Hottest stop of the season so far! Monster Energy congratulates team rider Loris Vergier on his victory in the Elite Men division at the 2022 Mercedes-Benz UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup in Vallnord Pal Arinsal, Andorra, on Saturday. In the season’s fifth race, the 26-year-old from Cagnes-sur-Mer, France, completed the challenging downhill course in 2:44.500 and advanced into third place on overall 2022 Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup rankings.
In the Elite Women division, Monster Energy’s Camille Balanche completed the Andorra race in third place with an overall time of 3:13.487. Based on her top-three finish, the 32-year-old from La Chaux-de-Fond, Switzerland, defended her lead on the overall 2022 season standings.
Only one week after the 2022 Mercedes-Benz UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, the Andorra stop of the tour posed unique challenges. Amid a tremendous heat wave sweeping Europe, riders faced extreme racing conditions on top of a tight track that received a redesign for the 2022 season. The finely groomed upper berms and jumps soon fell to pieces under the scorching sun and heat. This turned what could have been a cake walk into a grueling battle with dust, holes, and scary speeds in the tree section of the track.
No stranger to gnarly tests of grit, Monster Energy’s Vergier came to Andorra looking to get back on the podium. After emerging from qualifiers in first place, the Frenchman handled the final race with just the right balance between aggression and control. Completing the race in 2:44.500, Vergier finished more than 1.4 seconds ahead of the next rider.
“It was a crazy race. The crowd was insane, the track was insane! Getting the win just proved it to myself, I’m still there. I can still do things!” said Monster Energy’s Vergier upon finishing the Andorra race in first place. Speaking on the race in detail, he said: “I need to work on stuff, but I’m ok. The track was messed up. You had to brake check to turn. But I’m still here on top, I’m happy.”
The win at Vallnord Pal Arinsal also earned Vergier much needed ranking points, boosting him into third place on the 2022 Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup leaderboards.
Current World Cup leader and perennial favorite Amaury Pierron found out just how scary the speed in the trees was when his last practice run before finals turned into a disaster as he went over the bars at full speed and came to a sudden stop against a rather solid tree. “I’m pretty happy to be in one piece after that one. I launched myself into some trees, it was brutal.”
When it counted on race day, Pierron battled to overcome the aftermath of the crash and finished in 13th place with a total time of 2:49.346. “It was hard to get ready for that race run, my head wasn’t in the right place. It’s really hard to fight for the front if you’re not ready for it. I gave everything I had. Honestly my run was good, just too slow. I can’t complain. I’m happy to be in the top 15,” said Pierron, who retains his lead on the overall season leaderboards with 930 points, still 264 points ahead of the rest of the pack.
In the Elite Women division, Monster Energy’s Balanche came to Andorra fresh off a second-place finish at last weekend’s Lenzerheide World Cup stop in Switzerland. She made it clear that she was gunning for the top spot at Vallnord and dominated the qualifiers.
But when race day rolled around, the dusty track posed a significant challenge for riders and made the race a wildcard. Nevertheless, Balanche averted several close calls and made the finish in 3:13.487 without crashing, thereby claiming third place in Andorra.
“Third place is good. I’m consistent and super happy with it. My run was just too wild and too scary. It was too messy. I could have crashed too many times and at the end I just took it easy because I had too many big saves,” said Monster Energy’s Balanche in Andorra, adding: “This track is super gnarly and you really have to push and scare yourself. I’m just happy I kept it together and got some good points for the overall.”
Based on Saturday’s third-place finish, Balanche retains her first-place ranking on the 2022 Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup leaderboards in the Elite Women division. Scoring 1085 points total, she holds a 180-point lead on the next competitor.
What’s next for the 2022 downhill season? Riders will get a swift break before heading to Snowshoe, West Virginia, for the only World Cup race in the United States from July 29-31, 2022. Stay tuned!