No need to sugar coat things. It is rough and raw out there on the slopes of Lenzerheide, and when the clock started ticking away for real today things really started to get wild. While the track may look basic from afar, it really is a totally different monster up close. Even more so when you point a bike down it while racing the clock. After a sunbaked day of practice, the surface has completely come undone, and where there once was sculpted hardpack is now dust and loose rock of all sizes. Berms end in massive holes and inside lines are littered with marbles, giving rider after rider trouble as they try to push just a little harder each run.
No one said it's easy, and after a quick poll of the top ten, it seems as if no one really feels like they are going all that fast. Most claim to feel as if they are struggling to find flow, and are on the brakes almost the whole way down. That sounds quite remarkable considering that for those stood trackside, riders are coming past at speeds usually only seen at Fort William and Mont Sainte Anne. So whoever can conquer the combination of breakneck speed, shifting rocks, and the constant struggle to slow down will be the one who comes out on top here.
Only in the Junior field did things go to plan, or rather as expected. It was Finn Iles once again on top with the usual crew of French, British, and American youngsters hot on his heals. Times are tight, and with a track that forgives no mistakes, it is still very much up for grabs tomorrow. In the Women's we finally saw an end put to Rachel Atherton's recent dominance, even if only by a slim 0.4 seconds as Tahnee Seagrave took top honors in qualifying. Also in the mix for the first time this season is Myriam Nicole, who came 3rd in her first World Cup of the season to slide in just ahead of Tracey Hannah and Manon Carpenter.
On the men's side things got interesting right from the start as Aaron Gwin had a huge crash over The Plunge after running second at the first two splits, eventually finishing outside the top ten. The ever consistent Danny Hart took the opportunity to pounce and nailed home a scorching fast time to end the day at the top of the result sheet, while everyone's favorite loose Kiwi, George Brannigan, made quick work of the sketchiness to land in 2nd. We also saw a few other fresh faces up near the top, with Laurie Greenland and Adam Bryton showing well. Mikes Jones is in the mix, as well as Troy Brosnan, Connor Fearon, Brook MacDonald and Remi Thirion. In fact, times are so close that the top ten are only separated by a scant 3.5 seconds. So when you factor in Gwin and protected riders like Mick Hannah and Bernard Kerr, who had crashes or mechanicals, it's shaping up to be a big battle for tomorrow's podium.
Strap yourself in, hold on tight, and try not to blink. It's going to be a wild ride here in Lenzerheide tomorrow afternoon.
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