A familiar venue and an unfamiliar track greeted riders in Les Gets for the second round of the UCI World Cup Downhill. On race hill that for years has been synonymous with open grass corners and high speeds, often mimicking the layout of an alpine ski race, the organizers have none a near-complete 180 and designed a layout almost entirely in the trees. There are few open sections that pay tribute to the classic image of Les Gets, but they are mostly straight traverses with jumps and step-downs, not the drifting off-cambers we've come to expect here. In their place, riders will tackle some extremely steep woods, nearly all freshly cut and littered with hundreds and hundreds of roots. The surface is fresh loamy dirt that will surely be scrubbed off during the first day of training, and what lies beneath is really anyone's guess right now.
The biggest variable on top of the fresh and surely ever-changing track is the weather. Like in the previous round at Leogang, it has been raining in this region of the French Alps on a near-daily basis, and the ground is beyond saturated. It is soft and muddy and quite wet in many spots, and as soon as tires hit the dirt here there is going to be carnage. Once fast racing lines emerge, the topsoil pushed to the side and becoming rutted through the corners, the track should hopefully take shape for riders to find the speed and flow they are after. But right now, where those lines will form is anyone's guess. It might dry out a bit and be insanely fast, it may rain some more and be a sloppy mess, but regardless it will be anything but straightforward and will reward the riders who can attack with risky and creative lines and adapt on the fly, run after run, to changing conditions. Don't be surprised to see a few surprises in the finish order when the clock starts ticking in a few days' time.