After a phenomenal couple of days blitzing the driest and dustiest Lourdes course we've ever known, the rug was pulled out in the most unfair fashion possible. Lourdes 2017 will be remembered as the race that was indubitably destroyed by horrific weather conditions arriving half-way through the elite men's race. Once inside the top 20, the heavens opened up in biblical fashion, not to mention the hurricane force wind that accompanied the deluge. The moisture wreaked havoc on the extremely rocky, hard-pack course, with many racers unable to keep sight of the track in front of them or indeed keep from sliding outside the tape even on the most basic sections… Suffice to say the last handful of riders hardly knew whether to complete their runs or begin gathering the animals, two by two. What's more, a collection of those unfortunate riders were on bikes set to blow a hole in the roof of the MTB industry, but now we'll simply never know. Until June.
Finn Iles and Rachel Atherton continued their winning streaks, while Danny Hart was denied and sent packing to 74th for his troubles. The silver lining for him was surely that all his main rivals for the overall title were also on the same sunken ship—with very few getting out alive… Connor Fearon and his podium finish being the possible exception. The weather gods did, however, have one man at the top of their priorities list; Alex Fayolle. People will say he only won because of the apparent divine intervention, but truth be told, his was an exceptional run; visibly furious and on the same second as Loris Vergier's top qualifying run the day prior. Whatever the case, while others sank or swam, Fayolle was somehow walking on water.
The morning skyline looked ominous but quickly cleared... Temporarily.
In just a few hours time these mountains would be engulfed in a swirling cloud of sodden disaster.
The juniors race didn't disappoint... Kade Ewards getting a bit buck wild on his way to 5th.
Silvain Cougoureux with the moto style for third. One of many next-gen Frenchmen to keep a good eye on this season.
Kaos Seagrave backed up his 2nd place qualifier with a repeat performance in the finals.
Finn Iles was on the march today. Even so, it would have been interesting to see where Matt Walker would have ended up without a flat.
The top three juniors to kick off the 2017 season; Iles, Seagrave, and Cougoureux.
Top qualifier, Tahnee Seagrave, out looking to cut back on the milliseconds in the morning light.
Morgane Charre lighting up the trail on her final practice run... Certainly no sign of the sheer carnage to come.
Tracey Hannah stepped it up today moving up from fourth in qualifying. It's great to see such tight racing atop the women's field.
Tracey was on a mission today and was riding at a pace we have not seen from her in a few seasons.
Miranda Miller didn't seem to gel too well with the Lourdes track in her early sessions but managed to turn it around for the finals, riding to 6th place for her first race with her new team.
Myriam Nicole getting aggressive in the morning's final training session.
Nicole drops into the fish area of a run that would land her in 3rd spot.
This was a big race for Manon Carpenter, the first since signing with German bike giants, Radon. She stepped up to give the brand it's first ever podium, but with her calibre, she will hope to go much further by the time the season is done.
Miller congratulates Carpenter after bumping her one spot off the podium.
Not even someone stealing Rachel's shoes from the pits last night could stop her from taking yet another win.
The other women lit a bit of a fire under Rachel Atherton after qualifying, and she was once again the fastest when it mattered most.
Feeling the pressure more than usual, Rachel was quick to check the clock as soon as she crossed the line. Much to her relief what she saw was the fastest time.
Seagrave will be disappointed to lose out in finals but the pace is there. The women's field is closing right up.
The last woman down the hill for the third time in her career, Seagrave would settle back into third, 2.7 seconds short of the big prize.
Not the day Tahnee was hoping for, but a good sport none-the-less in front of all the fans.
Another World Cup and another win for Rachel Atherton. But this one was not easy, and the other women are hot on her heels right now.
The fastest three ladies in Lourdes.
It's going to be one heck of a battle all season between these five as the times get tighter than ever before.
The only rain the women saw today was that of Rachel Atherton's champagne.
The chateau dominates the Lourdes skyline.
Riders warming up inside and out.
Jackson Frew spinning the legs before dropping into Round 1.
The riders could do nothing as they waited for their start time with the clouds bubbling up over the mountains.
Eliot focuses on the task at hand before dropping in.
After a break through season last year, Greg set sail in 2017 with a solid 13th.
Little did he know... Alex had high hopes for this weekend, but perhaps not quite that high.
We're not sure if Mark Wallace was praying for the rain to hold or just getting in the zone.
Wallace started out 12th in the splits, but climbed the ranks all the way to 2nd place, 3.3 seconds back on Fayolle.
Put on your party hats and get fired up. Things are about to get sideways.
Florent Payet is always so close to the leaders and today found himself a few steps higher and on the podium.
No two ways about it, Alex Fayolle was pinned all weekend and had an absolute blinder of a run, especially in that middle section.
Amaury Pierron is another young rider with bags of talent, he couldn't quite match his podium from last year but 8th will set him up nicely for the season.
Some spectators just couldn't understand what all the noise and fuss was about.
The storm clouds built all around before unleashing a particularly damp form of hell on the track.
3rd place for Marcello after a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck here in Lourdes.
No rain delay on the World Cup circuit.
The media crew hanging tough in the pelting rain, knowing drama was sure to be on the way.
14th on the day for Jack Moir.
Moir falls victim to a finish coral suddenly built 500m too short.
Bernard Kerr survives through some treacherous conditions.
Lourdes have mercy...
Conor Fearon had a rough one in qualifying, but with some help from mother nature, he turned that around to grab the final spot on the podium.
By the time Greg Minnaar came down it was all about survival.
If Danny can't stay on his bike in the wet then it simply can't be done.
You know how challenging the conditions are when a rider with Danny's caliber is helpless to stop his bike from sliding out from beneath him.
Danny Hart always a good sport, even when things go sideways.
Vision was a problem for everyone today.
The nervous three riders on the very wet hot seat. Once the rain came down and the wind picked up their fates were sealed.
Alex watched rider after rider come down, but there was simply no budging him.
Luca Shaw will take comfort from his third-place seeding. There's certainly plenty more to come this season from the talented American youngster.
Shaw's dream of a 2nd WC podium denied.
The high hopes of a Syndicate shut-down suddenly crushed. Or should that be just 'postponed'...
Two years, on the trot, misfortune has kept Loic off the podium in Lourdes.
Loic having a little fun and drifting it into the finish coral.
Loic gets the loudest cheers of any rider when racing in France, and even though the race was a disaster for him he still made sure to put on a show for the fans.
The Pope paying homage to the king of the hill.
Loic takes the time to congratulate Alex on his run.
Aaron Gwin hasn't lost an opening round since 2013, but today there was simply no chance whatsoever of defending it.
A very long, drawn-out crash at the lower off-camber section was the headline act of Gwin's run in the torrential rain.
After winning here twice before, a DQ is a little ways out from what Gwin was after here in Lourdes.
The only conciliation for Gwin was that, of course, his main rivals suffered exactly the same fate.
A race truly in ruin.
Loris Vergier still made a solid effort to attack the upper slopes, but 'utterly futile' was about the only way to assess it.
Vergier, last man down the hill and through the rotten worst of it.
The 29 revolution will go on ice one more month...
The win is coming for this man.
It was amazing how such a bad day on the hill only brought out the best in the riders. There was hardly a miserable face to be seen despite it all.
A very happy Alex Fayolle gets a victory hug from his girlfriend at the finish line.
A mob of fuzzy animals snatched Alex Fayolle off the hot seat as soon as Vergier crossed the line.
Troy's bike and goggles tell the tale.
Hart's unbeaten streak brought to the ground here in the Pyrenees.
Some of the fastest, if not luckiest, men in Lourdes; Fayolle, Wallace, Gutierrez, Payet and Fearon.
Mick Hannah shared a nice sentiment after the podium: Fayolle is the first Frenchman to win on home soil in 19 years.
Today's fastest; the winning bike; The Polygon Collosus.
With Tracey Hannah's 2nd place and Fayolle's win, the Polygon UR team leaves Lourdes with the number one plate of the top ranked team. Blessed.