Not before another day of carnage though. You see, all that water and all that prime Vallnord dirt were mixed up into a boggy mess on Friday evening – a gloopy concoction left to slowly dry out during the morning of practice and timed runs. The rutted turns became ever-more permanent and the opportunity to absolutely rail them more of a necessity. And the man who had been explaining to us how he planned to do just that, Greg Minnaar, put down the fastest time to prove his theory correct.
Of course, it’s just a timed session in which results count for nowt, final runs seeded off World Rankings and no points up for grabs as would be the case if this were a World Cup. However, and forgetting the talk of ‘steady runs’ from every man and his mechanic, it’s always interesting to see who is keen and willing to step into the gauntlet by putting themselves out there in front with a fast run. Minnaar is possibly the smartest competitor of them all, and although the consistent South African often looks like he is cruising, just riding at the exact and calculated speed he needs to, recently he has looked to be a man possessed and keen for individual race wins. This weekend is no different, and he is looking rapid, with his time backing that up.
And then there’s Rémi Thirion. This guy is a lunatic, there is little more to say about him. The French Commencal rider has been silencing every onlooker with his impressive and characteristic bonkers riding this week, and coming straight off an ankle injury it is all the more gobsmacking to witness. He slotted into second place in timed session. It’s always better to be the hunter, not the hunted. There is no person who wouldn’t be happy to see Thirion win here.
In the women’s, Rachel Atherton pulled everyone apart and raised the question of whether she should have her own separate category… 19 seconds is more than a lot, it is a lifetime in downhill racing terms and her competition was left with little other option than to simply scratch their heads and go home to reflect on Atherton’s speed. Tracey Hannah, who started the day with a lamp on her bike expecting night-time visibility (with good reason) in the woods, took second place and looks to be on the best form of her season so far.