Round 3 is well underway here in Austria and the day started like Bambi on ice even for some of the most experienced of riders... or a newborn calf descending a steep and slippery alpine meadow at best. After a night of heavy rain, thick and soupy mountain fog reduced visibility and kept things extra moist for the first riders on track, and few had a clue where they were going on the fresh-cut course. For those unlucky souls it was a mostly a case of following the herd and tentatively stomping down the hill until ruts formed and some grip was finally found while the clouds burned away in the summer sun. By the time elite men were on track at noon, it still wasn't to be plain sailing, however.
The abundance of new and heavily altered sections was tripping up the big-timers from the get-go, not least the ultra-wide and off-camber straight following the first turn. Of course, it didn't take many laps before we were seeing some heinous displays of speed; it never does, and by the time we'd had our afternoon coffee and kaiserschmarrn, timed training was upon us and riders were pushing the limits. Loic Bruni set the fastest lap of the day with a 3:18, followed by a return to top flight form for Mike Jones and fresh elite, Finn Iles. Rachel Atherton looked to be in a league of her own in the women's field, but without flogging dead horses we all know timed training isn't fully revealing. Still, whoever is 'on it' clearly means business, so let the speculation begin.
Will Gwin make it four on the trot? Will Seagrave defend her crown/tiara?