Sam Hill, on board a new custom Pulse. Watching him doesn’t ever get old.
In a surprise turn of events, the first day of riding action in Leogang took place under blue skies and a bright sun.
The day did start with a fair bit of moisture on the ground, so the Group B riders rode a much different track compare to the Group A riders. The lines that formed during the hot afternoon had many of the early-day riders jealous and scrutinising the track from the sidelines, in hopes of bettering their chances of qualifying on Saturday.
Mud Spikes were the tire of choice today. Some riders chose to run them uncut (seen here), others trimmed them down to help with the high-speed sections. It will be interesting to see what the winning combo is for the weekend!
The chatter of the day was who had the whole track on lock-down but there was no solid consensus about who won practice. Troy Brosnan set the fastest time during timed training, but as ever, we should’nt read too much into this. Aaron Gwin for example, was taking his time in several spots, practicing both “dry” and “wet” lines, in preparation for the varying conditions that the weekend is calling for. Danny Hart was taking some unique lines which saw him nearly detonate one run, and absolutely smash the rut on the next.
Rachel Atherton is looking confident as usual, and new-comer to the podium, Katy Kurd is showing some excellent composed form. Tahnée Seagrave looks to be feeling better as well, as she was riding strong and focused. Tracey Hannah, running board 3, took the fastest time during timed training.
The Junior field is getting more and more competitive as the season progresses, and it’s anyone’s game here in Austria. Finn Iles is looking his usual self, with smooth and precise line choice, and Gaetan Vige is clearly on a mission to climb the steps of the podium.
The track has a lot of variation to it, so riders with different strengths will find places where they can try to push a little harder and shred precious tenths.
The forecast is calling for rain, but we won’t really know what’s going to happen until it’s already upon us – be prepared for anything here in the Alps! If the heavens do open up and rain down upon us, the track is going to be one tricky specimen and reward the scholars who have analysed the course properly. Stay tuned to see how the action shakes down!
Rachel Atherton starts the day in the friendly terrain of the start straight. After this point it gets rough, fast and loose. Former Hereford Boy Keith Valentine gets low in the foliage to capture the beauty.
The backdrop to the track is staggering.
After putting in one helluva performace at Fort WIlliam, Eddie Masters is out on track putting in the graft, aiming for a repeat (minus the multiple off-track excursions in his race run).
Keeping her cards close, and riding methodically, Rachel Atherton is taking a very careful approach to this weekend. There has been quite a lot of internet chatter regarding the Atherton's but they are true racers, and will not get distracted.
Roost, roost, and more roost. Track side spectators were feeling the full effect of spikes tearing up the Austrian loam up.
The man of the hour, Adam Brayton is pushing hard on track, turning heads, and showing us all he has the speed and form to repeat his Fort WIlliam performance.
It's just a number! Go on then Adam!
The French Junior, Gaetan Vige, is riding loose and fast, and we're big fans. He found 2nd place last weekend, after a strong start in Lourdes, and he may be able challenge the Walker - Illes grip on Junior men
A prominent voice of disapproval after trackwalk, Ruper Chapman is a convert after today's dry and rough track.
Fastest in timed training today, Troy Brosnan is not messing about this weekend. And while the timed training results are not to be analysed too closely, he is visibly putting in a serious effort.
Joe Smith always rides wild and loose in practice, and for that, we thank him.
Matt Walker rode until the very end of practice today, putting in the hard yards to dial in his lines. The Junior Men's catagory is serious business and Walker has some redemption to seek after last weekend.
Elliot Heap was riding with notable speed today in practice, and providing hilarious commentary track-side when he'd stop to check out sections.
Greg Minnaar stopped, analyzed, and executed. His best result here was when he won World Championships in 2012. Coming off a win last weekend, he is definitely feeling it.
First run down, and Danny Hart was already looking for sneaky inside lines. Hart is well known for hitting top speed earlier than most - and with changing conditions expected, that could play into his hands.
Morgane Charre knows how to ride this track here in Austria, as this is where she won her Rainbow Stripes in 2012.
It seems the swelbow is feeling better after a week off, and Tahnée Seagrave is riding like she never even had a crash. It will be interesting to see if what we observer track side translates into results.
After a stellar result in Cairns to start off his 2016 World Cup season, an curretnly rocking the #31, it's hard to believe that Graeme Mudd didn't qualify here in 2015.
With Loic Bruni missing from the line up, the Specialized boys were just a train of two today, with Finn Iles leading out Loris Veriger on this run.
Riding sore and battered after a heavy fall in Scotland, Brook MacDonald is still pushing hard out on track. Tough as.
The high speed straight of jumps mid course is intensely fast, and riders like Maxime Chapuis are doing everything possible to keep the wheels down and in the transitions.
The affable German, Manuel Gruber, was drifting and bouncing down the track all day. He could be a real wildcard this weekend!
Connor Fearon missed the win here (on flat pedals no less!) by .045 seconds. He has admittedly toned down the "checkers or wreckers" riding, but he's still hauling out on track.
Remy Morton's self-supported program this year seems to be working. He's motivated, riding with purpose, and keeping the style alive as he turns up the speed.
The Canadian ripper, Miranda Miller, is back to racing World Cups, looking to remind people that her 5th place in Mount Sainte Anne in 2015 was not a one-time occurance.
Riding with a new-found confidence, and the aggressive style from her Junior days, Tracey Hannah is riding renewed, with fire. Fastest in timed training.
Neil Stewart is looking for redemption here at Leogang after a lack-luster round at Fort William. He's looking for every extra bit of speed on track.
The view from the office this weekend is one of the best all year.
Nice to see some new angles here in Leogang from the photographers who work tirelessly to produce coverage. Keith Valentine captures Sam Dale on the hunt.
"Hear my train a-comin'!" as Jimi Hendrix said. Josh Bryceland leading out Steve Peat and Harry Heath during their second runs.
Forrest Reisco has been making steady progress this year, and with his riding here today, we could see him with a sub-50 plate by week's end.
She's found her groove, and quickly picking up the pace - Katy Kurd has quickly become one of the top contenders vying for a podium position.
Taylor Vernon is back on form after having a nasty crash in Cairns and not racing - as well as not qualifying in Ft Bill. Hopefully he turns it around this weekend.
With the light low, and the shadows long, Manon Carpenter was one of the last riders down in TImed Training, likely spurred on by her [unfair] DSQ here in 2015.
Steve Peat still going strong after last weeks home finale. It's so great to see him enjoying riding his bike fast. Classic Keith V image.
Scrubbing for the fans, Greg Williamson keeps the fun alive while training hard. He's riding his best yet, and a podium finish is certainly within his grasp.
Matt Simmonds rides deceptively quickly, as his generally enormous frame masks his true speed.
Neil Stewart gets two photos in todays coverage for being all business, all of the time. Keith V.
After his stellar 8th place last weekend, Laurie Greenland has momentum and is charging hard.