Strengthening Andorra’s position as one of the top MTB destinations in Europe, the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup has been held in the country for the past five years. The mountain biking disciplines of cross country and downhill come together at the Vallnord Bike Park for an amazing competition and celebration of MTB.
Each summer, the world’s best athletes in their respective disciplines descend on the trails of Vallnord; showcasing its steep, rooty and technical terrain and providing exceptional track-side spectating that shouldn’t be missed.
With six days of action to catch, the schedule is jam-packed. In this post, we discuss the bike park, the different events, and how you can get involved in all the action; making this your definitive guide to the Vallnord MTB World Cup.
Vallnord – Pal Arinsal
More commonly known for its family-friendly skiing during the winter, the slopes and forest of Pal come alive in the summer with all the action of the Vallnord Bike Park and Mountain Park. Providing countless hours of entertainment for the whole family, the Mountain Park offers numerous activities including zip lines, go-karting, ropes courses, jumping castles and ATVs, in addition to the signposted hiking trails to enjoy the breath-taking scenery.
But it’s the Vallnord Bike Park that gains the attention of thrill seekers, both young and old, bike-lovers and the international MTB community.
The Bike Park
A world-class park, Vallnord caters to all riders with a variety of biking options. For the littlest of pinners, there is the kids bike park and pump track, while older riders can take advantage of the trail network accessible by two chair lifts.
With over 40 kilometres of trails, mountain bike riders of all abilities are catered for in the Vallnord Bike Park. From the more gradual descents on wide gravel roads, to the extremely steep, rooty, rocky and highly technical single track, the park has numerous cross-country, e-bike, enduro and downhill trails for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders.
Typically dry and dusty during the height of summer, the bike park offers both natural and man-made features including jumps, drops and a wood park.
The UCI MTB World Cup Vallnord
The Union Cycliste Internationale, UCI, is the global governing body for all disciplines of cycling. Founded in 1900, it oversaw the first official mountain bike world championship in 1990 and has been coordinating the World Cup series ever since.
A season-long series, the UCI MTB World Cup sees the top riders compete in numerous races around the world in an effort to be crowned victor. In 2019, the season consisted of eight downhill races and seven cross-country events in 10 different countries.
According to the UCI, mountain biking comprises of several formats including downhill, four-cross, enduro, alpine snow bike and variations of cross-country. For the first time in 2019, the World Cup event in Vallnord was an official stage for both the downhill and cross-country races.
Olympic Cross-Country (XCO) and Short Cross-Country (XCC)
Part of the Olympic programme, XCO races take place over undulating courses of four to six kilometres in distance. Featuring technical descents, forest roads, rocky paths and obstacles, each race typically lasts between 1 hour 20 minutes and 1 hour 40 minutes. XCC races are held on similar, yet shorter, courses.
At Vallnord, the XCO track is 3.8km while the XCC course is 1km. Both courses provide the unique challenge of racing at altitude. At 1900m above sea level, competitors face the highest tracks on the World Cup circuit. With both challenging ascents and descents, the tracks have plenty of rock features, rooty terrain and some of the toughest climbs of the World Cup series.
Loose, technical, fast and thrilling, the 2.5km course for the Vallnord DH World Cup is a highlight on the UCI calendar. Starting at La Caubella, Pal, and finishing in the heart of La Massana, the track takes racers on a wild journey into forests, across wooden bridges and through challenging rock gardens.
Consisting of off-camber sections and plenty of rocks, roots, drops and jumps – all which need to be contended at speed – the track makes for thrilling spectating. One of the steepest and dustier courses on the World Cup circuit, racers certainly have their work cut out for them.
Get Involved in the Vallnord World Cup
Welcoming athletes and spectators from across the globe, the atmosphere of the Vallnord MTB World Cup in Andorra is electric. The public get up close to all the action from the world’s best riders as they contend some of the most challenging terrain.
So, whether you’re an avid mountain biker or just looking for something different to do in the mountains, this is an event that everyone can get involved in.
Spectate the Event
There are many options for spectators to get up close to all the action of both the XC and DHI races during the Vallnord World Cup.
By taking the telecabina up from La Massana, you can access the XC course, start line for the downhill and team pit area at La Caubella. From here you can walk the XC courses to catch riders either on the challenging ascents, fast descents or technical trails through the woods.
For the downhill event, you really can’t go wrong as the impressive riding and energetic atmosphere can be seen and felt from almost anywhere along the track. Most locations are quite accessible as walking along the track from either the top or bottom is fairly easy (so long as you’re in sturdy footwear and are comfortable walking on steep mountain terrain).
Some of the standout spectating locations include:
- The top section: Plenty of pedalling makes for fast riding before things get too technical.
- The C.G. Jumps: Catch the biggest air of the course as riders get sendy over huge jumps.
- The lower half: Rooty and wild, riders have been getting creative with some tricky lines through the woods.
- The finish line: With a big screen to watch all the runs, plus the massive drop and tight right-hand turn for riders to contend with, there’s nothing like being among the crowd as the pros bomb over the finish line.
Become a Volunteer
The Vallnord World Cup is a huge event, bringing in athletes and spectators from around the globe to Andorra. Like countless events of this magnitude, its success is, in part, thanks to a large team of dedicated volunteers.
Assisting with marshaling, timing, anti-dopping and other roles, the volunteers provide an invaluable service – while also getting a behind-the-scenes view of all the MTB World Cup action, and benefiting from the perks of the position, including:
- Free access to the telecabina
- Free parking in La Massana
- Discounts on all Vallnord products and services
- Free food while volunteering
- A uniform consisting of a t-shirt, cap, pants, jacket and a backpack (depending on how many days you volunteer) to keep
Try It for Yourself
If you’re more of a doer than a viewer, why not ride the Vallnord Bike Park for yourself? Bike rental, lift passes and lessons are all available for reasonable prices. Be sure to check out our article on everything you need to know about mountain biking in Andorra, too.
Highlights of the Andorran MTB World Cup
An action-packed event with epic spectating of the world’s best XC and DHI mountain bikers, the Vallnord MTB World Cup is an event you don’t want to miss. A highlight on the UCI World Cup circuit, the event is perfect for spectators with:
- Free access to the finish line area and course, by walking up from La Massana,
- Easy access to the start line and team pit area, via either the telecabina or car,
- Thrilling spectating of the world’s best riders on challenging tracks, and
- A fantastic atmosphere, with thousands of people from around the globe!
And because Andorra is so compact, it’s only a short trip down the road to get from your accommodation at Apartaments Sant Moritz to all the action of the World Cup.
As a bike-friendly holiday property, Apartaments Sant Moritz provides both an ideal location and the perfectly equipped accommodation for any Andorran MTB holiday. Plus, our friendly and knowledgeable staff will gladly help you plan any other summer activities you want to take part in during your stay.
Can’t get enough MTB? Check out our guide for racers and spectators to Maxiavalanche Andorra!