When we visited Andorra in 2012 on a week-long riding trip for a Dirt Mag feature, we rode the original Vallnord World Cup track from 2008/9 and were a little unconvinced. It was around the two-minute mark, it used a random bit of remote hill and it in no way utilised the best of the many vertically monumental peaks that are crammed into the small country.
At that point we stood high and thought, ‘how good could a race here be if they just used the massive pine forested steep slope that plunges from Vallnord’s bike park back into the throbbing mini-metropolis that is La Massana?’ Our prayers were of course answered in 2013 when the circus returned to town and the Vallnord World Cup was turned on its side.
The 2013 course got off to a thundering fast start on the crest of the hill before freefalling 700 metres over 2.5km through pristine forest and into a maze of hard turns, cambers and technical puzzles. And thankfully not much has changed for 2015 World Champs – bar a few minor diversions, the odd jump added etc. 2013 provided one of the most memorable World Cup races of recent times as Andorran-based brand Commencal’s Remi Thirion flew to his very first podium in the form of a demolishing win. Rachel Atherton stole the women’s win by a healthy margin and a young Mike Jones destroyed it in the Junior category. We can’t help but think this race is highly likely to include names and brands from this paragraph among the top steps of the podiums.
The World Champs
This week there is far more than booze and cigarettes to entice visitors into the country: there’s Downhill, Cross Country, Trials and also the Vuelta a Espana in town. Andorra has gone bike crazy.
Gallery from track walk and around Vallnord by Seb Schieck and Rick Schubert.
Here’s an event that is a bit of a standalone hero among the World Cup mob. One day, one race run, and a standalone event that crowns one man, one woman and one junior champions of the world. The stakes are extremely high.
Seeing all the national kits, the team organisation, the opening ceremonies with fireworks and speeches and the huge numbers of people involved in the running and racing of the World Championships is seriously impressive. There are tracksuits and thermal tights in every direction; ever the sign of a true sporting event! Joking aside though, the World Championships is next level of racing, with both anticipation and pressure on competitors much higher.
WynTV gets the scoop after track walk.
As far as we are concerned – i.e. the downhill – the general format is of course the very same as a World Cup Downhill race: riders walk the course, then they practice it, get some timed runs and the event culminates in a finals with the fastest riders last off the hill. Except that with all the events happening during the week – the XC and Trials etc. – practice sessions are somewhat disjointed and qualifying… well it doesn’t really exist. By the time we get to Saturday, training and ‘timed session’ (what would be qualifying at a World Cup) are done and dusted by breakfast and riders are off the hill to make way for the XC race.
While there’s a lot of waiting around for riders – most of who have been in Andorra since the start of the week – eventually on Sunday things will come to a climax with the season closer. The last day of the World Champs is reserved for Downhill racing; the grand finale to a spectacle event. And judging by the huge numbers of fans that were brought in for the 2013 World Cup, this should be the wildest race of them all. Riders will battle nerves, a fierce course and their utmost rivals in a head-to-head for those coveted rainbow stripes; the sign of a World Champion that can be proudly worn for life.
Take a look through Seb and Rick’s gallery to get a feel for the first day of downhill happenings – track walk.
Worth a Look