Friday’s downhill qualifying round saw seven Canadian’s set times fast enough to send them into Saturday’s finals at the Vallnord World Cup in Andorra.
When the UCI’s updated its rules for 2018, qualifying for finals at a downhill World Cup became significantly harder. The number of riders to make it through was cut across the board. Elite Men went from an 80 rider final to just 60 men, and elite Women now only have 15 finals spots. Having seven riders qualified should make watching Saturday’s main event from here in Canada even more exciting.
Finn Iles (Specialized Gravity Racing) was Canada’s top qualifier in elite Men, in 19th. The former junior world champion racing his first year in the elite ranks took home his first senior top-10 with an eighth place at last weekend’s Val di Sole World Cup.
Henry Fitzgerald (Norco Facotry Racing) qualified 33rd. He will be looking to carry momentum from a strong 25th place in Val di Sole. Magnus Manson just squeezed inside the top 60, putting down the 53rd fastest time in Vallnord. Forrest Riesco just misses out on finals after finishing 67th on Friday, just 1.5 seconds off a qualifying position.
Mark Wallace (Canyon Factory Racing) was 65th in qualifying but, like he did last week in Val di Sole, automatically makes it through to finals by virtue of being 1oth overall in the World Cup series, making him a “protected” rider. The slow qualifying didn’t seem to affect the Vancouver Island racer last week as he placed 6th in Val di Sole, one of his best World Cup results to date and just off a podium position.
Miranda Miller is back to racing a final, having qualified 12th on Friday. The reigning world champion has fought through injury the first part of the season. Trek Factory Racing’s Rachel Atherton qualified first out of the Elite Women. Atherton finished 12.7 seconds ahead of Tracey Hannah (Polygon UR) in second.
Both of Canada’s junior Men entered in Andorra made it through to finals. Ben Wallace set the 11th best junior time in Vallnord while his Kovarik Racing teammate Kendall McLean was two spots back in 13th.
Valentina Höll (YT Mob) continued her reign over the junior Women. The young Austrian covered the Vallnord track in 5:17.449, which would have been good enough for seventh in elite Women.
Luca Shaw (Santa Cruz Syndicate) set the fastest elite Men’s time, 2.5 seconds ahead of Madison Saracen’s Danny Hart. You can watch the American’s blazing fast preview of the Vallnord course below: