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Downhill

Friendly Fire

All the action from qualies

Being caught in the crossfire is no place to be here in Lourdes. Front line battles between camps and friendly fire within teams is rife as emotions begin to work themselves onto the surface of a tense and yet fully compelling qualifier.

Let’s not forget, this isn’t Vergier’s first pole position

F@ck you and F@ck you back reverbarates around the pits. This might be being a touch melodramatic but the undercurrent has already pulled several people under. It all makes for great marketing material in the race to find who is the fastest racer on earth. And the fastest bike….what, what? Is the result being skewed? Is this a misrepresentation of skill?

Not quite as high up the rankings for Kerr as yesterday but he’s still sitting pretty in 9th

To what extent wheel size has played a part in this prelude to tomorrow’s final we will never know, all we know is that a point has been proved. Except maybe the comedy in all this is that it’s old news, everybody knows the speed difference, there is hard evidence if not from Santa Cruz but from other teams that prove that the bigger wheel is faster. The quantitative research is done leaving subjectivity to take on a whole new dimension. It’s kicking off.

Rolling into third – Luca Shaw in stealth mode

Look, I know you’ve heard it so many times, ok so what if we take another angle on all this. What if we bring in fatigue and braking bumps to the party?

On the live screen it seems very clear that the riders on bigger wheels are getting less of a working over, falling into fewer holes. I put this to Greg Minnaar but he came back with the cagey answer of a rider knowingly hesitant to commit with the final yet to be run. And not to put the result down to the bike.

Sixth place is as solid as ever for Minnaar, is he getting more used to the big wheels with every run?

Common sense reveals that with seventy riders hammering the track to a 27.5 rhythm then the three riders on 29” simply hit fewer holes, skip the tops and pile drive down the hill. Is Minnaar being evasive or has he simply acclimatised to the new cruising speed?

The qualies have been a moment in time for certain but come final there could well be an even greater difference in the times being posted. A more cut up track could well make for an even greater advantage for the Santa Cruz bikes.

Fan favourite Loic Bruni will be getting the loudest cheer on the hill tomorrow

This brings us on to cumulative fatigue (thanks Alan) and the effect this has on riders during the practice timed training, qualification and final. Its very well known that Sam Hill used this to his advantage by never overcooking practice at races. This is something that Aaron Gwin has adopted too.

Is there less fatigue involved? Again Minnaar is cagey on this but Luca Shaw certainly thinks it plays a part. Falling into less holes, or at least not falling so far into those holes.

Hart lost a second at the first split but was fastest over the rest of the track.

Santa Cruz might not have been the first to build a 29” downhill bike but they have been the first to get the endorsement in public and in the combative environment of racing. It seems many more teams have something cooking but have been caught napping. Fort William and beyond will be an intriguing story. Tomorrow’s final will be all-time but between then and now there will be some robust discussions within teams. After all every point counts.

The Santa Cruz military angle in the run up of this event takes on a whole new perspective in Lourdes. Warning shots fired.

... And they say you cab't whip big wheels
Breaking rocks as he thundered past, tenth place for the Bulldog
Seventh place for Brosnan and a good foundation to strike tomorrow on the new team
The top four women were within three seconds of each other. Game on for Tracey Hannah and co
Myriam Nicole in fifth, five seconds back
Alexandre Fayolle ended up on the podium in Vallnord. Lourdes is just a few hours drive away but he'll have to pick up on his 52nd place
Blenki getting it sent on the proto Norco
Don't forget about this one in fifth. Gwin is still well in touch
Thirion matched his plate and landed eighth place
Jack was the highest placed Intense rider but will start in unlucky 13th tomorrow
Gaetan Vige wasn't swamped by his first senior start. Slotting easily inside the top 30
Pierron had to take a re-run after a timing mishap. He nosed it into eleventh on second asking
Pipped by two Brits, what does Finn Iles have left in the tank today?
Loic Bruni. They love him.

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