Andorra is one of the steepest and gnarliest tracks on the World Cup circuit, the kind of track the team consider a “proper” challenge.
Last year La Massana was “ a dust bowl” (except for the last few Men’s Elite riders!) the track wasn’t all that kind to the team for 2016, Taylor Vernon broke his nose in a horrible practice crash and Gee, nursing a re-injury to the shoulder that had been damaged since Fort William cruised down into 60th – just 1 point outside the top ten overall. On the other hand Rach “took out her brain” to tear down the hill 8.8 seconds clear of the field topping off her Perfect Season.
A lot has changed since last year, Taylor is no longer riding with us and we have two new riders on the team, Kade hasn’t ridden here before and Muddy has only been here once, in 2016 when a broken wrist one week earlier and a broken frame in his second practice run conspired to keep him from the Finals. Gee will sit out this round rehabbing his dislocated hip but Rach has travelled with the team to “take a look” despite her being just 3 weeks post her own shoulder dislocation and “nervous as hell on a bike right now”
The team have walked the track today and report back that its “all looking pretty wild!” The key topic of conversation is of course the rain, at present the track has sections of some very slippery mud!
Riders: Rachel Atherton, Graeme Mudd, Kade Edwards (Jnr)
Mechanics: Joe Krejbich, Piotr Michaliszyn, Sam Farrar
Support Team: Dan Brown, Tim Morris (Podium Catering) Robbie Meade (videographer)
Bikes: Trek Session 9.9 – 27.5
Race guide: The World Cup track at Andorra is “awesome” it’s long (2188m) it’s “natural, technical, fast steep and beautiful” ( Rachel in 2016) It starts out relatively mellow, then after the first road bridge it starts to get steeper and very rutted through the woods) Soon its “very steep” with many chances to lose the race – roots, hidden stumps, slippery bridges and off-camber sections all lie in wait. The surface will play a major part in the riders planning and calculations too – In 2016 even some of the more innocent looking berms turned into traps as the dirt was so loose and crumbly and in the mid sections many of the ruts are full of sharp fragments of loose rock. In 2016 Gee described the experience as like “trying to ride on a load of ball-bearings. ” All in all riders will be pleased to see one of the steepest finishes on the circuit.
Weather: Pretty unsettled!! Yesterday (Tuesday) saw massively heavy storm downpours and there has been more today ? Thursday’s practice is forecast to have scattered shower but Friday ( qualifications) looks set to have heavy rain persisting pretty much all day. Then Saturday’s Finals is showing back to showers – the track is going to be unpredictable at best!!
History : The intro above paints a bit of a bleak picture but there are some really positive associations here for the Trek Factory Racing team –including the famous 2008 Atherton hat-trick when Gee, Rach and big brother Dan all won World Cups in their respective disciplines! Rach has always said that this is one of her most treasured moments in racing so that’ll be a really positive image for her to hang on to this weekend.
Rach has raced here four times now and taken the win every time (At World Cups in 2008 and 2013, 2015 World Champs and 2016 World Cup, for Kade and Muddy it’s pretty much an unknown quantity!
Rachel: “ Andorra is amazing, its so beautiful and so gnarly – normally I ‘d be frothing to get out there on such a technical track but I have to admit I’m going to be taking it pretty easy for the next few days – I wish the rain would stop.”
Muddy: Things are going to be pretty slick up there if it stays wet! Its all anyone’s talking about. The top section is fast-paced then it drops off into some of the steepest sections on any World Cup track. I’m looking forward to it.
Kade: Track looks amazing!! So steep but very wet! I can’t wait to ride my bike!
Remember that Finals are on SATURDAY for this round, catch all the action at www.redbulltv.com
Pics: Boris Beyer and Dan Hearn