What a session that was! The rain turned the track on its head and we have a top ten that nobody expected. The water slowed things down a bit from a 2:16 fastest run in timed training to 2:32 today. Not a massive difference but clearly there was enough grease up there to keep things interesting.
La Bresse Qualifying Split winners
Sector 1 - Martin Maes
Sector 2 - Amaury Pierron
Sector 3 - Gee Atherton
Sector 4 - Connor Fearon
Sector 5 - Amaury Pierron
Pierron put down some blistering sections but cost himself dearly in sector four. Fearon was on a charge and could well have taken it too but a mistake in the final sector cost him as well. Gee Atherton will be more than happy to take top honours, but it looks more than anything like he won it by keeping things rubber side down and consistent. He only won one sector but avoided the costly disasters of Fearon and Pierron.
Let's take a look at the splits and sectors of the top 20 for a better idea of what went down.
Sector 1/Split 1
1. Martin Maes - 30.121
2. Amaury Pierron +0.017
3. Remi Thirion +0.677
Martin Maes is fastest in sector 1! The enduro upstart crashes the downhill party and powers into an early lead. The top section is grassy, pedally and fairly flat, so it's no great surprise he ended up top of the pile. Pierron is right on his tail though, around two hundredths back.
Florent Payet has by far his best split here in fourth and, although they're not featured here, Slaowmir Lukasik was fifth and Jerome Caroli sixth, great splits for the two under-the-radar riders.
Gee is already over a second down and in eighth with plenty of making up to do.
Sector 2/Split 2
1. Amaury Pierron - 23.381
2. Neko Mulally +0.274
3. Gee Atherton +0.290
Pierron is right up there again and this time takes the jump line split. Neko Mulally has a corker of a split and is only 0.2 seconds slower, Gee is starting to pick up speed in third.
Sector 1 stars, Maes and Payet, both fall well back here. Bruni starts to reverse his fortunes though and goes from 20th fastest in the last split to fifth in this one.
State of Play
Pierron is still well out in front and Maes did enough to hold on to second place for now. There are big marches up the standings for Mulally (8th from 18th), Bruni (10th from 20th,) Gwin (4th from 7th) and Gee (5th from 8th). Payet is the biggest loser slipping from 4th to 14th.
Connor Fearon is back in 16th at this point but things are about to turn around... big time.
Sector 3/Split 3
1. Gee Atherton - 33.666
2. Amaury Pierron +0.203
3. Connor Fearon +0.519
Gee puts in a devilishly good performance in sector three to emerge fastest. Pierron, as always this year, is never far off the top spot and Fearon starts to pick up pace for the middle part of the track.
Troy Brosnan has his best split of an otherwise pretty quiet day and Neko Mulally backs up his second sector with another solid performance.
Thirion and Gwin both have their iffiest sectors at this point.
State of Play
Look at how far ahead Pierron is at this point! You'd be forgiven for thinking nothing could stop him claiming the fastest time with less than a minute of racing to go.
Thirion slips out of the top five for the first time, which allows Gee, Joe Smith and Neko Mulally to leap frog him. Maes also drops way back and is pretty much out of contention now.
Sector four/ Split four
1. Connor Fearon - 34.690
2. Mike Jones +0.032
3. Adam Brayton +0.399
This is the split that really shakes things up. The headline story is that Pierron has a disaster after being so comfortably ahead but at the same time Fearon's recovery is starting to give him a real chance of taking the top spot at this point. He wins this sector with the unlikely pairing of Mike Jones and Adam Brayton following close behind.
Thirion starts to recover and Brendog also puts in his best split performance here. Gee is actually a fair way back on this split, it's his worst of the whole race but it will be enough to get his nose in front of Pierron.
State of Play
Gee is in the lead but it's Fearon with the momentum breathing down his neck, less than two tenths back. Pierron ends up dropping back to fourth, behind Thirion as well as the lead two.
Brayton jumps from 32nd to 16th and Jones from 20th to 13th.
Sector Five/ Finish Spread
1. Amaury Pierron - 28.936
2. Brook MacDonald +0.158
3. Gee Atherton +0.425
As always, Pierron and MacDonald finish strong. You have to wonder what would have been for Pierron had he held on just moments before.
It's Fearon's turn to taste the bad luck this time though as he loses out on his chance at the top spot.
Instead, it's Atherton who again puts in a consistently strong sector, to take the top spot with an awesome performance
Gee takes it by 0.3 seconds - that's 3 Brits and two Treks taking top honours in La Bresse qualies. There's a tightly clumped group of four that are within a second at the head of the rankings. Joe Smith rounds out the top five with a great run.