Carnage was the word of the day. All it took was one miscalculated landing or the simple slip of a tire and suddenly there'd be broken bodies, bikes, and bits strewn everywhere. The jungle's a gnarly place, and even if the weather isn't playing havoc, it will find a way to let you know who's boss.
Three consecutive crashes on the same part of the track put an end to Group B practice, and closed the course for almost three hours. With no helicopter available to winch the broken riders out, the only option was the long and precarious walk to the nearest access road. Riders that were above the disaster zone got to join the Wait Awhile vines in the forest as the injured were evacuated.
Once the track was clear again, Group A practice dived straight into a tropical downpour, causing pile-ups in the rock garden and chaos on the rest of the greasy slopes. Aaron Gwin, Danny Hart, and Loic Bruni were perhaps the trio of standout performers amongst the action. Everybody was praying that the weather would hold up, but it looks like Mother Nature might want to stamp her dominance in the battlegrounds of Cairns once again.
Marshy up with the lark to get the Goat's rig ship-shape before the Syndicate is even out of bed.
To achieve the best of both worlds on the brakes, Greg Minnaar is running one metal pad and one resin pad together. The metal pad sits on the side that receives the best airflow for improved cooling (inside for front and outside for rear).
Rachel Atherton and Taylor Vernon are both using the crank-mounted Stages power meter to keep check of their output on track at a venue where you'll need to spin it to win it. The pedals that is.
Polish Pete hard at work in the Trek camp. Gee needs all the attention to detail he can muster up if he's going to have the chance of repeat successes out here in Aus.
Bontrager's anti-vibration arm keeps the Sessions stealth in the switchbacks.
Gee's grips with a generous amount of paste to keep them in place.
Specialized Gravity Republic mechanic, Jack, tuning Loic's brakes. The World Champ is running bladed spokes for the high-speed track.
Greg Minnaar fettles his GoPro app ready for a day of jungle warfare.
Marcello Gutierrez has his mechanic slice off the end of his SRAM shifter for a more comfortable fit with his apparently oversized thumbs.
How to be a World Cup mechanic in 5 simple steps. Shame we can't read the fifth one, now we'll never know.
Loris Vergier weighs up the great Cairns dilemma - dressing in a socially acceptable way versus remaining cool and comfortable. The choice was clear.
Remy Morton unloads his bike for the first run of the week.
Rachel Atherton drops into the rock garden bright and early for the first run of the week.
Elliot Jackson enjoys some of the only dust we may see this weekend.
Manon Carpenter charging through the upper switchbacks like she means it, taking the second fastest TT after the local girl.
A long course closure meant that many riders were stranded at the start gate for hours.
Brage Vestavik was one of the unlucky few who went down hard in practice. So far we have heard conflicting reports on him, but we wish him the best.
It wasn't until an hour later, after chatting and standing with spectators for an hour, that a paramedic convinced Brage that he needed a spinal board.
Baxter Maiwald wins the award for the heaviest crash of the day. 17 years old and racing his first ever World Cup, he plowed himself into the lip of the fastest jump on the track. Knocked out cold for a while, and a broken wrist, but he'll make a full recovery.
With multiple overshoots the track had to be altered to slow it down on the way into the triple
The lack of helicopter meant that injured riders had to be arduously carried away, a precarious and long journey to the 4WD ambulance.
Traction. Or lack there of. Cairns is being a bit fickle. We said this track needs to be wet to be really interesting. It's interesting now for sure. Just enough rain to cause havoc today.
It was a long, drawn-out affair for the media today as some huge crashes saw hour-long course holds and the weather failed to play nice for large portions of the day.
After the rain there were very, very few of the World's finest making it through the rock garden. If they weren't stalling or tripoding they were full on over the bars and face first into the slimy boulder field.
Brendan boosting the triple and pleasing the currently not-so-swollen crowds. Don't worry, they're on the way.
It seems that a few laps of Cairns during the Aussie summer and a course preview run might have helped Brosnan turn this track up to 11 from the off. That or being at least the third best rider on the planet.
Loic and Finn parked up to the side of the rocks watching the show, just about as clueless as everyone else how to navigate the jagged problem zone in the dark.
Bryceland in the air and fancy free... as ever.
Rachel Atherton on headed out into a beautiful morning for her first run.
Ratboy was having a heap of fun and loving the last few minutes of dust that we got to see.
Tahnee Seagrave was looking solid as always on track today. She was linking up the tight corners up top beautifully.
Thirion is more or less fully recovered from his Lourdes crash and is already back to old shred-master self, sharking his way to the 3rd fastest TT of the day.
A lot of people had fun out there today, none more so than Blenky who was in full send and style mode.
Tracey Hannah was feeling at home on home soil. First in timed training today.
Danny Hart was one of the fastest of the Group A elites to get up to speed today, making light work of the flat-out and loose as well as the tight and tech.
The Bulldog smashing and sliding his way past the alien tree.
Thibaut Ruffin rails the first berms of the week, looking down on the rainforest below.
Stevie Smith was one of the few to clear the rock garden first go. He was fourth in timed training.
Loic Bruni was in a league of his own today, quickly getting into the swing of things and riding the biggest lines on the track with ease.
The long course holds meant that there was plenty of time for riders to scope out the track
Dean Lucas will definitely be generating some decibels from Saturday's spectators, after crashing in spectacular style on his way to a potential top 15 at the last round.
Troy keeping things fun in timed practice.
Aaron Gwin making some shapes in the muck. Sixth in timed training for the man with the number one plate.
Mick Hannah would love nothing more than to time a big come-back with this WC stop on his home trails. He was looking pinned and comfortable all afternoon.
Mick was all smiles after a sloppy training session.
Sam Blenkinsop didn't gel brilliantly with Lourdes, but no doubt this Cairns course is much more his cup of tea. His run will be a 'must watch' whatever the clock says come the weekend.
Both Trek Factory XC and DH got together to greet the fans at the local Trek dealer tonight after practice.
It's a filthy job, but someone's gotta do it... MacDonald cleans up after a full-on afternoon in the trenches.
Here's to a full day of Aussie sun and a qualification without incident tomorrow.