By: Colin Meagher
The promise to be an amazing and rainless day quickly went to shit courtesy of Mother Nature. The skies opened up just as the riders started to get into the track. The gorgeous, drifty-loose duff covering most of the track stayed dry where sheltered by the trees, but elsewhere it turned into a chocolate-fudge batter and had most of the riders curtail practice.
"Yeah, I'm not into it," said Tracy Moseley as she sauntered down the track. "I'll put in a few more runs in the morning and get it dialed."
With few exceptions, that feeling was unanimous amongst the riders. During the elite practice, minutes would go by between riders taking to the track. Most riders just opted to walk the track and scope the lines rather than risk a crash on the steep, greasy, and technically challenging track.
Bike wash with two hoses and some friendly rivalries spell a bit of a wet time.
Tons of rocks, many of them hidden in the duff of the upper section of the track, meant the Mavic boys were busy truing and building wheels for their riders and teams.
Not quite as steep as Champery, but after a day of burning the brakes, it never hurts to bleed 'em a bit.
Emmeline Ragot has her eye on one thing: another ''W''. She has potential here: it's a steep track with technical skills required and not too much pedaling--perfect for the diminutive French woman.
But the lucky ladybug glued to Ragot's top tube certainly doesn't hurt.
Number 3, Sam Blenkinsop will be a rider to watch this weekend. The Kiwi is rapidly establishing himself as consistent podium threat.
Luke Strobel and Brook MacDonald of Evil rolling out to practice.
Chad Rooney, the dirt farmer, taking in line choice during practice.
Danny Hart, hoping to turn plate number 13 into lucky number 13.
Line choice during the early part of practice is always a bugbear. Riders will ride, park and watch, hike back up and ride a tough section all over again, all in an effort to find the flow.
A win and a new bike may be all Emmeline Ragot needs to keep the confidence level at 11.
Matti Lehikoinen working over line choice.
As riders came from wet sections of track into the thick, loose duff under the trees, tires--even mud spikes--would pack up, making training on a tough track damn tricky business.
Andrew ''Needles'' Neethling was one of the riders to lap the hill during the elite practice, but even he threw in the towel after just two runs.
With the kind of traffic hitting the track this morning sketchy root lines began to emerge, making line choice an even dicier proposition in the wet.
Four-Cross practice, however, took place without the rain--which had actually tacked the track up a fair bit. For the most part, though, riders had a good time burning in lines and practicing the pro line in the middle.
"I spent a bit of time scoping passing lines in the corner after the pro line and in the rock garden the next corner up," stated Joost Wichman. "For sure, that's where it's going to be interesting in the later rounds."
Few riders at this World Cup stand a chance of beating Jared Graves on the opening straight, making this the Yeti rider's race to lose.
Joost Wichman is one of the few who may be able to take Graves, although not in the opening straight, he conceded: ''Too much pedaling for me. Jared will own that part of the track. Hopefully I can make a pass lower down.''
The baby-faced assassin, Romain Saladini, is another rider who might just be able to edge out Graves... maybe.
Look for a qualifying report tomorrow.