FAST AND FURIOUS: VALLNORD DOWNHILL WORLD CUP

Photos by Nathan Hughes

All IFR members made it to the big final with Aaron qualifying 5th, Dak 7th and Seth 29th. All three of them were happy with their qualifying runs, with Aaron and Dak knowing they could attack more going into finals.
 

The track builders did an awesome job after the Catalan Cup and had the track prepped and in prime condition for the start of the World Cup race. The intense heatwave sweeping across Europe over the weekend brought with it clouds of dust and a crumbling track surface. On top of that Andorra hasn't seen rain in weeks now, so everyone knew that the track would deteriorate a lot coming in to race day. An ever changing track proved both exciting and dangerous in equal measure. With speeds around 60kmh through the speed trap (40mph) riders had to be quick to adapt and be comfortable riding on the very edge. Traction was hard to find with trail debris causing havoc at random and ruts and lines were crumbling from run to run. We knew from the Catalan Cup that was held in this track a month ago that we would expect very tight times, as the track was not very technical with one main fast line.

I think it is fair to say that you would be hard pushed to find any rider from the whole field who didn’t have a ‘moment’ during their race run. The track itself is in a new area of the Vallnord resort. Starting off at an oxygen sapping 2364m, with the finish  at 1900m this one was always going to be physically tough. The upper sections are all man made, featuring a bunch of jumps and berms, connecting off-camber areas and rock gardens, before getting very steep towards the bottom.

 
Aaron Gwin qualified strong on Friday in fifth. The track and the conditions suiting him well. He went one better with a fourth place in finals on Saturday after laying down one of the more hectic runs of the weekend. Here’s what he had to say:
 
Great day of racing and good to be back on the podium! Actually felt a bit frustrated with my run and wasn’t executing the way I needed to. Wasn’t bad, wasn’t great. Saved a few big moments too thankfully but overall happy with the result and progress again this weekend. So fun being back in the mix, I missed this a ton. Thanks everyone for the love, crowd was awesome again this week! Im glad we don’t have any breaks now and we’ll be right back into National Champs next week and then Snowshoe for the next World Cup! Too fun to stop, got more work to do, let’s go!- Aaron Gwin
 
Comfortable on the bike and building from race to race. Aaron was on a heater run and it was good to see him pushing again. The crowd went nuts watching his run and taking the hot seat. Aaron is back up there right at the very pointy end and we can’t wait to see what else he can do over the next few weeks of the season.
 
 
After the disappointment of unlucky slide out at Lenzerheide the previous weekend Dakota was looking to carry his speed through to Andorra and get some good points in the bag. Qualifying in seventh he was up there with the top boys again! For his finals run he struggled to hold the pace in the ever changing conditions and in the very first corner unclipped to gain some composure. This was reflected in his first split - down in 32nd. He managed to build pace for the rest of the run eventually coming in in 19th position. It was one of those that just got away from him but you can tell he was disappointed and expected more from himself. He’s right up there with his speed however and will be gunning for the top place finish again in Snowshoe in a couple of weeks time.
 
“What can ya say, it sucks to be off pace. We missed the mark come race time this week and I couldn’t do a lot about it. Snowshoe has me pumped up! Let’s goooooo” - Dakota Norton
 
 
Seth has been learning and building all season. After qualifying in 29th he found it tricky to push without making costly mistakes in finals and ended up in 47th. Another solid result and more valuable experience in the bag.
 
Ended up p47 in finals yesterday. Not happy with how I rode, I think my pace was ok but made a few big mistakes that just cost me too much time on such a short track where the times are so tight. Also, super stoked to see the bro Aaron Gwin back on the podium! Loving the team this year and excited for what's to come.”- Seth Sherlock
 
 
Another great weekend of racing. The riders are happy on how the M279 HP1 is performing and are getting more and more comfortable on the new platform as the season progresses. This was a track that could bite hard and all three riders are happy to walk away unscathed. Bring on the next one!