By: Colin Meagher
It was a double fistful of British steel on the track in qualifying today with both Steve Peat and Tracy Moseley taking the top qualifying spots.
Steve Peat knew he had a good, solid, fast run, and taking the top qualifying spot was just icing on the cake.
"Yeah, I just felt 'on' during my run," claimed Peaty. "No major mistakes, just 'on'."
No real surprises in the rest of the men's field, other than the number of injured riders taking the track and the number of riders getting taken by the track: injured and riding? Greg Minnaar, Ben Reid, and Kyle Strait. Taken by the track? Mick Hannah. Word is a concussion and a damaged shoulder, possibly a broken collarbone.
In the Women's DH race, Sabrina Jonnier had a bit of a rough go, coming home 11.27 seconds off the lead pace set by Tracy Moseley. Sabo wasn't particularly focused on this morning's qualifying, as a protected rider she's automatically in the finals, and would need to finish less than fifteenth not to win the overall. Consequently, her main focus is a week away. However, coming in eleven seconds down was a bit of a slap, so look for Jonnier to have a bit more focus on Sunday. In her absence, Emmeline Ragot—who likes tight, twisty single track in the woods—was more than willing to challenge Moseley, but was still 4.51 seconds back from the powerful Trek rider, proving how much pedaling and carrying your speed on this track can make a difference.
As for Moseley, it's been a long time coming, and the Trek rider is coming into form just in time for one of her favorite tracks, Mt St Anne. But a win at Windham would definitely be a good confidence booster heading into Worlds.
The other news of today's qualifying: Greg Minnaar raced to fourth despite a hyper-extended elbow suffered in yesterday's practice. That position had the Syndicate rider coming home one spot ahead of Gee Atherton—good enough to pick up three valuable UCI points on Gee, but not enough points to re-take the lead before heading into Sunday's finals
For all the Sam Hill fans: Sam Hill did race, but the Monster Specialized rider is still stretching his legs, so to speak, as he attempts to come back from that nasty shoulder injury suffered back in late May at Fort William; Hill came home in thirty first position, but was a long ten seconds and change off the front. On a short track like this, that's miles away from a podium.
Seen on the way down to the start shack of the Downhill Track this morning...
An ecstatic SRAM crew rejoiced on the arrival of their espresso machine and were cracking out double shots first thing in the am. ''Europe spoiled the crew,'' dead panned top tech dog John Dawson, ''and I was forced to purchase one out of my own money or face a mutiny.''
A slight mishap on the way over from Colorado-in the form of a blown engine-saw a bit of a ghetto set-up for the typically ''pro'' Yeti crew.
Tear-offs? In this sunshine? ''Yeah, there are still some boggy bits in the middle; better to have them, I think,'' was Filip Polc of MS-Evil's explanation.
Steve Smith was unusually protective of his new D3 lid before heading out for the morning's practice. ''It's my baby. It keeps my brains safe.''
Bench test for Evil's Luke Strobel on the freshly overhauled front end of his Revolt.
30 second time gap at the start came down to 24.24 seconds by the finish as Emmeline Ragot flogged the hell out of her new steed in an effort to chase down Sabrina Jonnier in qualifying.
Tracy Moseley came alive in the qualifying, screaming into the finish at 3:01.87, + 4.51 over Ragot. And since she rode around the road gap, she's still got a few extra seconds in the tank for Sunday.
Talent runs deep. Rachel Atherton missed most of the World Cup season, and still carried plate number 7 in qualifying. But the time off the bike has the Atherton rider looking for 10 and a quarter lost seconds from today's qualifying run. Good enough for fourth, but Rachel's never one to settle for anything but the top step; no doubt she'll be walking the track with brother Gee today, looking for those lost seconds.
Jill Kintner officially attended her first World Cup as a competitor and isn't even going anywhere close to the 4X track. The reigning US DH National Champ qualified easily, coming home tenth on the day.
Gee Atherton had a bit of a rough go, coming home +3.01 seconds back from Steve Peat, but more importantly, .72 seconds back from Minnaar, allowing the Syndicate rider to narrow the gap for the overall to only four points.
Hyper-extended elbow courtesy of an inadvertent tree hugging incident be damned; Minnaar wants it. An injury that would have most riders sidelined for at least a week wasn't enough to do much more than slow the Syndicate frontman down from nearly untouchable to mortal speed.
Evidently the lack of quality pits had Aaron Gwin a bit hungry, as he qualified second today.
Perhaps grabbing too much of this had Mark Beaumont off the pace by 3.84 seconds.
Six gears and that special 9 speed cog weren't enough to keep Brendan Fairclough from flatting in the upper section of the track; Brendawg was 91st on the day and 21 seconds down. As a top 20 rider, he's still in the finals, though.
With Minnaar in the hurt locker, Peaty stepped it up big and took the top spot qualifying with a 2:35.59 show stopper.
Sam Hill did qualify, but the Monster-Specialized rider is definitely not in form; thirty first on the day for Mr Hill.
The show of the walking wounded was amazing to watch. Ben Reid with torn cartilage in his wrist; Minnaar and his hyper-extended elbow, and here, Kyle Strait pulling his accidental Michael Jackson homage in order to ride with a brace on his broken hand.
It's been six long years since Thomas Vanderham has graced a World Cup track, but ''the Kid'' brought it home in fifty second today. ''I've been racing a bit this season,'' confessed the Evil rider. He'll make an appearance at Mont-Sainte-Anne, next week to represent the Maple Leaf on home turf.
Not everyone was excited about the World Cup racing here in Windham; hopefully there's a bit more excitement come Sunday.