Reporting live from wet and boggy Bike Park Leogang in Austria, the fourth round of the World Cup is officially underway!
The mountains are currently obscured by thick clouds, which have come trundling down the valley like floating glaciers all day. With modest rainfall over the past two days, everything is looking especially lush and green, but the ground is soggy as can be, turning most of the track into a mild bog.
The forested parts of the track have been adjusted, in that all of the trees have been cut down. This is a little disappointing, but in place of the large pines, a tribute to all of the riders who have won at the track has been created in the form of carved names on top of the empty tree stumps – it’s rather surreal.
The mood is a little less than excited, as there has been a lot of demur regarding a fair few of the changes to the track. Greg Minnaar was seen having an extensive chat with David Vasquez upon his arrival at the bottom after track walk.
We will see if any changes have been made tomorrow once Group B gets underway. In the meantime, riders and mechanics have been busy cutting spikes, making sure that traction will be of no concern, once out on track.
Practice will likely see some spectacular spills and equally as skilled saves – the fresh cut sections are looking exceptionally challenging, with hellacious roots and mud holes facing the advancing waves of riders.
Tune in for all of the mud-filled, and water-logged coverage – though it’s rumored Friday will be sunny!
This track calls for cut spikes in a big way. Rupert Chapman, also known on the circuit as " El Chapo" using the classic Eye Gauge Vertical Clippers to adjust his nob height. Not quite Formula one just yet, but edging nearer.
Tag me in that; Lucy Drees, a UK rider aiming to get on the World Cup ladder, getting social with the media. If there's one thing Leogang does have, it's spectacular mountains.
Work Smarter, Not Harder. Keith Valentine, a photographer from Scotland, in his element.
Though the track has been getting mixed reviews from riders, Solid rider / team manager Harry Malloy is still stoked to be back riding.
This wee puddle is just from today's light showers. That should give you an idea of what riders will be facing - it is wet, rooty and a little disappointing at the moment.
The Alps are beautiful in rain or shine. And while the jagged peaks are blanketed in clouds, the moody valleys are quite picturesque.
He may have just had his best World Cup finish, but Adam Brayton is still the humble grafter as usual. The People's Champ!
Despite the rain, Manon Carpenter was all smiles today. The horrible conditions are very much in her wheelhouse, as several sections of track could be placed right into a Welsh hillside without confusion.
The Italian National Champ, Veronika Widmann somehow managed to get stuck doing track walk with me, but it was good craic and we had some fun.
Tunnel vision is common here at Leogang. This is a bike park, where large parts of the track can be ridden by you or I with relative ease.
The on-course tribute to all the winning riders here in Leogang is a phenomenal addition for 2016.
I think I'm just going to change my mailing address to, "The B-Zone". It is taped wide and reasonably here in Austria, which is encouraging. Editor - For those that don't know, the B zone is an area reserved for photographers and filmers, to allow them to document the coverage with unhindered views. Think of all the jounalists at the Oscars shouting on the celebs and you've got it.
The mood in the mountains is one of subdued anticipation and weariness for what this weekend will bring.
Eddie Masters used the more common Diamond Finger Gauge Snippers to regulate how much traction he will have for practice.Hopefully more than he did in the wooded section last Sunday...
It's good to make sure you're on schedule during the week at a World Cup.
Tom Lowis, a team mechanic, hard at work in the Bergamont pits, breathing some life into the 2017 Enduro prototype.
It's all about the pre-race prep in the photo game, and Sebastian Schiek is the man with the plan. Here we see him eyeing up the angles for another banger. You may have no idea who Sebastian is, as he chooses to document the action and forgoes self promotion , but he is arguably the best photographer on the world cup circuit.
These shoes would not be considered, "Proper Track Walk Shoes", but run what you brung, as they say....
If you're wandering by the Norco pits this week, make you drop by and give this top lad a heckle or two! Rich Jones is the new wrench for the duo of Baz and Fraz ( Harry Heath and Fraser Mcglone ), and he properly chuffed on the new gig!
Ti bolts are still considered a flashy addition to any bike, and Adam Brayton's bike is rumored to be about 30% Ti because of this....They also serve a purpose as we saw last weekend - hundredths of a second can make all the difference.
Obligatory tree bark photo. The forest here on the hill is particularly photogenic.
The ground is soft and the rain has been heavy. Foot ruts were forming during trackwalk today, so once the riding gets started, things are going to get interesting.
Tracey Hannah has shown she isn't messing about in 2016, with two 2nd places to her name this season. This cheeky smile suggests she is confident heading into this race.
If this is what the section looked like during trackwalk, imagine how destroyed it will be at the end of the first practice session.
Fraser McGlone took a solitary course walk today. He seemed to be rather keen to get on with it!
Fraz caught up to me and the running-commentary I had going on, and this was his reaction...
The track is slick in some places, and boggy in others. Finn Iles finds the former.
Bumping up into Group A this weekend due to a large entry, Josh Lowe is stoked to be out on track with teammates Harry Malloy and Joe Connel, smashing the soon-to-be-ruts!
The quiet Frenchman, Loris Vergier seemed unphased by the weather and track conditions. He's been having a decent season so far, and it's fair to say he could have a standout result this weekend. He is the current dark horse in the paddock. Simmering.
The rain is a bit of a disappointing factor this weekend, but the flowers are in full color, and everything is green as Oscar.
Which way to zee hucks?
U Wot M8? Laurie Greenland , fresh from a top ten last weekend is playing bouncer at the Mondraker pits to keep out the wondering Journo eye...
There is a fair amount of man-made additions to the track this year, but it remains to be see if this is a positive change. Will Longden, Madison team manager and former pro, strongly gesturing at what is surely a winning line.
Is this: A bear claw mark? Or a near-miss by #MTBJesus? Editor - please be patient with Zach's self anointed nick name...
The new fresh cut is arguably too fresh, and looking properly sketchy. In the words of one rider " Heads must surely roll for this track creation..."
As the clouds rolled over and around the grey giants, the outlines peeking through made for a spectacular view over the Austrian Alps.