By Jay de Jesus
Day 1 training is complete and the intensity is here. DH and XC courses are burning in nicely, both with some new features for this year. A wet spring has created some unique challenges, and the course builders have done an excellent job making a World Cup-worthy venue.
Recent rains have left some tough mud bogs in spots, and the DH rut are developing and changing rapidly as more than 200 of the world’s fastest DH riders are pushing the absolute limits of traction and smashing new lines in. Ride, walk, watch and smash was the order as DH training heats and more secret lines are uncorked. Major psych-up and showing of true speed is beginning in this morning’s training session as riders ramp up towards today’s afternoon qualifier. XC training has revealed a true mountain bikers course as the steep rock sections have seeping water and mud to shake up the pack, while the uphills are fast and dusty.
Late in yesterday’s top-80 seeded rider DH training session, many eyes were on US hope and World Cup points leader Aaron Gwin as he upped his pacing. Looking fast, smooth and composed and riding with a helmet cam, his eyes were no-doubt locking in on making history. With the fastest run during yesterday’s timed training session Aaron laid the first blow to his competitors, and a win here will unanimously change the town’s name to Gwindham!
Late night in the pits is a buzz with factory mechanics doing complete teardowns of suspension and chassis, creative tire cutting, and overhauls, all in search of the elusive time advantage. Tire choice for all athletes will be crucial as the weekend unfolds, and rains are possible tonight. DH Qualifying results to be posted this afternoon.