Like kids on Christmas, the elite athletes, called to duty by their countries, drew back the curtains on this hallowed World Champs morning wondering what kind of scene that might greet them. Of course, when they saw only pitch darkness, they remembered that the race is at least a month later than it should be and the planet has begun to tilt well out of favor with the Northern Hemisphere. But peering through the gloom, they could tell the much-hyped and feared forecast had, in fact, not materialised and covered the ground in yuletide joy. It would not be a powder day after all. Vali Höll and Loris Vergier were probably very disappointed they didn't have an automatic gold following their qualifying wins, and sharing the disappointment was anybody who didn't like wet feet or those not packing a spare peak or two in the kit bag.
It's seems fair to declare this race about as close to pure carnage as they come. The woods were mashed up beyond all recognition from the perfectly crafted, fresh-cut state we found it in for trackwalk. Heck, even the infamously hard-pack motorway was developing supercross ruts, even before another round of significant rain. As if it wasn't tough enough out there, women and juniors took to the track this morning in incredibly dark conditions. The biggest crash of the weekend came quickly, and unfortunately it happened to the favorite for women's gold, Vali Höll, taking her out of the running. The only female to attempt the canyon gap for that session with its deteriorating run-in, she came up short by about a meter with explosive results; a huge OTB, ripped ligaments and a fractured ankle.
To defend the coveted stripes, Myriam Nicole's main aim was to stay on her bike. It would be a simple enough plan at most races... too simple probably, but not here. Not this time. Her plan failed and like so many she couldn't tame the woods. Silver would have to do. Tahnee Seagrave's big comeback was so nearly fairytale, first at all the splits, only to also fall foul in the depths of the forest and its vile ruts. Usual suspects, Tracey Hannah and Marine Cabirou, also missed the mark on clean runs, and instead Monika Hrastnik stepped up for a bronze medal. Gold then went quite unexpectedly to Switzerland. Camille Balanche rode the cleanest and now wears the rainbows for the remaining World Cups and the 2021 season to come.
Sharing gold medals with Balanche was Scotland's Reece Wilson in the elite men. Tipped for the top by those who witnessed his finesse in the steep woods or the earlier stump-littered war-zone, Wilson still seemed like a wild-card option, but in this topsy-turvy, barn-burner of race anything did suddenly seem possible. Not to say that anything other than unadulterated bicycle brilliance could win this race. Following on from his Crankworx Innsbruck win, Austria's own David Trummer did his countryfolk proud and rampaged to silver while DH 'steep and messy' specialist, Frenchman Remy Thirion, answered the call and romped into the bronze medal position. Chances are we'll be talking about Worlds 2020 for a while. It was a lot to take in.