By: Colin Meagher
Hot, humid, and dusty as all hell; that's the conditions found on the hill here at Mont-Sainte-Anne. Most unusual. But the bugs are still out in force in the woods. Some things never change here.
World Champs. It is a madhouse of activity. Trying to see everything here is like juggling flaming chainsaws. It isn't just the meat and potatoes of racing—Downhill, 4X, and Elite XC racing, but also Trials, U23 XC races, Junior races, Junior DH racing…you get the picture.
So the meat and potatoes: Elite XC, elite DH, and 4X.
XC racing. The track has undergone a few adjustments to make this a more television and spectator event. Gone are a number of sweet single-track sections; instead they've been cut wide enough to accommodate a Mack truck. In addition, the first section of track has been abbreviated, as have some of the lower loops that transitioned riders to the east end of the track. Riders aren't too put out, though; rather the stoke level is on high—racing at Worlds is a dream come true for many, and a challenge relished by many of the others.
One thing new to the XC track, though, is the dust. It's been dry here for the past month, and despite the sticky humidity, the track is bone dry and blown out in a number of places. This is atypical for Mont-Sainte-Anne. In fact, a bit of rain would be welcomed by most racers, despite the regular soakings seen by all the racers traveling the World Cup Circuit. That wish is likely to be granted, courtesy of Hurricane Earl, which is even now working its way up the east coast on a track to soak the eastern Canadian provinces.
In 4X, it's shaping up to be a victory romp for Jared Graves, and an affirmation ride for Caroline Buchanan. One potential obstacle for Graves is Roger Rinderknecht. Roger qualified first today; the only other time he's done that this season was at Val di Sole, and he won that event. For her part, Buchanan claimed the fastest qualifying time, showing that she not only has a powerful start from her BMX racing, but the handling skills to take on the rock garden.
On the Downhill side of the equation, a timed run was held Thursday for the racers—basically a qualifying race that doesn't really matter as everyone gets into the race. Which actually makes that race a pressure cooker: there is no quali run for confidence building, rather it's all or nothing come Sunday. As to that qualifying run, Tracy Moseley and Greg Minnaar held a "how to" clinic on the steep slopes of the Sainte-Anne Massif. Other riders fairing well were Sabrina Jonnier and Emmeline Ragot for the women, and Gee Atherton as well as Aaron Gwin. But as this was just a timed training run, these results don't really matter at all. Instead, it's all eyes on the race on Sunday.