Vallnord has always been a place where history was made, a place where ‘Super Bruni’ won his first World Championships and a place that has seen many racers come and go. After a two year hiatus due to COVID, Andorra played host to the 5th round of the 2022 season. A new track, perfect conditions and the world’s best proved the perfect recipe for downhill mountain biking…….
By Mike Branch | Photography Bartek Wolinski
It’s been two years since we headed to Vallnord, Andorra for a World Cup and it’s been too long. A new track, higher up on the mountain, wide open lines and some huge jumps proved the perfect foundations to build a race upon. The track conditions mimicked Australia in the summer and the weather was epic, it was hot, it was dusty and it was wide open.
The elite women have been getting faster and faster year after year and this year we have seen more depth than ever before. New Zealand’s Jess Blewitt tore apart the course early on with the fastest time until Höll broke the beam, the reigning overall champion proving too strong. Höll’s time proving too fast to beat, with Myriam Nicole the only one fastest until she crashed in the lower sections of the track.
Vali Höll held the lead until the end with a blockbuster run showing us she is back and ready to build more confidence. Nina Hoffmann looked good in second place but Camille Balanche seemed conservative despite her third place finish. One has to wonder if she has her eyes set in on the overall and is taking less risk heading into the second part of the season.
The Men’s race brought nothing but action, nothing but pushing the fine line between fast and wrecking, it was all wreckers or checkers. There were some wild runs, some close calls and some super fast returns to pace. Aaron Gwin had a triumphant return to pace with a fourth place run, reminiscent or the Gwin of old and a welcome return to form after a few years of turmoil.
The Specialized team once again proved consistent, fast and hard to beat with Finn Iles looking fastest until Bruni headed down the hill. Loic Bruni has miraculously returned from injury almost straight into form, at the pace we only know of ‘Super Bruni’. Could Loris Vergier be fast enough to beat him? Amaury Pierron was somewhat hesitant compared to his usual self after a huge crash during practice that led to him racing a borrowed bike – despite this he still finished in thirteenth place.
Loris Vergier was the last man on the hill, a man that had been struggling with mechanical issues and finding form all year. Andorra would play host to his return to the top step, the man was faultless, controlled and the fastest man on the hill with a perfect run in the loose, blown out conditions. Valnord, Andorra was a blur of action, a tower of excitement and the essence of world cup racing.
- Loris Vergier 2:44.500
- Loic Bruni 2:45.918
- Finn iles 2:46.197
- Aaron Gwin 2:46.913
- Andreas Kolb 2:47.519
- Valentina Höll 3:09.803
- Nina Hoffmann 3:13.341
- Camille Balanche 3:13.487
- Jess Blewitt 3:15.002
- Mille Johnset 3:15.922
- Jackson Goldstone 2:43.420
- Jordan Williams 2:45.106
- Tegan Cruz 2:48.190
- Phoebe Gale 3:16.852
- Gracey Hemstreet 3:22.845
- Jenna Hastings 3:24.301
It was another amazing round of World Cup racing and another epic chance to watch the very best show us how to ride bikes fast down some of the wildest tracks in the world. The next round heads to Snowshoe, USA in just a few weeks time. It’s a wild track at Snowshoe and will be sure to deliver another nail-biting round of World Cup racing. Stay tuned to Brakes Wide Open for all the action….