It's always exciting to be at a new venue and all the unknowns that it brings. After the fresh and untested track puzzled more than a few riders during the training yesterday, the pace began to pick up significantly during today's training and run up to qualifying. A few riders showed their cards in timed training, but for the most part everyone was yet to play their hand and show what kind of speed they able to harvest from the West Virginia woods. But once the clock began to tick over for real there would be no place to hide.
First up would be the junior men and women and newly crowned world champs Vali Holl and Kye A'hern. Kye is racing in the rainbow jersey for the first and only time as he moves up to elite at the close of the season. When the clocks were stopped it would be the two World Champions who would lead the charge with the fastest times, and they will be looking to close out their junior racing career on a high note. The second and third spots would go to Anna Newkirk and Mille Johnset for the junior women, and Janosch Klaus and America's own Matthew Sterling in junior men's.
With no points up for grabs at the final round, qualifying meant a bit less for the elite men and women, but that didn't mean riders weren't charging. Hard efforts are always put in so that racers can analyze split times and break the track down to find sections where they need to find time vs. sections they can know they have their lines dialed. Pushing in qualifying and learning from the result is a big part of putting together a winning run on race day.
For the women, it would be Tracey Hannah who would best her rival in the points, Marine Cabirou, by just over 2 seconds to set up a showdown in tomorrow's final that will come down to the final two runs of the season. World Champ Myriam Nicole would come third with Vero Widmann and Sian A'Hern rounding out the top 5.
In the elite men's qualifier Danny Hart would pip World Champ and World Cup points leader, Loic Bruni, by 0.25 seconds to take top honors, while American racer Charlie Harrison would take a crowd-pleasing third. The always consistent Troy Brosnan would come 4th, just ahead of Greg Williamson. We will have to wait another day to see how the rivalry between Loic and his rival for the overall, Amaury Pierron, plays out as Amaury finished well down the list in qualifying at each split.
The Americans racers did not disappoint the hometown crowds either, as they claimed 4 of the top 9 positions. Charlie Harrison as previously mentioned came down in third, followed by Luca Shaw and Dakotah Norton in 6th and 7th respectively, and a career-best 9th for Bruce Klein. You can rest assured the local crowd will have plenty to cheer about tomorrow.