The morning greeted us with immaculate skies and a warm breeze. The stillness in the pits, even as practice got underway showed that some of that “cruisey” end of season vibe had been done away with, and it was business as usual; racing is fun and all, but sometimes it is also meant to be a bit stressful. Many riders have a lot to play for, and this behemoth of the Pyrenees is going to hake the up overall for more than a few riders.
The day saw some big wrecks, a handful of surprise finishes, and a whole lot of sketchy moments. The riders are pushing on in some of the most trying on track conditions we’ve sen in years.
The finals will be a tense affair – with overall placings at stake, momentum building before world champs and not injuring one self before world champs all key considerations for the racers. Who can walk the tight rope best?
There is no better way to finish out the 2016 World Cup season and keep checking back for updates.
No one else did this...Thomas Estaque boosted this natural double like it was Rampage. It was a successful flight, and he smashed through the rest of the section. 44th for the hucker.
Sometimes pushing for the win means going down swinging. Tahnee Seagrave took a big header in Qualies after losing the front end in the sluff, and DNF'd. She's relatively ok, and is sussing out how she feels for the race tomorrow.
The early mornings are worth it here.
Clean up on ailse Gwin...Aaron got a late start to the morning, but quickly made up for not hanging out with us. 2nd place qualifier, just .018 seconds behind former teammate Troy Brosnan. That's literally a tire nob of difference...
Kurt McDonald put in a damn good weekend of riding. He rode smart and confidently, and only missed qualifying for his first World Cup ever by around 4 seconds in 102nd place. Not bad for someone with a day job!
When the views are stunning, it is often hard to focus on the trail ahead. Rachel Atherton didn't seem phased by the views, and landed in 3rd place in Qualies. She went 1/1/1/1 at all of the splits, losing a little bit of the at the bottom, and finished .806 seconds out of first.
Finn Iles is on another level here in Andorra. He went 8.983 seconds up on Eliot Heap, and apparently crashed in the process (below where this photo was taken). That's madness.
Troy Brosnan rides so smoothly, it sometimes looks too effortless. He rode on the edge today, and just pipped out Gwin for the win in Qualies. With moves like this, it will be interesting to see what else he can through down for Finals.
He is still recovering from his Whistler get-off, but Loic Bruni knows how and when to push. Riding smart and smooth, the #9 slotted into 9th.
Jack Moir rode loose and wild today, as usual, and made 18th. Don't sleep on Jack for Finals!
Rocking my favorite kit/bike combo to shoot, Vaea Verbeeck put down some serious pace, slotting into 10th in qualies, with splits a few places higher. Most imporantly, she had the fastest Speed Trap in Elite Women, and was 7th fastest in Elite Men!
Danny Hart has won the last two World Cups, so it's no longer of a question of, "Can he?", now it's, "Will he?" He qualied in 7th, but needs to find 6.985 and then some come Finals to make it a Hat Trick.
There are fans of the sport, and then there are people like this: He's about 10 meters up a tree in this photo.
10th for the #10 - Magnus Mason looks strong and comfortable here in Andorra. It looks like the whole season has finally come together for him here, and that can only mean good things.
Steve Peat continued to fly down the course today. Piloting his trusty SP44, he dived through the speed trap for the 2nd fastest km/h's, and 45th on the time sheet.
With splits of 3/3/3/5, and a finsih of 6th in Qualies, Luca Shaw is on the brink of standing on the box. We're looking forward to race day!
She may be mini, but she is mighty. Marina Salazar Palomo has been crushing it this weekend, and 6th in Qualies is no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention.
Adding to the rut, Florient Payet leans it over and into 17th place in Qualies. It will be interesting to see if he gets picked up by a larger team for 2017.
This is Ferran Jorba Prats. It is a boring photo. That's because the cool one I should have taken, never happened as I was too busy running out of shooting spot because the rowdyness I saw through my lens made me that nervous (I was sat in the bottom left of this photo). Ferran hucking into, and out of this section - similar to Estaque, but did it going about twice as fast. It was insane, and I'm not sure how he did it. Savage.
It's exciting to see Miriam Nicole back on form. 1st place qualifier by just under half a second, she knows how to rider here, and has the extra inspiration of a home-town crowd.
The very last section of this track belongs to Remi Thirion. He went 4/5/4/3 and then 3rd across the line. If he can tidy up the top of his run, the top step could be his on Saturday.
Gaetan has been riding well all week, so he will likely be quite perplexed about how he got 3nd place, but is still so far back from Finn (9 seconds). The Juniors race on Saturday is going to be very interesting.
Finding the middle line in this corner is crucial to holding exit speed. Lachlan Blair just did it with a load of flair (and roost). 74th for the Scottish ripper - a friend of all at DW, we're stoked for the lad!
This was a common sight: riders caked in dust. This poor bloke did the "walk it off and check the tires" routine - it wasn't the tires, it was the lack of firm ground under them.
Fastest Juior Speed Trap at 40kph even, and second on the day behind fellow Brit Matt Stuttard. He qualified in 4th, continueing the trend among riders this weekend of qualifying on ones plate number.
This is a CRC Team track. All of three of the riders excell and amaze on hills like Vallnord. Sam HIll isn't here, but his protege Mike Jones got rowdy and swung off the back ito 20th.
Miranda Miller has put in a huge effort regarding racing in 2016. It's really impressive how much she's done and accomplished pretty much on her own. 8th heading into Finals for the Canadian National Champ.
"I thought I was going to crash..." Rupert Champman got oh-so-rowdy when he came blasting through - it looked like a special-effects demonstration! 36th for the Kiwi National Champ.
This is what happens when you were jeans to the driest and possibly hottest round of the year: adhoc shorts. TJ Smith, improvising.
Eliot Heap has been showing tremendous promise all season, and is due to win a World Cup any time now. 2nd place today, but he has his work cut out for himself; trying to find 10 seconds on the track is not simple feat....
It looks like Brook MacDonald took most of the course down the hill with him, but a moment later, he put it all back, right in the faces of everyone on the outside of this right-hander. 27th.
When Eliot Jackson gets rowdy, we all win. 14th in Qualies, bring on Finals!
Steady as can be all season, Manon Carpenter has been on an even keel from start to finish. Holding down the #2 for her efforts, she'll likely not push too hard this weekend, as the Women's Overall is already wrapped up, and World Champs is next week. 4th in Qualies.
It's weird when you can see that a rider is holding back. But, Adam Brayton has already made his point, and is going to World Champs next week, so playing it smart is highly respectable. Still, 32nd is nothing to shake a stick at!
He said he felt good, he just needs to go faster - this seems to be the story of the weekend, but Nik Nesteroff ihas pulled back the time before, and he can do it again here.
Climbing through the rank in 2016, Marine Cabirou is going to inside the Top Five soon. 7th for the #7 - this is getting werid.
Josh Bryceland looked like he was having a fun run as he cruised by. I think a lot of people wish they could qualify in 28th place while just going for a cruise.
She's been making strong progress all season, so it was only a matter of time before Eleonora Farina made it into the Top 5 - fifth in qualifying today.
One of the riders who is reveling in the fluffy condistions, Amaury Pierron has been riding on another level this weekend and making it look so fun. 4th place.
The bronze medalist here last year, Jackson Frew wasn't certain if he prefers this track dry like it is now, or wet like last year - the dust makes the corners slow, but the wet made the chutes unrideable. He is the 4th place qualifier, and was spending a lot of time inspecting the track after the race.
This little buddy wanted to hang out and watch the madness. Must have been one of those Stoke Bugs.
One of the next-gen Canadian racers, Georgia Astle has had a strong season in 2016, showing great promice for the years to come. She found 12th today in Qualies.
Down to the line...Josh Button was the 79th place qualifier. For his first race back since Cairns, just being in Finals is a step in the right direction.
Looking the most confident yet, Henry Fitzgerald is on it here in Andorra. 13th for him, and with more in the tank if his splits are telling.
Her focus has been steadfast all weekend, and today in Qualies, tracey Hannah put in one scorcher of a run for 2nd place. She was in the top spot for 13 riders, only unseated by Miriam Nicole. With only .451 seconds to make up, we could potentially see a new World Cup winner tomorrow.
Something for everyone in this photo. Sam Blenkinsop, 19th and undeterred by the shirtless camera man. I bet everyone is glad the Media Squids have to wear bibs.
Simone Reed went 8/8/11/11 for splits, but finsihed out 17th if he can clean up the bottom section, we could see a breakthrough result for the Kiwi.
Veronique Sandler has been progressing well all season. 17th in Qualies, her best finish of the year was 16th in Leogang, so she is pace to beat that come Finals.
Rebdull TeVa. 2017 budget cuts means this is what World Cup Live Coverage will look like next season.