The 2018 French Downhill National Championships went off in dramatic fashion over the 26th - 28th of July. Weather played a huge part in the event, with the course every bit as we thought in our track check, fast, loose, with plenty of technical off camber, fresh loam and demanding steeps that became treacherous in the slippery conditions for finals!
Thunderstorms were a factor over the whole week, with one biblical downpour during track walk. The threat loomed large the evening before practice, with the heavens opening the morning of the race itself. Though some blue skies did appear for early practice, the alpine rain had a huge impact on the race itself, turning the dry, dusty conditions into a muddy slip and slide in a matter of minutes....
Practice began on Thursday morning after substantial rain the night before. Luckily for track conditions there had not been too much moisture for the previous two weeks. So, conditions were dry, if a little slick in places, for the opening riders to get a handle on things.
The first day riding was a calm affair, Loic Bruni enjoying the relaxed atmosphere, on Instagram "minty and chill". Most of the top World Cup Riders such as Loic, Loris Vergier, Amaury Pierron, Thomas Estaque and Myriam Nicole were all riding at a calculated pace during the first practice day.
Remi Thirion was an exception to this, looking up to speed and full gas from the start!
Line choice seemed to be important, with some sections taped wide, some taped very tight. Check out our RAW footage from day one here.
The track very quickly started to show it was not going to be straight forward to conquer. Within hours of practice opening sniper roots and benches had appeared in the fresh, and older sections of Pleney.
Practice Day One RAW
Seeding was where things really started to heat up, the crowds grew and so did the atmosphere. Amaury Pierron carried his stunning form this season into Friday and placed first, crossing the line with dust on his sleeve from a small crash mid way down! Thomas Estaque proving his worth in the steeps on a flyer in second and Loris Vergier, fresh from his first World Cup win in Andorra in third.
Myriam Nicole, back from injury took first by just over a second from Marine Caribou and Enduro Queen Cecile Ravanel in second and third respectively.
Riders queuing up for their seeding run
On the eve of race day news dropped that the entire days schedule would be moved forward. Thunderstorms rolled in early morning, though at 8h blue skies appeared, it was only fleeting and once again the heavens opened midway through finals.
It would be a fair race with all the top contenders for the title racing under the same conditions....
In the womens race it was a surprise winner in Fiona Ourdouillie with a time of 4:29.62, over 18 seconds up on second place Adelina Fontaine, with pre-race favourite Myriam Nicole in third.
Young Scott pinner Gaëtan Vige, set the early pace in the mens field, with a time of 3.14.57, less than 20 seconds back on Pierron's winning seeding time, in far trickier conditions, wet but still with some grip.
It was a time that would hold up as none of the French World Cup regulars could get close, Valentin Clement only .10 back and Valentin Chatanay with results they could only have dreamed of in second and third. Florent Payet managed a very respectable 5th.
Amaury Pierron was the only one of the top boys able to get anywhere close at the first split, but he couldn't hold the pace and finished best of the rest, but still over 30 seconds behind the young Vige.
The course had become near enough impossible after the rain eased up, a slop fest better suited to a canoe than a bike!
Congratulations Gaëtan Vige and all the new French National DH Champions!
Finals Slip 'n' Slide RAW
1st Gaëtan Vige 3:14.47
2nd Valentin Clement 3:14.57
3rd Valentin Chatanay 3:19.23
165th Amaury Pierron 3:52.36
168th Loic Bruni 3:53.85
192nd Loris Vergier 4:11.22
Fiona Ourdouillie 4:29.62
Adelina Fontaine 4:47.80
Myriam Nicole 4:49.97
To book that Morzine holiday to slip and slide like the pros, see below!