MacDonald slapping berms with authority en route to 4th in qualifying just one spot behind his teammate Laurie Greenland.

Charlie Harrison continues his extra consistent season headed into 16th.
Charlie Harrison continues his extra consistent season, headed into 16th.

Gee Atherton finished just outside the top 10 for qualies could this be the race he finally slips back in
Gee Atherton finished just outside the top 10 for qualies, could this be the race he finally slips back in?

Adam Brayton had a big off in practice and had to race qualifying with five fresh stitches in tip of his middle finger. The medics tried to put in six but he insisted that would make it too hard to hold onto the bars. Either way it worked and he made it down in 32nd.
Adam Brayton had a big off in practice and had to race qualifying with five fresh stitches in the tip of his middle finger. The medics tried to put in six, but he insisted that would make it too hard to hold onto the bars. Either way, it worked, and he made it down in 32nd.

Danny Hart has the bit between his teeth at the moment and will be hungry to take his first win on Saracen although he has a few seconds to find in the morning if he s to threaten the time of Shaw.
Danny Hart has the bit between his teeth at the moment and will be hungry to take his first win on Saracen, although he has a few seconds to find in the morning if he's to threaten the time of Shaw.

Luca Shaw was first at every split and by 2.5 seconds qualified first for the third time this year. Will this be the weekend where he finally puts it all together and takes his first World Cup win
Luca Shaw was first at every split, and by 2.5 seconds qualified first for the third time this year. Will this be the weekend where he finally puts it all together and takes his first World Cup win?

Utter domination. Rachel Atherton was in her own class today... Can anyone get close to her tomorrow
Utter domination. Rachel Atherton was in her own class today... Can anyone get close to her tomorrow?


Must Read This Week

32 Comments

  • + 44
 NFL player- multi million dollar yearly salary...turftoe, out for 4 months. DH rider- meager salary if any....hacked off finger tip, rides anyway.
  • + 35
 I just learned that Vali Holl signed a 6 year contract with YT when she was ELEVEN! That's some YT for sure! That means it may be up for renewal in 2019. It would be awesome if YT had an Elite woman on the Mob.

www.pinkbike.com/news/interview-valentina-holl-2015.html
  • + 3
 Her Instagram story says she already won the overall!? With three races left? WTF?
  • + 2
 *two races left. The junior women race is obviously already over ...
  • + 17
 Last pic of Brook is mental, thanks to all photographs to deliver this sweet pics!
  • + 14
 Rachel riding no gloves Blenki style!!?? (forgot them maybe?)
  • - 29
flag h-beck83 (Jul 13, 2018 at 16:38) (Below Threshold)
 Or average person style.
  • + 13
 Go on sambo!!!!!
  • + 12
 Gets off gt and can qualify again. Awesome.
  • + 7
 Speaking of former GT riders Jackson Frew is also doing well this season
  • + 7
 Epic photos, can really feel the emotions in some of the tightly cropped frames.
  • + 5
 It is no biggy, but if you do not have an ö on your keyboard, you normally use oe. I think a young upcoming female rider deserves that respect ;-).
  • + 2
 That panning shot of Hart shows what a beating the camera's bringing us these great pics go through... high aperture to lower shutter speed really shows the grit inside the mirror box. Thanks Nathan for breaking your gear to bring us these pics!
  • + 1
 The 1st photo of Remi Thirion was inspired by Total Recall................. s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/constellationonline.net/media/UrbanAstronomer/total_recall_remake.jpg
  • + 3
 can't wait for Luca to start putting them together on race day. have a feeling once he breaks down that wall, it's on.
  • + 1
 A lot more right hand/rear brake setups than I expected. Are riders choosing to match their dominant hand to front or rear brake as preferred?
  • + 1
 I've been running right hand rear ever since I switched from coaster brakes lol
First real bike was a proper race BMX & that was just the way they were (a bit of dominant hand probably played a part even if I didn't realize at the time) but one factor is that often it is better for cable routing. Often with cable brakes the rear is routed down the left side of the frame meaning that the cable has a gentler curve & hence less friction/resistance if the lever is on the right. Also biggest markets for a lot of bikes is US & Europe where driving is on the right (think about hand signals when riding on the road, which cyclists are meant to do (but we don't lol ) and right hand rear makes sense with most frame designs).
  • + 3
 Henry Kerr is quite a "roll" model! Wink
  • + 3
 Phatwill FTW! Dudes got steeze.
  • + 1
 So stoked to see Phil back at it !
  • + 1
 I’ll wave to them as I fly over Andorra later today wishing I was watching on the hill!
  • + 1
 Missing caption from Thirion pic: SPIDER!!
  • + 2
 Go Pierron brothers
  • + 1
 Killer pics, Thanks!
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