We can't remember a time when Fort William was this dry. Perhaps that's because last year was so wet and cold and we still can't let go, or perhaps it's because we can't remember when things were this loose here and causing such trouble for the riders. The bare white granite and talc-like dust makes the upper track look like a twisted old spine running down the mountain side. It's slippery stuff. Many of the riders reckon it's slipperier now than when it's wet, and it's actually running slower. There have been plenty of blown corners and plenty of flats.
Today we saw Gee Atherton take first place in qualifying and an amazing run by Eddie Masters who took second place. Aaron Gwin was on the gas moving into third, and we bet he's got more under the hood. Troy Brosnan was hot on his heels and will be a podium contender for sure tomorrow.
Finn Iles is back and healthy and took the top spot in the juniors, while Charlie Hatton took second followed by Matt Walker in third. Rachel Atherton crashed just above the fresh cut section, which lost her considerable time and put her in second, while Manon Carpenter was the fastest woman on the day. Tracey Hannah is following her form in Cairns with the third place spot.
Tomorrow will certainly be some exciting racing especially if things keep on the dry side. For speeds to pick up, a bit of moisture could help out with grip. There is a chance of rain in the afternoon, but we will have to wait and see how mother nature plays out tomorrow.
A mix of sun, fog, and wind kicked off the day. Maybe to remind us that we are in Scotland after all.
Fort Bill qualifying crowds about to trump your typical finals crowds for most venues.
Stevie Smith inspiring the next generation.
Two words. Get Loco.
Matt Delorme doesn't bring a lunch up the hill, he catches his own... Local and organic preferred.
After missing Cairns due to injury, Finn Iles backed up his win in Lourdes as the top junior qualifier here in Fort William.
2nd place in Juniors went to Great Britain's Charlie Hatton.
Matt Walker took third in qualifying for the juniors today.
Commencal Riding Addiction's, Gaetan Vige charging the big berm for eighth and ready to push harder tomorrow.
Elliot Heap, like a boss for fourth, just 2.9 back.
As if Rachel Atherton needs to get any faster... Then again, if she does come off again tomorrow maybe she'll still have the margin to keep Manon at bay.
Fighting the effects of food poisoning from last weekend, Manon isn't in top form this weekend, but she dug deep when it counted and put down the fastest time in qualifying.
Fast, powerful and confident.... Not even a crash in her qualifying run can keep Rachel from putting down a blistering time.
Tracey Hannah had a solid run to third place today. She's looking good for another visit to the podium tomorrow.
Rachel Atherton had a crash in her qualifying run that landed her back in second.
Sad face from Tahnee as she rides the gondola down after only rolling out of the gate in her qualifying run. Will she race tomorrow? We just don't know.
Emilie Siegenthaler hits the extra boost button en route to 5th.
Luca Shaw had a great day to nab 6th in qualifying, just a few seconds back from the podium positions.
Mick Hannah took a DNF after a massive crash up top, but he was uninjured and will line up to duke it out in the final.
Sick skills alright. Remember when Ben Cathro smashed out a top ten in a rubber speed suit back in 2008?
Alex Marin was the fastest of the first year Elites in 11th.
Greg Minnaar was up on the second split but suffered a front flat. Don't count him out for the top spot tomorrow.
Loris Vergier pushing hard in the midsection of the course. Vergier qualified 16th today, but top ten is well within his reach tomorrow.
Gee Atherton was fastest in qualifying today. His month of testing and dialing in his bike has started to pay off.
Mark Wallace settling into the top 20 once again, but he will be charging hard to climb the ranks and build on his 13 plate tomorrow.
Man of the match was a tight-fought battle between Masters and Adam Brayton. Brayton may have 'only' managed fifth, but then he isn't as acquainted with the top 30 as Eddie.
12th for Remi Thirion, just a scant six seconds back. With the bone dry track in Fort William this weekend the times are tighter than ever between the top guys.
After a top time in training yesterday, and top 25 splits in his quail run, it was a huge bummer to see Marc Beaumont miss out on the final due to a puncture just above the motorway.
Loris Vergier chopping corners as tight as possible when every millisecond counts. An unfortunate puncture ruined his quail run, but look for Loris in the top 10 tomorrow.
Sam Hill always has high hopes on the slopes of Aonach Mor but struggled to keep pace with the top guys today.... But don't count him out just yet, he is still very much in touch.
Flying under the radar with deceptive speed, Eddie Masters caught everyone off guard by taking his career best qualifier in 2nd place today.
Laurie Greenland, balls to the wall, taking another spot inside the top 15.
Keegan Wright face down in the brown pow. The second time he nailed it.... More than can be said for most riders.
Presenting the Jackson five, one of the many bands of riders to spend time puzzling over the awkward boardwalk drop into the polished roots of the new woods section.
All kinds of riders hit the mossy deck in the new woods today, no matter how low the number plate or how sharp the tech skills.
All the dust means things are getting rowdy in a different kind of way, as kindly demonstrated here by Brendan Fairclough.
Brook MacDonald has been looking like his old self out there. The bulldog will be gunning for another Fort William podium tomorrow.
Troy Brosnan had a few crashes this weekend in the loose dry conditions but neatened it up for a fourth place run today.
A slow first split hindered Marcelo but he rallied back to slide into the top ten just six seconds back.
Welcome back to the party Mitch Ropelato, 26th in qualifying after a year and a half absence from the World Cup.
Aaron Gwin wasn't showing his cards until today. He rode to third and no doubt has more in the tank for tomorrow.
Warp for Wyn, qualifying comfortably despite an injured knee.
George Brannigan riding rowdy to seventh place in qualifying today.
Greg Williamson has been on a tear on this season. Today was no different. He qualified sixth.
Peaty coming to grips with the fresh woods section. If riders weren't having a tough time on the loose upper sections of the track, they were in the fresh woods.
Fresh ruts, burnished roots.
A crash in qualifying will keep Sam Blenkinsop sidelined tomorrow, but he was still all smiles while exchanging battle stories with his friends in the pits.
Eddie Masters #2
Luca Shaw having an afternoon pick me up after qualifying sixth.
Greg Minnaar and Luca Shaw head up for a late day track walk.
Eddie's brand new rim was looking a little rough after his 2nd place quail run today.
Taylor Vernon resting his shoulder after a tough few days.
Some folk go through the wheels a little quicker than others... Any guesses who these are for?
Specialized Gravity Republic precision wheel tune in progress.
These guys walked the pits after qualifiers adding every autograph they could to this very special Canadian flag.
Finn Iles and his future competition.
One of those days for Connor Fearon, rolling down with a flat, but of course, it's a bit more chilled when you're a protected rider.
Oblivious, Bob Parkin is concentrating so hard he has no idea his brother is cramming a banana in his ear.
Ed Masters' mechanic Kurt giving the Bergamont some love after a wild ride.
Full strip downs at the Madison Saracen corner. Clean means fast and free.
This guy will likely not shower for a week.
Things are looking quite good weather wise for race day. We are looking forward to some dry slipping and sliding.