What we learned... Vallnord DH qualifying

A resurgent Sam, a mercurial Manon and some added length...
Sam Hill qualifies first at Vallnord © Sven Martin/Red Bull Content Pool
By Ric McLaughlin

1. Hill, Hill, Hill...

Sam Hill was, for want of a better pun, king of the hill. He shocked everyone by going four hundreths quicker than Greg Minnaar. We've said it before, we'll say it again - Hill looks so much happier aboard CRC Nuke Proof. What odds a vintage performance from the Aussie come Sunday?

2. Manon comes of age

Is she the first girl to go faster than Rachel Atherton all year?! Possibly. The Madison Saracen rider not only went faster but 3.6secs faster, a massive margin by World Cup standards. There's always been a really relaxed feel with Manon, everyone seems to have always recognised that sooner or later her time would come. Could that time be now?

3. The track is a beast

There's an old adage in bike journalism - if it looks steep on camera then it MUST be steep and the Vallnord track looks like a wall at times. The final section is where heroes will be made come Sunday.

4. Jones looks like the real deal

Welsh youngster, Mike Jones, qualified fastest in the Juniors. Their new separate classification seems to be working a treat and doing the job of showcasing some of the world's fastest young talent admirably.

5. Gwin under fire (still)

A newly tweaked Specialized Demo has arrived for Aaron with a slightly longer back end which has only added fire to the rumours that he's struggling aboard the big red 'S'. He went out in qualifying and attacked with his extra 19mm of back end - an over the bars relegated him to 53rd. The pressure is (still) on... 

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