Waking up to drizzle and grey skies was expected here in Leogang, but never the less we still held on to the hope it wouldn’t arrive – yet it was here, and set in hard.
he warm temps kept spirits on the up-and-up at least, while the slick track and massive ruts did their best to test the patience of all who dared to try and pass through. Predictably, the über-fresh cut sections quickly turned into crash pads more so than race track, with riders sliding, flipping, tripping, and sliding in their attempts to navigate the mayhem of ruts and roots.
Once Qualifications started, chaos ensued. Looking back on the time sheets, it is plain to see who crashed and who didn’t – often times, likely in the same places at one another; “The Stump”, “That Huge Rut”, and “The Blown Corner” were frequent scapegoats around the finish area and pit spaces as riders recounted their battles with the track. It was a sight to behold from the side of the track, imaginably, riding it could only have been even more unruly.
With the weather seemingly on its own time schedule, it will be interesting to see if starting position effects the outcome of the race, as any significant change in weather could prove to be the coup de gras for anyone caught out inclement conditions. Tomorrow is guaranteed to be an interesting race!
This sort of sight was common place through out the day, with few-to-none getting in a completely clean run. Here Gianluca Vernassa takes the express route through the corner.
With Top 30 finishes four-years-running, Ruaridh Cunningham seems to have found an extra gear in Qualifiers, finding himself in 19th.
It doesn't matter the reason why, it's just rad to see Brendan Fairclough back in race-mode and stylishly destroying race tracks this season. 6th, and looking tapped!
The pint-sized German pinner Sandra Rubesam was riding notably well in practice, and come Qualifiers, found herself in 8th place. This is a huge moment for Sandra, as it's the first World Cup she's qualified for - in a stacked field no less! (She missed out in Lourdes, and hadn't even been to a WC event since 2013)
It's only fitting that Loris Vergier is going full-ninja with is outfit choice: the young Frenchman has been quieting annihilating the field all season, and seeded 2nd today in Qulaifiers - and likely would have seeded in 1st if not for being held up in his run!...watch this space. His splits were 1, 1, 1 , 2.
Two crashes and some ragged riding, Kenta Gallagher never quit during his qualifying run and it paid off: 53rd.
Troy Brosnan looked like he was rding a conservative qualifier, as his pace in practice was a lot higher. So, 7th at 80% is quite a statment.
The track was a full 180 from where it left off after Timed Training. Even with mud spikes, it was a trecherous affair.
The top qualifier, to no one's surprise; Call it good planning, or racer's intutition, Aaron Gwin was practicing his "wet" lines yesterday in the dry in anticipation of conditions changing...it seems to have paid off.
josh Bryceland had a fair bit of trouble on track today, crashing twice, which found him way down the list in 102nd when the mud had dried. He also found Vergier drafting him for the last minute or so. But, he's protected, so Sunday is a whole new chance to get back at it.
Rachel Atherton has been the center of conversation all season, and for good reason: her margins to 2nd place have been unreal. Top spot in the Women's Qualifier, she looks quite at home in mud and ruts.
When you're not in the points chase, and a recently protected rider, what's to hold back? Adam Brayton crashed twice but didn't "chill out" after either one...114th, but the "P" next to his name means he is in for Sunday!
Sylvain Cougoureux isn't messing about - Leogang is only his third World Cup race, but he's is making himself known - 2nd place, and looking to battle Heap for the win on this ever changing track.
Matt Walker is the surprise star in this year's batch of Juniors. Oringinally just focused on "riding well", he has now adjusted his aim for more competitive goals. 4th in qualifiers.
She said she was excepetionally motivated after missing Fort William, and Tahnée Seagrave put the talk into action with a superb 2nd place in Qualfiers.
Greg Williamson has brought a renewed vigor to his racing in 2016. It's funny to think that any year previous, we'd be raving about a 12th place qualifier for the Scotlish lad! Another top ten beckons.
For some reason, Miranda Miller is a bit of a darkhorse, even though she absolutely shreds. After her 5th place in MSA in 2015, she put herself on the map once again though, and 4th place today provided some added emphasis.
It Remy Morton can clean up his top sector times, where he was a bit off pace, we could see him better his 7th place qualifier by a lot on race day.
It is rare to see Greg Minnaar looking uncomposed. He laughed off this nac-nac moment and kept cracking on. 5th place for the #5 plate.
A rider who revels in the rougher and more exposed tracks, Joe Smith is looking comfortable and confident - 10th place. Joe has the ability but occasionally doesn't fulfil his undoubted potential into the world class results we know he can achieve. Once he clicks, he'll be right up there.
All smiles this morning after practice, the good vibes seemed to have carried through the day, as Veronika Widmann stayed true to her plate number with a 9th in qualies.
Alex Marin has started out his first year in Elites with strong showings at all of the races he's attended. 38th is a little bit back from where he'd like to be, but he definitely has more for Sunday.
From fun-runs to battle-laps over night, the course Rupert Chapman initially didn't like, then changed his mind about, once again gave him reason to dislike it these horrendous conditions. 36th despite the animosity.
LIkely a run to forget, Emilie Steigenthaler was on a solid qualifying, but ran into trouble at the bottom sector. 29th, but she's protected, so she'll be in the Final for Sunday.
8, 7, 6...Tracey Hannah Qualified 5th today, which boads well in regards to her past finishes here at Leogang. More to come.
The CRC boys have been smashing it here in Leogang, and Elliot Heap reinforces the point with the top spot in Junior Qualifiers. Speed and style!
Jacob Dickson has had a mixed bag of results in his first year of racing Elites. But, he is starting to look more comfortable each day, and the new race program this season seems to be working a treat! 50th.
Like the technician he his, Benoit Coulanges qualified in 30th, looking completely composed and reserved.
Following her 5th place finish in Scotland, Katy Curd is earger to continue racking up the big results. She'll be nonplussed with a 12th leading into finals, likely using the earlier race spot to push harder on a relatively fresher track.
Qualifiers took place in a cloud up top, but Danny Hart seemed to have no issues with nagivating the mist right into 4th and causing on Facebook marketing revolution with his Live videos.
The French youngster, Gaetan Vige has the backing of one of the largest teams on the circuit in Commencal, which providing the stability to match his talent. 3rd.
No, this is not a crash. This is Mike Jones obliterating a corner and riding it out. Rugged. 3rd place qualifier, and looking capable of sustaining this level of rowdiness. The terrain on the upper sections is reminiscent of old school UK DH and Sunday could be a great day for the UK crew.
67th is not perhaps a notable qualifying position, but Taylor Vernon is making steady progress back up and into the rankings we know he is capable of after recovering from injuries.
Clearly riding fast, with the second fastest speed trap, Manon Carpenter lost a little time at the top, but is incredibly capable of tidying up her lines and dropping the hammer in her race run.
Guillaume Cauvin has a hot and cold relationship with Leogang, most recentlty not qualifying in '15 - but a 33rd in Qualies means he gets to up the anti on Sunday!
Nikolas Nestoroff may have one of the more fun names to say on the start list, but it's anything but fun and games with the American shredder - pushing hard and looking strong; 5th for the #5 plate in Junior men, just like Minnaar.
It isn't just the plate number that caught everyone's attention - Francesco Colomb is riding really well and with loose style. 49th.
Morgane Charre is usually one of the fastest through the steep and rowdy sections of track - it's just a matter of time until she connects the dots again! 6th.
Thomas Estaque is not a house-hold name, but the Frenchman is a track-side favorite. Smooth and quiet, he unassumingly shreds the track, run after run. 27th.
By the end of Men's Qualifiers, the rain had turned the course into a mess of splatter mud - every bike had a nice coating of Alpine slop at the bottom.
Frankly, it's impressive Gee Atherton is even on a bike and riding this week given his huge haematoma . 17th isn't much compared to his 1st place qualifier in Scotland, but it will do for now considering.
Not bad for a guy with normal 9-5 job running his own bike shop! Scotty Mears is the man, and this huck into 62nd was the best part of my day. This shot made standing around in the rain all day worth it.