A unique look at how Myriam Nicole delighted her ‘home’ crowd in Andorra.
La Massana is a small town in a small place.
Some 85,000 souls call the Pyrenean principality of Andorra home and the living is good.
High in the thin mountain air, there’s a gentrified feel to proceedings which are, of course, tax-free. Smoke-like rain clouds occasionally blow through but they seldom stay for long and, from the top of the UCI World Cup track in the Vallnord Bike Park, you can look down upon rainbows.
Far from the opulence and civility of its surroundings, the Vallnord track is the stuff of living nightmares.
What begins as a fast, relatively smooth thunder through the woods quickly gets out of hand. Like a prizefighter sensing his opponents knees beginning to weaken, it dishes out body blows of increasing ferocity.
Myriam Nicole is one of the few riders in the elite women’s field to be able to truly tame such a malicious beast.
Nicole enjoys the technical challenges of lacing together the thousands of calculated risks required to successfully conquer one of the most intimidating tracks on earth.
“I love riding natural technical tracks like this!” she laughs. “When it’s fresh and natural I just love to ride my bike and go as fast as I can.”
Originally from France, Nicole could be forgiven for looking upon Andorra as her home race. The headquarters of her team, Commencal/Vallnord, is metres from the finish line and the riders in bright yellow are duly roared home louder than anyone else.
“I’m feeling so much more confident already,” she says. “The beginning of this season wasn’t easy. I had to work so hard with school over the winter and it was tough. Racing here though does come with more pressure because you can see that everyone here would be so stoked for you.”
Come race day, the VIP tent bristled with designer sunglasses as the crowd continued to grow surrounding the finish arena.
Rachel Atherton, the victor in Andorra at four out of the five runnings, was hampered with a shoulder injury; it was to be a straight fight between the other top women.
Tahnée Seagrave went fast but admitted to having made mistakes, which had cost that most precious of commodities… seconds on the clock.
So all eyes were on Nicole and she was in freefall, her wheels neatly levitating over the biggest roots and kicking up puffs of sandy earth in every turn.
She crossed the line and the Vallnord hillside erupted – it was the fastest time of the day with only one rider remaining.
Australian Tracey Hannah could not dispatch the beast and was bitten hard by an errant root, which sent her sprawling to the deck.
Nicole had won her first race since her debut victory in 2011.
“I can’t believe it, still!”, she gasped clutching her hands to her mouth. “A win after six years, back in Val di Sole but I am so stoked that I won here in Andorra – it’s such a good track. All my sponsors, family, friends are all here. I finally did it here!”
“I had such a good feeling, I was going fast this weekend and I made it.”
It’s a result which would move her up to second in the overall contest thanks to a substantial haul of points.
“This season, I’m enjoying it so much. I love it when I’m just having fun on my bike, when I’m riding confidentially,” she smiles, taking a sip from a flute of champagne.
Nicole’s quest for further glory will resume on Saturday 8th July in Lenzerheide, Switzerland at round five of the UCI World Cup.