Track Walk: Steep Summer Challenge - Vallnord World Cup DH 2019

Jul 3, 2019 at 14:31
by Nathan Hughes  



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.



Blue skies and big billowing clouds sure to bring heavy rain before dark.
Blue skies and big billowing clouds, sure to bring heavy rain before dark.

It s rare to see much in the way of old and rustic in the mostly new and polished principality of Andorra.
It's rare to see much in the way of old and rustic in the mostly new and polished principality of Andorra.

12 o clock for Kade Edwards.
12 o'clock for Kade Edwards.

It s always a pleasant visit when Dean Lucas and Brendan Fairclough march into your tent.
It's always a pleasant visit when Dean Lucas and Brendan Fairclough march into your tent.

Mitch Ropo self-wrenching his way through the 2019 season. Of course under the watchful eye of the Sram master-mechanics.
Mitch Ropo, self-wrenching his way through the 2019 season. Of course under the watchful eye of the SRAM master-mechanics.

Not much to trust in that skyscape. We can only hope to avoid the carnage of the 2015 Worlds hosted here.
Not much to trust in that skyscape. We can only hope to avoid the carnage of the 2015 Worlds hosted here.

The Giant boys had a busy day getting acquainted with something new... We ll endeavour to get some pictures tomorrow.
The Giant boys had a busy day getting acquainted with something new... We'll endeavor to get some pictures tomorrow.

Tools and accessories of the 9th best in the game... for now.
Tools and accessories of the 9th best in the game... for now.

Connor Fearon absorbing Mathew Dupelle s knowledge. This track should suit him just fine.
Connor Fearon absorbing Mathew Dupelle's knowledge. This track should suit him just fine.

Set-up in progress at the non-typical top-of-mountain pit set up here in Andorra.
Set-up in progress at the non-typical top-of-mountain pit set up here in Andorra.

Reece Wilson limbering up for track walk.
Reece Wilson limbering up for track walk.

You d wear your hat like that too if had hair as glorious as Greg Minnaar.
You'd wear your hat like that too if had hair as glorious as Greg Minnaar.

Jordie versus the wall of Kashima.
Jordie versus the wall of Kashima.

Moir and Mulally get ready to walk at the IFR pit.
Moir and Mulally get ready to walk at the IFR pit.

Dakotah Norton is always learning new things about his suspension set ups.
Dakotah Norton is always learning new things about his suspension set ups.

It s been great to see all of Tracey Hannah s hard work being rewarded this year. She leads the overall as we head into the second half of the season.
It's been great to see all of Tracey Hannah's hard work being rewarded this year. She leads the overall as we head into the second half of the season.

Straight and true with John Hall on the tools.
Straight and true with John Hall on the tools.

Tahnee Seagrave is here to keep an eye on proceedings whilst she recovers from her injury sustained back in Fort William.
Tahnee Seagrave is here to keep an eye on proceedings whilst she recovers from her injury sustained back in Fort William.

Vallnord always delivers a memorable round and hasn t missed a beat since 2014.
Vallnord always delivers a memorable round and hasn't missed a beat since 2014.

The first bridge that takes you over the road before plunging back into the woods.
The first bridge that takes you over the road before plunging back into the woods.

Tyre-shredding rocks... check.
Tyre-shredding rocks... check.

Mullaly Moir and Gwin check the first section of consequence which comes unsually far down the course here in Andorra.
Mullaly, Moir and Gwin check the first section of consequence, which comes unusually far down the course here in Andorra.

I don t think the chicken line will be seeing much action this weekend.
It's not likely the chicken line will be seeing much action this weekend.

Riders will be hitting these at mach 10 after a couple of runs.
Riders will be hitting these at Mach 10 after a couple of runs.

There s a variety of different surfaces below the riders wheels this weekend.
There's a variety of different surfaces below the riders' wheels this weekend.

Aaron Gwin back to being a full time kung-fu master now that the ankle s all healed up.
Aaron Gwin back to being a full-time kung-fu master now that the ankle's all healed up.

Training drills before the afternoon storms for the air ambulance.
Training drills before the afternoon storms for the air ambulance.

Loris Vergier s wrist is a little worse for wear this weekend.
Loris Vergier's wrist is a little worse for wear this weekend.

Summer in full flow in the Pyrenees.
Summer in full flow in the Pyrenees.

Scenes and stretches. Jack Moir lunges down the mountain.
Scenes and stretches. Jack Moir lunges down the mountain.

The course looks a little more hard-packed and smooth than we saw it last but it never stays that way for long.
The course looks a little more hard-packed and smooth than we saw it last, but it never stays that way for long.

These pristine berms are about to get ripped to pieces.
These pristine berms are about to get ripped to pieces.

Much of the loam is stripped away these days to form extremely steep and committing chutes in the lower woods.
Much of the loam is stripped away these days to form extremely steep and committing chutes in the lower woods.

Greg Minnaar will fancy his chances this weekend.
Greg Minnaar will fancy his chances this weekend.

Old MacDonald and his Andorran dirt farm.
Old MacDonald and his Andorran dirt farm.

As ever steeper than it looks.
As ever, steeper than it looks.

The ruts get deeper here every year.
The ruts get deeper here every year.

A taped hand and a look of line-choice induced fear from Rachel Atherton mid-track.
A taped hand and a look of line-choice induced fear from Rachel Atherton mid-track.

An extremely slippery and risky mud-bath section in years gone by looks like a cake walk...for now.
An extremely slippery and risky mud-bath section in years gone by looks like a cake walk...for now.

Reece Wilson checks out one of the fresh additions to the course.
Reece Wilson checks out one of the fresh additions to the course.

Alterations in the steeps the course takes an unexpected right and heads straight down the hill.
Alterations in the steeps, the course takes an unexpected right and heads straight down the hill.

Gwin stomps down the new yet to be rutted steep section.
Gwin stomps down the new, 'yet to be rutted' steep section.

There is plenty of this around to scoop riders and stray bikes away from some of the steeper sections of the hillside.
There is plenty of this around to scoop riders and stray bikes away from some of the steeper sections of the hillside.

Things have been slowed down in places with a few fresh chicanes taped in.
Things have been slowed down in places with a few fresh chicanes taped in.

It may not look like much but this is the post-bridge section where riders struggle most to control their building momentum as the track hits it s steepest.
It may not look like much but this is the post-bridge section where riders struggle most to control their building momentum as the track hits it's steepest.

There s plenty to keep you on your toes here.
There's plenty to keep you on your toes here.

You can sense when the weather is closing in here.
You can sense when the weather is closing in here.

The never-ending helter-skelter of the lower woods.
The never-ending helter-skelter of the lower woods.

Luca Shaw is on a steady upward curve after his early season injury.
Luca Shaw is on a steady upward curve after his early-season injury.

Things get rather steep here in Andorra.
Things get rather steep here in Andorra.

There s plenty of sharp rock around waiting to kill tires and wheels.
There's plenty of sharp rock around waiting to kill tires and wheels.

The majority of the track remains unchanged and will be familiar territory for the riders tomorrow.
The majority of the track remains unchanged and will be familiar territory for the riders tomorrow.

You might not win the race on these turns but you can certainly lose it.
You might not win the race on these turns but you can certainly lose it.

This catch net might see some action. Arms will be screaming by this point the perfect match for a powdery soft catch berm.
This catch net might see some action. Arms will be screaming by this point, the perfect match for a powdery soft catch berm.

Moir takes a look at the gravel wall that will be acting as a berm and a huge compression for riders just yards from the line.
Moir takes a look at the gravel wall that will be acting as a berm and a huge compression for riders, just yards from the line.

Look who s back at the races.... The dawg is back at the races.
Look who's back at the races... The 'dawg is back at the races.

Sam Blenkinsop is back on two wheels this weekend after the birth of his daughter saw him sit out in Leogang.
And who else... Sam Blenkinsop is back on two wheels after the birth of his daughter back home in NZ.

Conditions are pretty dusty here in Andorra despite some heavy rain yesterday evening.
Conditions are still pretty dusty currently here in Andorra despite some heavy rain yesterday evening.

Danny Hart s mechanic Scotty Mears counting clicks.
Danny Hart's mechanic Scotty Mears counting clicks.

Fast men s club.
Fast men's club.

Lots for the mighty AG to contemplate but much cause for optimism. With a podium already in the bag and back to near full strength after his ankle injury it s on.
Lots for the mighty AG to contemplate, but much cause for optimism. With a podium already in the bag and back to near full strength after his ankle injury, it's on.

Moody skies and dubious conditons heading straight for first practice tomorrow.
Moody skies and dubious conditons heading straight for first practice tomorrow.

It s pretty common for an afternoon rain storm here in Andorra today was no exception.
It's pretty common for an afternoon rainstorm here in Andorra, today was no exception.

Young talent personified Vali Holl.
Young talent personified; Vali Holl.

The number one plate ready to be mounted onto Tracey Hannah s race rig.
The number one plate ready to be mounted onto Tracey Hannah's race rig.

Henry Fitzgerald adjusting a pair of borrowed shoes as he waits for his luggage to show.
Henry Fitzgerald adjusting a pair of borrowed shoes as he waits for his luggage to show.

XC and DH reunited here in the Pyrenees.
XC and DH reunited here in the Pyrenees.

The weather can turn ugly quick in these parts of the Pyrenees.
Ugly weather never looked so good.

Stormy skies from the pits at the top of hill this week.
Stormy uncertain skies and a lot of uncertainty on the race track for the days ahead. At least there's no doubt the latter is a very good thing.



35 Comments

  • 84 0
 Thank you to all the photographers who made this article visually awesome!
  • 15 0
 We're spoiled kids Smile
  • 6 2
 Yeah, so good to have DH back! Too many weeks of endrugo
  • 34 1
 Did Minnar find one of Rat Boy's old T-shirts in the back of the van?? Ha ha!!
  • 6 0
 He's been rocking Jah colours since day 1
  • 11 0
 Can't wait to see the new glory
  • 1 0
 Sounds like a euphamism
  • 9 0
 Shots of John Hall's tool box will never get old. So satisfying every time.
  • 3 0
 What did finn say? cuz bruni looks like hes gonna smack him and brook looks disgusted !
  • 1 2
 Think he called him a prick.
  • 3 0
 Trek Factory's XC and DH squads joining together to make the Voltron of pit setups. That thing is gigantic.
  • 1 0
 "It's rare to see much in the way of old and rustic in the mostly new and polished principality of Andorra." What?

Get to Ordino, Andorra la Vella old town, Canillo/Prats, etc, etc.
  • 3 0
 Damn, how do you even do a 12 oclock?
  • 1 0
 with a emtb?
  • 2 0
 Carefully?
  • 1 0
 loop out and hope the photographer has good timing, I mean that's how I'd do it. Easy-peezy
  • 4 0
 I love lamp
  • 1 0
 I ate a candle!
  • 2 0
 I can count to potato!
  • 1 0
 @freekandy: That's not vegan bro
  • 1 2
 few observations

why is Kade Edwards feathering his front brake on a wheelie? or is he running US style brakes or is the photo reversed?
has Brendan ditched his wedding ring already? usually you do that after a few years when you're going out
Scotty Mears is wrenching for Danny Hart?
  • 3 0
 you're from UK so you might think it's his front break but Kade is probably (99,99%) doin' it like rest of the world - front brake is on the left, rear on the right. Smile
I've bought bike from UK and it was mismatched for me, had to swap it.
  • 1 1
 Strange one, you can make out the word Racing on the truck out of focus and the specialized S is the correct way round, so yeah, pulling the front brake !
  • 1 0
 Kade is probably just on one of the team e-bikes rather than his specific bike.
  • 1 0
 Greg Minnaar had the "eye of the tiger" hahahha. It looks to me very focus and that Bob Marley shirt is TOP!!! Minnaar for the win!
  • 4 1
 dope af
  • 2 0
 Way too long in between wc rounds. It's just too good to follow!
  • 1 0
 True...but we have 2 weeks of fun ahead of us now. Ben's and Elliott's videos stretch race weekend from thursday to tuesday, love it.
  • 2 0
 @DuelingBanjos: i'm driving down to Les Gets to watch the racing next weekend. i can't wait!
  • 1 0
 @aidy: I bet! Dh race weekend is well worth a long drive.
  • 1 0
 Loving the candid shots of everyone. Keep up the good work boys and girls. Much appreciated.
  • 2 0
 I'm guessing giant has a mullet bike
  • 2 1
 Aaron Gwin be like "Cause this is thrilleeeeer !"
  • 1 0
 Shout out to Jordi who must be a very dedicated and patient man!

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