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Andorra Day 1: Pit Bits and Chit Chat.

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  •  Audio Images, Reportage, WC DH, World Cup, World Cup DH

The start of the season in Lourdes, France seems like just yesterday. The 2016 season has flown by, with all sorts of wild action along the way. With the final round of the World Cup here in Andorra officially underway with Track Walk going down today, the vibe around the pits was particularly relaxed and jovial. With most riders’ goals and achievements already getting checked off earlier in the season, most of the top riders are now looking ahead to next week in Italy at Val di Sole, World Championships, the true last event of the year. The racing will be insane as usual, but the stress of the season seems to be lifted here at the top of Vallnord. The Whistler getaway many riders attended two weeks ago may have something to do with that though. As I strolled around the pits, I saw a lot of smiles, plenty of antics, and even a little futbol/kickaround happening.
During Track Walk time, mechanics were finalizing bike builds, even eating and sitting down taking a breather – an unusual sight for Day 1. Tom Ducan (GT Mechanic) commented that the marginal free time is likely due to the fact that the mechanics, much like the riders, are at their top speed of the season by the last race of the year, and can hammer out the bikes almost by muscle memory. Due to it being quite a hot day, most riders after Track Walk were found under the team tents eating and lounging, ice cream in one hand, and phone in the other. The track is looking similar to World Champs last year, but drier than ever, and sporting a few more rocks and holes, much to the surprise of riders, like Connor Fearon, who seemed perplexed as to where all the rubble came from. It’s going to be a game of tire choice and suspension set up, no different than usual, but the track’s steepness, mixed with rough-but-loose conditions, will make the balance a little more important – certainly not a set-it-and-forget-it track.
The Overall Standings at the moment are looking interesting in Elite Men, as it’s close enough where theoretically, Danny Hart could overtake Aaron Gwin for the Overall, but that would mean Gwin would pretty much have to not race (hyperbole) – the racing will likely be extremely close, so this will certainly be a fight to the finish. In Elite Women, the story is less intense, as Rachel Atherton could literally not race and still win. She put in amazing rides all season long, and this is has been an hugely impressive year for her. Junior Men will be a an all-out brawl for the title, with Finn Iles leading by a tire-width worth of points, and Gaetan Vige clawing at the top spot. It’s a game of math for the young lads, and with Finn on fire, but Gaetan racing in front of his home crowd, it’s going to be riveting. Stay tuned as the last regular-season weekend of racing unfolds!

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He may be the G.O.A.T., but Greg Minnaar isn't above the remedial tasks, giving a helping hand to his mechanic Jason Marsh (the man behind the "Marsh Guard") as they set up the pits in the morning.

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FMD brought in an upgrade (a plush couch) for the last round of the season, and Tahnee Seagrave was taking full advantage of it.

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There's a lot to reminisce about at the last round of the year; Eddie Masters, deep in thought.

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One cool thing about Andorra is that the pits are literally right next to the XC, and it's one of the more cruisey rides, so a lot of the DH riders went for a spin after they did track walk. Manon Carpenter, post-XC cruise, snackin' on an apple and mulling over the weekend ahead.

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Ruaridh Cunningham's bike is sporting some special mods (look closely). He reckons he's spent more time in the past four months working on his bike set up than he has in the past six years. He's lowered his cockput to accomadate new suspension tweeks, and has opted to use an aluminum chainstay to add more stiffness to the rear end. He is also rocking some Trek-machined headset cups, which slacked the bike out just a bit more than stock numbers. He said if I see him track-side fussing over his bike set up, I'm allowed to point and laugh.

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The heat was making some of us delirious; Kaos Seagrave, face painting with jello...

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There are two types of people.

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Luca Commetti tries is hand at the Media Squid life; Nailing it. [Note: Luca is actually a really talented shooter as well!] #doublethreat

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Allegedly, this was Nik Nesteroff's 4th sandwich of the day...gotta fuel up to challenge for the win I guess!

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The essentials...?

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There are important tools to have, and then there are necessary tools to have. Jonty Neethling knows which is which.

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Mechanic-turned-Racer, Kurt McDonald got a petition spot on the New Zealand national squad and will be racing here in Andorra!

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Tom Lowis has his work cut out for him this weekend, as his wrenching partner Kurt McDonald will be rather consumed with racing. Tom is up to the task though!

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The smile says it all: Losh Lowe is fired up and ready to race. He wasn't able to get to MSA, so he has only been trail riding and surfing for the past few weeks - but he feels great and ready to charge through A's practice.

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George Brannigan and his mechanic Ryan Thome discuss bike set up for the weekend. George is nursing a bum knee after a off in Whistler, but he seems undeterred by it and is stoked to get out on track.

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It's not always the fanciest tech that goes into World Cup race bikes. Sometimes, duct tape works a treat.

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When an Aussie from Adelaide say it's hot...it's hot. Connor Fearon, surrounding himself with hydration.

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It was a hot start to the week, and ice cream was a most-common sight around the pits today as mechanics wrenched and riders chilled.

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Josh Button is back to racing this week, and couldn't be more stoked. Northern is stoked to have him back now too clearly.

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The number plate modification process is not one to take lightly, as it's the only you get. Veronique Sandler hard at work while mechanic Paul Rayner photo-bombs.

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#

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He may be a top rider in 2016, but Greg Williamson isn't above running errands [forks] in the morning.

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Not something you see every day: split-compound brake pads. Left-side is metallic, right-side is organic.

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The one, the only - it's the little custom details that make a lot of these elite race bikes particularly interesting.

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How do you join?

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Just having a chat with Troy Brosnan, we joked about his mechanic Aaron Peltarri's stuggle to undo a crank bolt, and having to resort to using a handlebar as a sketchy lever to get adiquate tourque.

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Track notes? Angry Birds? Instagram? What Aaron Gwin was up to remains a mystery.

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John Hall makes sure everything is in order for Aaron Gwin. This track is looking rugged, so it's sure to see some abuse.

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Pablo cooking up a mean feast for the Giant boys.

To ride well, one must eat well. Marcelo Guetierrez and Alex Marin were chowing down on some good eats when I dropped by. Pablo mentioned it's usually rice or potatoes for the riders on other days because ithey're easier to digest and have better "staying power", but Track Walk is a lazy day, which is perfect for a pasta (and various meats) lunch.

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Peter Duke, mechanic to Josh Button this weekend, was up to some special tasks this morning dialing in the race machine.

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But, we can't tell you what it was he was doing...

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Tire choice will be a big factor on the rough and dry track. The game of shadows will also be notable as the sun shifts through the dense trees through out the day.

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The debate between standard dry tires and cut spikes was a hotly contested topic around the pits. It will be intereting to see who makes which choice.

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Neil Niederberger finding respite from the sun in the cool shade of the Swiss Downhill tent.

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Neko Mullaly's lastest-generation links are polished, which is the only reason I noticed that there was a new layout to the suspension. Claudio Calouri said this current itineration is the post progressive yet, and likely the final set up.

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A mellow day means it's time to do team video intros and interviews. Jackon Frew being put to work.

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Trying to take a candid with teammates sometimes doesn't always work; Finn Iles getting photo-bombed.

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Tahnee Seagrave goes for a spin with her coach Chris Kilmurray. Track Walk day makes for a great opportinity to go out and pedal about a bit.

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The views here are not bad, not bad at all.

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Finals is a much more relaxed race, Atherton Racing and friends powwow, having a laugh.

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Joe Krejbich and Rachel Atherton review lens options for the weekend. It's not an easy choice either.

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Getting settings right is most of the battle during practice, so looking back on the notes from the previous event(s) is crucial; Joe Krejbich browses through a PDF of all the numbers for Rachel Atherton's bike from World Champs last year.

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A jersey makes a fine pillow case in a pinch - rainbows and all. Rachel Atherton making the most of the cruisy afternoon.

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The champ's bike.

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Evan Warner is known for many things at SRAM, but his ability to stylishly sticker whatever is nearby is likely the most noteable of talents.

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Manny Gruber has had a rough season with some behind-the-scenes stuff, but he's here running the privateer set up, racing, and stoked to get on with it!!

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The knee doesn't seem to be of too much trouble, as Brendan Fairclough is here on flats and looking ready.

6 comments on “Andorra Day 1: Pit Bits and Chit Chat.

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