At long last, after what's felt like an eternity of anticipation and Instagramming, we end the colourful parading of patriotic kit and dazzling trinkets and put these machines to their intended use... Bikes have met the dirt. Paint jobs that might well have cost more than your bike itself were christened today in the Italian loam and root nests, some a little more thoroughly than others. This could be the driest we've ever seen Val di Sole since it appeared on the international scene in 2008, and the lack of any moisture whatsoever, beyond an edge of morning dew, is pulling the course to pieces in spectacular fashion. Lines are changing relentlessly and so is the light... That is, if riders are lucky enough to see through the dust from the rider before.
As the sun tracks across the sky, dark shadows and blown-out sunspots move drastically to reveal or hide the countless man-traps strewn the length of the track. Even supposed 'soft' and 'loamy' sections can often prove false friends, with jagged spikes... sharks if you like, submerged below the 'pow'. Some riders dove head-on into the madness, pumping out six, perhaps even seven runs at considerable pace, while others eased into it and ticked off a couple of laps while deliberating long and hard as to the optimum route. Well, to each their own... they've got time. Let's take a look at the festivities.