This morning as the sun rose, obscured from view, many of us may have had a notion of how things would pan out today. Jolanda Neff had the strength and skills to take the win, but not without a fight. That much proved true for many of us. The other side of the coin was whether or not Nino Schurter would walk away with an easy first win of the season. That proved not true. Jaroslav Kulhavey had other plans of how today would shake down. Needless to say, there was some very exciting racing in the woods of Nove Mesto today.
Will it hold? We've seen many rainy World Cups before and the predictions were not that good.
Red Bull always brings out the fighting bulls for a good "half time show."
Race watchers came out in all kinds of costumes. These guys were singing "hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go" in Czech.
On the line and concentrated, Grant Ferguson.
Smells of lotion and sounds of buzzing tyres fill the air as riders warm up for the start of the men's U23 race.
With two minutes to go, Grant Ferguson and Anton Cooper ran off to water the grass.
There's no easy start in cross-country racing. Either go flat out, or you're out straight away. Pablo Rodriguez takes the holeshot.
Grant Ferguson leads in the first lap. The Scottish rider set a furious pace.
Heavy rains last night changed the course slightly, yet it remained in an excellent shape. Riders will have to be careful of slippery roots and rocks though as a slight drizzle keeps them wet.
Riders everywhere in the forest. Slightly confusing isn't it?
Lars Forster puts the hammer down in the 2nd lap. The Swiss rider battled up front throughout the race.
This marshall found a better spot. Nice and quiet, far from the pesky crowds.
A strong Sam Gaze seemed to be on his way to victory, Lars Forster battling to keep his wheel towards the highest point on course.
A fair share of riders had transmission issues, both with SRAM and Shimano drivetrains. Broken chains, dropped chains and...dropped batteries as some mechanics found it wise not to secure the Di2 battery inside the seat post.
The men's U23 race was a close battle, with Forster leading and Gaze, Ferguson and Frischknecht right on his back.
Multitasking is no problem. Filming and blowing the horn. The only thing missing is a selfie stick.
Lars Forster takes the win in the men's U23 race in Nove Mesto.
Lars Forster's post-battle face.
Lars Forster's 1x11 mechanical XTR equipped wheeler.
Pauline Ferrand Prevot and Oscar Saiz, prior to the women elite's start. Oscar Saiz provides valuable coaching, taking Pauline's skills to the next level.
Emily Batty, relaxed before the women's elite race.
Transponders awaiting pickup for the women's elite race.
Jolanda Neff was all smiles at the start.
Pauline Prevot kept it going to third place today.
Neff was way out front when things got technical. She had the skills to force a fast pace.
Catharine Pendrel finds her way around on the big nasty Midas rock garden. Pendrel finished forth.
Jolanda's slightly muddy legs proved mighty strong today.
New and old generation battle for top honours.
Gunn-Rita brought out the firepower and gave Neff a run for her money on Several occasions.
Throughout the race, Jolanda and Gunn-Rita remained close. Neff's downhill skills were a notch above Dahle-Flesjaa's however.
Bad luck means bad results. Early technicals put many riders out of the running.
Gun Rita making the single track look easy.
Neff showing she can boost the gaps on BMX like the big guns.
With one lap to go, Neff stepped up her game. Dahle-Flesjaa beaten.
Gasping for air at the top of the course, reigning World Champ Catharine Pendrel had a tough start but managed to make it up the field again.
Annika Langvad finding her rhythm in the Midas rock garden. She finished fifth.
Bec Henderson had a solid ride today. She finished eighth, her best result in elite to date.
Many expected Jolanda Neff to ride for victory, few named Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa on their list for today.
Jolanda Neff's gone.
Gunn-Rita coming out of Rock and Roll and chasing Neff down to the finish.
Looking back with meters to go to the finish line, Jolanda realises she's bagged the first win.
Eva Lechner takes a moment to gather herself.
Victory, sweet victory.
The crowds are what makes Nove Mesto such an awesome venue. Cheering for every single rider. Absolutely amazing.
A quick joke between Marco and Jose before things get serious.
The sheer speed on the men's start is an incredible scene to witness. An electrifying atmosphere in Nove Mesto.
Jaroslav Kulhavy means business today.
Julien Absalon might not have taken the top spot, but with a full season ahead, where he ends up is anyone's guess.
Teeth clenched and pound up one of the long grinding climbs.
Kulhavy takes a look back to assess the damage he was doing.
Nino just couldn't keep it going today. Kulhavy went down, but kept coming back swinging.
Manny Fumic entering the waterfall.
Czechs love beer. And all sorts of booze for that matter. Sanitary stops all over the forest.
Another lap done, another change of position. Nino Schurter tries to attack on the climb, but Jaroslav Kulhavy followed.
Nove Mesto's forest was absolutely packed with spectators. Schurter's cheered to the top.
Julien Absalon rode to a respectable third place today.
There is always encouragement in the woods of Nove Mesto.
There are MTB fans, then there are Czech MTB fans. They are unlike any other.
The rock garden in Nove Mesto provides plenty of different lines.
Ralph Naef keeping it low.
A strong Matthias Fluckiger going flat out in the descent.
Jaroslav leads, Schurter trails behind.
Crazy crowds and riders who give them what they want. Hell yeah.
Schurter and Kulhavy kept battling throughout the race. Schurter led most of the race, untill he had to let go.
The sound machine.
Kulhavy had the legs and the tactics to take the wind out of Schurter's sails. Nothing is sweeter than a win in front of the home crowd.
Eyes burning and gasping for air. That's when you know you left nothing in the tank. Mathias Fluckiger rode to fifth.
Mantecon and Hermida say "sometimes it's a good race, sometimes it's bad and some times you look for a modga." Or something like that.
The loamy soil of Nove Mesto caked on the legs like concrete.
MENTIONS: @Specialized, @SCOTT-Sports, @Cannondale
About the PhotographersMatthew Delorme • Age: 40 • Years Shooting: 8 Matthew DeLorme is just one of Pinkbike’s motley crew of World Cup photographers. He currently lives out of a Ogio bag, and calls the road his home. Delorme works for Trek Bicycle, covering their MTB racing programs. He can usually be found laying in the dirt trackside, cracking jokes and saying things that make little to no sense. He enjoys capturing accessory moments and the journey every bit as much as catching the action shot. Irmo Keizer • Age: 36 • Years Shooting: 10 Irmo Keizer has been mountain biking since high school. Irmo loves nature, technical trails and landscapes and dislikes too many race lines and fire roads. Irmo has a strong passion for all sorts of mountain bike disciplines ranging from cross country, to enduro and downhill. Combining his passion of mountain biking and photography ten years ago, Irmo has been working as a photographer/editor in mountain biking ever since.