Holiday season for the masses means anything but for the highly trained athletic machines of the World Cup circuit. The full heat of the summer means one thing: business time. This round comes as a crucial fork in the road. It's midseason and no rider has been able to dominate in either the women's or men's categories and here we have a track that demands exceptional stamina on top of the usual demand for perfection at speed.
It's crunch time here for Rachel Atherton who will surely feel the pressure mount on her defense of the overall if she can keep Tracey Hannah at bay here in the Pyrenees. Her crash in Austria leaves her 150 points adrift as it stands and only Marine Cabirou has shown she might be capable of forcing Hannah any further down the ranks so far this season. Atherton needs to win here or hope Hannah crumbles under the weight of the leader's jersey and tumbles over the tape sometime in the next rounds. Meanwhile, it's Troy Brosnan wearing white because he's doing well in the men's, but with Loic Bruni looming large, just 5 points off. Pierron and Hart are also far too close for comfort and there's a certain GOAT on (another) comeback rampage with all the confidence of a second-place finish last round. Let's not get hasty and forget it was Loris Vergier who took the win here last year, although his crash at Maribor has left him back in 6th overall.
What of the course? The track famed for its ever-steepening nature is largely unchanged from the 2018 iteration and has somehow stayed curiously dry despite heavy rainstorms the last few evenings. It's smoother and more hard-pack than we've seen it in previous years as the trail crews have been working hard through the European heatwave to help it endure the week. Whether it stays dry or not, Andorra is a course very susceptible to erosion by both bike and downpours and there's little doubt the shrapnel will be flying long before the commencement of timed training tomorrow afternoon. Bring the Catalan action under the full heat of the summer sun or crackle of Pyrenean thunder.