There's a certain degree of guilt to not open with Cecile Ravanel this evening. Her performance has been nothing short of masterful so far this season, and only one woman, who is arguably the greatest female enduro racer ever (Tracy Moseley, for those slow on the uptake), has been able to best her so far. Yet, winning every week breeds familiarity, it becomes expected. The big story today is about a rider who also knows how that feels. Back in 2014, Jared Graves could do no wrong, but he had a difficult season in 2015 after Specialized took him into their fold. They surely wanted wins and titles to follow, but so far, that has not happened. 2016 has also been a difficult year for him, but he has worked to get up to the speed he knows he is capable of. Today, as series leader Richie Rude struggles with injury, Graves stepped to the plate and his name currently fills the number one slot so many people having been waiting to see him in. Of course, this is only the halfway mark, there is a long way to go tomorrow, but a comfortable, confident Graves is something that will make his rivals nervous.
The clouds started to build, but the rain never materialized.
The race village, waiting for the drama to begin today.
After hanging on the rack all weekend, Richie Rude's race bike finally got prepped for some action.
Racing did not start early for the pros, so there was time to enjoy breakfast here before the day got underway.
If there was one event on the calendar that Jared Graves had had his sights on all year, it would be this round in Aspen. His season has not gone to plan, and the pressure he's put on himself to perform here in Colorado is massive.
There are all kinds of ways to stash important parts that could end up saving your race.
// UNDER 21 RACE
What can we say about Adrien Dailly? Dominating the under-21 field once more with a time that would put him in 9th in the GC.
Seb Claquin pushed hard despite his injured hand for second in under-21, and for reference, he still pulled a time good enough to match World Cup DH standout Sam Blenkinsop.
// WOMEN'S RACE
Seventh on the day for Ines Thoma
Sarah Leishman powers through stage two, while probably thinking about how much easier it will be to breathe at the next round coming up next in her home town of Whistler.
Anneke Beerten started well this morning, but lost time on the long third stage. With the tracks taking a turn for the bike park tomorrow, expect to see her pushing hard to get back on the podium.
Cecile is in a class of her own at the moment. She holds nearly a full minute advantage on the rest of the field.
Isabeau Courdurier couldn't match Ravanel on any stage today, but consistent, clean stages landed her in second this evening.
Anita Gehrig charging into the top of the long stage three. Gehrig sits in third after day one.
Anka Martin is the leading Julianna rider so far, edging out her teammates for 18th in her first EWS race of the year.
Hannah Barnes is always smooth, always smiling, and always having fun no matter the conditions.
Rae Morrison is one of the best technical riders out there but physical stages at high altitude are a whole other ball game and she ends the day in and uncharacteristic 8th.
It doesn't look like this weekend will bring a second podium for Andreanne Nadier-Lantheau. ALN is about a minute off the pace of the top three this week.
While Casey Brown may have started a little slowly this morning, she picked up speed through the day to cap it all with a second on the long third stage to land her in fifth this evening.
Miranda started the day in 4th on the relatively short and DH oriented stage one, but would fade as the stages became longer and longer to eventually settle into 10th.
It was a rough day out there for many.
Casey Brown is sitting in fifth place and pumped to have a popsicle and a biscuit.
After racing at this altitude, some canned oxygen is welcome relief.
// MEN'S RACE
The day started with a fairly quick DH stage, but as the day went on and the heat went up, the stages would get longer and more physical, pushing riders to the max.
Cody Kelley smashed it on stage three to take 5th place, and sits in 14th in the overall after day one.
Utah resident Mitch Ropelato knows how to ride the loose Colorado dirt and has drifted his way right up into 17th.
Not the day Yoan Barelli was hoping for as he struggled with the heat and altitude, falling back to 35th.
With no tech zone at the end of stage one, even the 2013 champion found himself scrambling to get a tube in and get on to the next stage.
Jared admits tight switchbacks are his nemesis, but he made quick work of the through "The Dumps" on stage three to solidify his lead going into day two.
Chris Johnston was on fire on the first two stages today, sitting in third in the GC, until a couple of small crashes on stage three dropped him back to 38th.
Curtis Keene has his eye on the podium. He could pull it off here in Aspen.
Blenki leans it in on the meadows on stage two.
Today's tracks were rough and loose. Richie Rude powers through it all.
Nico Lau is a ninja on a bike, and also just a tad bit crazy when it comes to fast sections as well as switchbacks. Not at all surprisingly he is sitting in second right now.
If he's not drifting, Iago Garay is boosting.
Loose Dog takes the inside line on one of the many blown-out switchbacks on stage three.
Sixth today for the ever-fast Clementz.
Josh Carlson knows how to carry speed on fast open sections, but will need to find a little extra horsepower if he wants to move from his current 18th, into the top ten.
The luck of the Irish landed Greg Callaghan into the lucky number 13 spot after the first day of racing.
Pinned and committed, Damien Oton is holding onto fifth and trying to take as many points as he can out of the injured series leader Richie Rude.
Shade was rare out there today. Trying to keep cool and hydrated was a huge challenge.
The elite men take refuge from the sun at the start of stage three.
Bloody arms and smiles for Greg Callaghan this evening. (He actually did this on the kids' track by the pits this morning, but who's counting?)
Blenki didn't have the best of days out there. He finished in 27th. He'll be on the gas tomorrow and could make up some time on stages four through six.
Rene Wildhaber is returning to form. The Swiss Muscle sits in 12th place, but was still caught and passed by Jared Graves on stage three.
Fifteenth this evening for Robin Wallner, who was another rider who came alive on the long third stage.
Remy Absalon is currently sitting in seventh, and still within striking distance of the podium if he can turn it up a notch on Sunday.
After a resurgence of form in La Thuile, Curtis Keene seems to have finally hit his stride and is riding to his true potential once again. Fourth on day one and only one second off Martin Maes and the final podium position. Could we possibly see a double podium for Specialized tomorrow with Jared and Curtis?
If the rocks don't get you, the trees will. One racer found out the hard way, what happens when you get too close to the broken branches of a pine tree.
Jared Graves dropped the hammer today. He finished 21.30 seconds up on the rest of the field. The Aussie could take his first win of the season tomorrow.
Martin Maes takes the fast route over a drainage on stage one. Maes sits in third after day one.
Flying Flo pushing through the flat grass turns at the bottom of stage one.
Jerome Clementz sits in sixth after day one and reckons he can make up a couple spots come tomorrow.
Rude raced today, essentially blind and injured. He sits in 41st.
Despite sitting out day two of practice (after getting stitches in his arm), Francois Bailly-Maitre is up to 28th today.
It's another slightly off weekend for Florian Nicolai. So far, eighth this evening and he seems to have the snap missing from his riding at the moment.
Toni Ferreiro suffered a big mechanical on stage three and finds himself well off the back this evening,
If the flat tire wasn't enough...
...The mesh netting caught up in this rider's gears must surely have been the final straw.
Richie Rude is a man of steel. Todd Schumlick checks out the Champ's range of motion after a day of racing with an injured shoulder.
Today was a battle for this guy...
...But, championships are won by riders who are able make the most out of their worst days.
That's how you end a good day of racing. A good old fashioned American cheeseburger and a pile of fruit.
Curtis heads to the final time check of the day - confident that he's on his A-Game here in Aspen.
Always calm and collected, Nico Lau isn't stressed one bit, despite sitting in second spot with a host of hungry riders breathing right down his neck.
Halfway to the goal this man set for himself here in Aspen. With three stages raced and three convincing wins, it looks like it is Jared's to lose tomorrow. No one else is even close.