After dodging a bullet the past three years at Fort William with dry mostly dry and sunny weather, that string of good luck just ran out. With near constant rain falling on Thursday during Track Walk, overnight Thursday night and all day on Friday, the track in Fort William has probably received a year's worth of moisture in a brief 48 hour period. There is standing water on the track where we have never seen it in previous years, and many of the upper corners have rivers running across them. In fact, the track is pretty much one big river top to bottom right now. Years of erosion on most of the track actually played in the riders' favor when the monsoon rains hit, as the track is almost completely void of any dirt on its upper slopes and the running water keeps the rocks clean and fairly grippy. The only really exceptional sloppiness being found is in the lower woods where the mud is making a proper mess of things. And if the rain ever does let up it will get even worse below the tree line. As with any wet race, the biggest challenge is with vision as riders try to clear mud with tear off or roll off systems, as well as avoid fogging later in the run as the humidity sets in. Grip on most of the track in Fort William is not an issue, and many sections ride better a bit damp anyway.
Unfortunately, the biggest news of the day is not good news after the women's World Cup leader, Tahnee Seagrave, went down hard and will be out of the running for a few weeks with a shoulder injury. Preliminary reports point to a dislocation at the very least, but she will have further scans over the next two days to access the extent of the damage. And with Myriam Nicole also out with injury, the women's field is now down two of its best racers for the foreseeable future.
As practice went on and the weather began to worsen, many riders began to dial it back a few notches and it was hard to tell who was really standing out from the crowd. Usually, standing trackside, you can get a feel for who is on form, but right now, it seems many are keeping their cards close to their chest. Sure, you could look at Timed Training, but with many riders stopping to check out lines, or rolling through sections slowly, we're not really going to get an accurate snapshot of who is where.
Tomorrow's qualifying runs will be a different story, and we are going to have to wait until then to see who has the pace on this wet and wild Fort William track.