Bish, bash, bosh. Qualifying is in the bag here in Andorra and quite the spicy appetizer it proved to be ahead of the big show tomorrow. If you're a tech fanatic you'll be delighted, or perhaps somewhat confused, to hear that 27.5 hoops set the fastest time on the mountain; if you're more of a humanist then the man to do it was one-time WC winner Troy Brosnan. Series leader, señor Minnaar, was predictably in hot pursuit, less than a second back and getting faster all the way down, quickly followed by Loris Vergier, Aaron Gwin and Loic Bruni.
Tracey Hannah set a fiery pace for the women, leading out Vallnord-sponsored Myriam Nicole by just a single second in a match that will surely make for some great edge-of-seat viewing for finals. It was then a 7 second gap back to surprise third place qualifier Marine Cabirou, with Seagrave and Carpenter both well in touch, while Atherton clearly struggled with her shoulder, 15 seconds adrift. More must-watch racing is on the menu in the juniors, with Finn Iles keeping Matt Walker at bay by a meager 0.2 with a massive 6 second gap on the rest of the field.
Conditions for qualies were prime as can be, with a beautiful clear morning turning overcast, but the dirt stayed dry and tacky until close of play when heavy rains fell once again. The Saturday forecast looks admittedly dicey later in the afternoon, but luck may be on the riders' sides as it is supposed to hold off just long enough to get this thing settled and in the books for another year.
Finn Iles' mechanic Kev Joly carefully prepping his number plate on the jersey he'd wear to a first place qualifier.
Guess you never get over the novelty of putting on the rainbow stripes...
One last bolt check before dropping into the length of La Massana track.
Myriam Nicole waiting patiently in line to drop in for her first practice run.
Tracey Hannah took a big hit to her stomach in a crash yesterday, but it didn't seem to slow her down too much today. First for the numero uno.
Eleonora Farina keeps a phenomenal season rolling.... Sixth place for the Italian on a Spanish bike.
Taylor Vernon laid down a heater, riding to 26th spot for Unior Tools today.
Tahnee Seagrave ended the day further back than she will have hoped, how many seconds and how far up can she climb tomorrow?
Seagrave inspects her line choice on her final practice run.
The rock gardens aren't rough if you just clear them all. Emyr Davies getting it done in the early morning light.
Monstrous holes are opening up but those with good line choice and commitment can usually skirt around the side of them.
Fast forward 8 hours and these hills would be engulfed in grey.
Myriam Nicole riding the rollercoaster of berms to a second place qualifying.
Youngster Marine Cabirou wants her first elite podium and after taking third today she might well be about to go the distance.
Jack Moir can't seem to miss the top 10 this season... 8th for qualies and no doubt more to give.
Finn Iles has no room for error tomorrow, Walker is hot on his heels with Edwards in touching distance too.
Finn Iles catches his breath and regains focus after a hairy moment in the open berms.
Vaea Verbeeck going full huck and hope and landing just inside the cut of 15 women for finals.
It was always going to be hard for Rachel Atherton coming back form injury on a track like this. She'll just have to ease her way back into racing and start to hunt for race wins and World Champs at the end of the season.
We've been here before haven't we? Troy Brosnan qualified fastest here last year before the heavens opened...
Run for cover, the goat is looking for even faster lines in the forest.
Phil Atwill is really turning his season around. 14th will have him hungry for some serious points on race day.
Greenland taking an unusual central huck line into the carnage after the steep bridge (which looks flat in pictures).
Aaron Gwin always tends to keep his cards close to his chest until qualifying. A fourth place will have him searching for an ace tomorrow.
After some slower top splits, Jacob Dickson put pedal to the metal and sent it into 12th to continue a top season on Giant Factory.
Did we say that Matt Walker and Finn Iles are close? 0.2 separated the two today, all set for a tasty encounter tomorrow.
Loris Vergier, brown trousers perhaps, but no sign of fear out on the track today with 3rd.
Kade Edwards, Trek's wild junior got more than a little loose on the entry to this rut, front wheel on the bank with the rear tracking the other way. Held it for third.
Blenki looks to be back, just outside the top ten and a joy to watch trackside as always.
Groundskeeper Willy on patrol, lurking just outside the top 10 this afternoon.
Every little helps. Another fastest qualifier helps stretch Tracey Hannah's lead on the overall. She has a fight on her hand tomorrow though with Myriam Nicole just over a second back.
They may not speak French here in Andorra, but Amaury Pierron sure speaks the right language on this zesty course... 10th for qualies.
Englishman, Joe Breeden, putting in the work to hang onto the 6 plate in the juniors.
Manon Carpenter shuffled back into 5th place, albeit just over a second off third.
Connor Fearon floating through the steep lower slopes, a solid 15th for the consistent Aussie.
Bruni needs no introduction to the Andorra track. He'll be 5th to last down the hill and has a few seconds to make up in his bid for a second World Cup win.
The slowest part of the Syndicate trio claiming his embarrassingly weak 7th place. Ouch.
The number one in the series got knocked off his perch by 0.92 seconds this afternoon, will he really let that fly tomorrow?
George Brannigan returning back to the results territory we have come to expect. 9th for the Kiwi.
Despite a shady qualie day, Charlie Hatton is having the dream transition season into elite, just check that plate out.
The steep final chutes are a last burst of pain for tired bodies. Josh Button had no such problems.
Laurie Greenland had been on pace for a top ten after the first two splits, but fell back to 18th... almost literally with a crash at the top of the final woods.
10th, 74th, 55th... Gwin's nightmarish track record here in Andorra. Rest assured 4th in qualies today won't be anywhere near enough revenge.
The signs are clear when the rain comes charging down the neighbouring valleys. What will tomorrow bring?
Full strip downs at IFR... because big-wheelers need love too.
Heavy rain at the end of a long day... time to check the best of the internet's raw clips.
Not much in the way of moisture out on track today but showers have been coming in and out since the end of qualifying. There will be some nervous minds in bed tonight.
Greenland getting prepped for war in the morning at the MS pit.
Kevin Joly working on Pinkbike. Wink.
Tom Duncan struggling to control the water pressure and blasting all the paint clean off Wyn's Fury. Remember not to go too close with those things.
Connor Fearon braves the end of the day rain to walk the track and search for lost seconds. Not too much company out on the hill this time...