The long-awaited action is underway here in the Austrian Alps and those fortunate enough to be in attendance were more fortunate still to find themselves under blue skies. Certainly it was a far more hospitable hillside than that experienced for track walk yesterday. That being said, the sideways rain all day and further deluges throughout the night took their toll on the re-invented course. As expected, it was the unlucky women and juniors who faced the worst of the conditions before the sun had a chance to cast its healing rays and importantly, before any ruts had developed to help hold riders' wheels between the tape.
After practice, the ruts in many sections were unlike anything we have seen for several years on this signature hard packed course. Many parts of the course were actually resembled a motocross track more than anything in the pedal-powered domain. A couple of crash barriers were added to the wooden bridges in the steep woods and, in general, riders coped much better than some feared they would yesterday. Still, easy it was not and the substantial new developments combined with some very dicey weather in the pipeline might just be the thing to mess up the usual danger men and women at this established venue and produce the most exciting kind of racing at its unpredictable best.
Steep, axle-deep ruts, greasy roots caked in heavy mud... explosive trees. This really is Leogang not as we know it. Don't forget the stakes for qualifying runs tomorrow just went up significantly following the UCI's latest announcement. If the snow makes a serious appearance it is the seeding result that will stand so it's unlikely riders will want to holding back on a run that could potentially be their only shot at the rainbows. Exciting times ahead no doubt about it.