Photo Epic presented by ODI
Another hot and dusty day in Northstar started with an unorthodox schedule that saw riders practice stage four in the morning before racing stages one and two in the afternoon. Something different for riders, as they would have to change their mindset from the morning to the afternoon, but that offered a chance to spread the racing out a bit and enabled some time for recovery - and it avoided the hottest hours of the day, which at this altitude, was a very welcome opportunity.
For the women, it would be Isabeau Courdurier who would take back to back stage wins to set up a commanding lead before Sunday's final four stages. Behind her would be Noga Korem who placed 2nd on each of the stages and ended the day just 11 seconds back. That's a lot of time to make up on these short stages, but should Isabeau make any kind of mistake (like she did in Whistler) it will be costly. Andreane Lanthier-Nadeau sits in 3rd another 12 seconds down on Noga's time, but only four seconds ahead of Ines Thoma, who is looking to steal the final podium spot.
In the men's race, it would be Richie Rude who would smoke the field by seven seconds on stage one with Martin Mae's and Sam Hill in tow. But on Stage two Sam Hill would return the favor to take back 6 seconds from Rude. Setting up what will hopefully be a close battle on Sunday as Richie only holds down a scant one second lead with four stages still to play for. Behind them, there are a few names we don't always see in and around the top ten, namely Mitch Ropelato who currently sits 3rd and Cody Kelley who is currently 9th. In the battle for the podium positions Martin Maes ended the day just off the pace but only one second off of Ropelato, so you can be sure he will be on the hunt tomorrow. The biggest news of the day, however, wasn't good, as Eddie Masters went down hard on stage two and is out with what looks to be a broken wrist. Sadly, we may not see Eddie again at either a World Cup or an EWS this season.
The man who stands to capitalize the most, however, is Sam Hill. He now has one less man to chase down for the championship. That man is Florian Nicolai, who is having a disaster of a weekend and currently sits 19th. Should Sam keep on his current late-season form and Florian not able to match his early season pace, it is very likely that we may see Sam Hill take his 3rd world title in a row after all things are said and done in Zermatt next month.