Rain, mud, ruts, and roots were the predominant themes of the day as the predicted storms rolled into Leogang just in time to wreak havoc on both the track and the riders. While yesterday we all worked on our suntans as the track dried out to perfection, today everyone was left scrambling for umbrellas, rain jackets, and most importantly some fresh tires of the spiked variety.
With a plethora of ruts laid down during practice, and most of the fresh dirt already scraped clean, the track rode incredibly well despite the near constant rainfall throughout the day. The open clearcut section was by far the most difficult with its exposed roots and multiple off cambers, but for riders who could thread the needle and stay out of the holes, it was an area where lots of time could be gained. Get it wrong however and you would lose that time tenfold.
As is the case whenever the weather acts up, we were graced with a bunch of new faces at or near the top spots once the clock started ticking and riders set off to do battle in qualifying. The first true test of who had the speed versus who needed to go back to the drawing board. First up it would be the Junior men, who at the midpoint of the season have quite a competitive battle on their hands for the top spots. And to drive that point home even further we saw a new face out front in Elliot Heap, and a rider we have not seen much from in second by the name of Sylvain Cougoreux. Current series leader, Finn Iles, would finish back in 6th with the usual suspects filling in the spots between them and the leaders.
For the women, it was all about Rachel Atherton once again in the top spot, but this week her closest challenger is Tahnee Seagrave. After sitting out Fort William, Tahnee is still not operating at 100% but is obviously feeling up to the fight this weekend. Manon Carpenter slid into third followed by Canadian rider, Miranda Miller, who is always a podium threat when she turns up to a World Cup. Tracey Hannah rounded out the top 5 with a run that she reckons left a lot of room to improve on.
The final battle of the day was the Elite Men on a track that at this point had been truly battered and beaten, and with the weather deciding to add to the fun by turning up the rain just a little bit higher. To many it was a surprise to see Aaron Gwin come out on top as rain and mud have never treated him well, but as champions do he raised his game for the occasion. The biggest surprise, however, came from second place finisher Loris Vergier who laid down the fastest top three splits before catching Josh Bryceland in the bottom rock garden, in turn losing a few seconds through the bottom bit. Keeping with the theme of fresh blood threatening the podium it was Mike Jones in 3rd, followed by Hart, Minnaar, and Fairclough. Lots of protected riders like Ratboy and Connor Fearon had big crashes and finished way down the order, while a few other top performers from last week struggled to make it into the top 20 here in Leogang.
With more scattered weather forecast for tomorrow and a deteriorating track that may struggle to hold any more moisture, you'd be a fool not to skip work, or sleep, or your significant other's birthday to log in and watch it all go down live tomorrow afternoon. Will anyone knock Rachel off the top spot or will she make it 10 wins in a row? Will we see our 4th winner in as many races in the men's? Your guess is as good as ours.