The rains may have held off until after qualifying, but that didn't stop the track in Mont-Sainte-Anne from dishing out its usual levels of destruction. At a race that has become well known over the years for pushing the limits of bikes and bodies, it's not uncommon to see the odd rider here and there limping their bikes down with various parts hanging off (or missing). But this year it seems as if that number has risen much higher, and it's hard to find any section of track without some sort of carnage taking place on the other side of the tape. The combination of high speeds and a track that has eroded down to the bedrock in spots means any full speed run will be a bit of a gamble. A gamble you must take, and win, if you want to come out on top. Today's qualifying round would be the first real test of who could walk that fine line, who would cross it, and who would just get plain lucky when disaster looked imminent.
The junior men's race was the first to be affected by the brutal track as Finn Iles limped across the line with a front flat. This left the door open for Matt Walker to grab the fastest time of the day with Sylvain Cougoureux and Kaos Seagrave in tow. In the women's race it was series leader Myriam Nicole who would take top honors, with Tracey Hannah and Rachel Atherton rounding out the top three. For Tracey and Rachel it would be a step in the right direction after a week of near-constant mechanicals or crashes in training, with qualifying being the only clean run between the two of them. Hopefully their bad luck on the slopes of MSA is now over and there will a battle at the front tomorrow afternoon.
In the men's race we had a reverse of fortune as Aaron Gwin turned his mechanical issues in timed training the day prior into a blistering run and the the number one qualifying spot. Loic Bruni kept it consistent to land second and Greg Minnaar third just 1.8 seconds off the lead. After one of the biggest saves of the year in the last woods section, Danny Hart used up one of his nine lives to take 4th (the same can be said for Blenki in 8th), with Luca Shaw in 5th and Vergier in 6th.
What about the weather we have been talking about all week? Well, it moved in just after qualifying with thunderstorms and rain, and is expected to stay that way for most of the night. As for Saturday, things are looking a bit grim and all the riders must be a bit worried about what might happen if it really does come pouring down like we've seen a few times this season. If things do get messy, let's just hope it's the same for everyone and we have a level playing field for all.