After a little bit of overnight rain here at Mont Sainte Anne the track was a little slick first thing this morning. B practice riders had the early morning session from 8-11am and were pumping out the runs thanks to the quick turn around time of the gondola. This trail dries out really well and the only evidence of the rain were a few puddles, it was super moody with a thick blanket of fog rolling higher and higher up the mountain. Overall it was shaping up to be a nice day…

Well, Mother Nature has a thing or two to say about racing bikes at Mont Sainte Anne, it seems every year a major weather event rolls through and today was the day. An epic rain storm with thunder and lightning began just as the first Elite men and top Juniors dropped in, most photographers scrambled to keep their gear dry as there was only a 30% chance of rain forecast.

All the athletes began descending down the hill after about 15 minutes of deluge and it seemed like we might of been in the clear, the sun even made a brief appearance and a light drizzle had settled in which was easy to manage for both rider and media.

Just before 2pm it started raining buckets of water and the track turned into a river (much like last years final), the lightning had come closer which forced the gondola to close and put a hold on practice. 2 hours later, Marshalls were driven back up the mountain and the track reopened for a timed training session, unsurprisingly Danny Hart took 2 of the top 3 times of the day, with Loic Bruni and Brook MacDonald not too far behind. Rachel Atherton and Tahneee Seagrave were the only two women to record a time but they were up around the 20 minute mark so there was no knowledge to be found there.

Fingers crossed its the only weather event of the week as I don’t think my camera gear likes to play in the mud…

Qualifying is tomorrow which will give us a true indication of who has found the right balance of flow.

Amaury Pierron has the number 1 plate for a reason! So smooth!
Jake Newell playing magic tricks.
Tracey Hannah sailing through the mist. She mentioned that it was pretty wild up on track today.
Tahnee Seagrave enters the dark woods after the fog truly rolled in, she stopped about 2 seconds after this saying she couldn’t see anything. (I wonder why?)
Paddi Butler has had some solid results leading into this race, moving up into the top 10 overall and building nicely for the World Champs.
Rachel Atherton looked solid all morning, one to watch this weekend.
The current number 1 junior in the world Thibaut Daprela was looking solid though-out practice, but I think he might need a new wheel… He’ll be hard to beat come Saturday though.
Miyiam is back, easing back into racing she was riding with Marine Cabirou all day.
Jacob Dickson taking some more mud droplets down into La Tarzan.
Most of the day felt like we were in Cambodia…
Monika Hrastnik the sensation from Slovenia, riding like she’ll get back on the podium this weekend.
Troy Brosnan leading the Canyon boys astray on this warp speed off-camera section, riders were hitting 60km an hour through here in the mud!
Who will be the fastest Matt Walker this weekend? Go NZ!!!
Mark Wallace dropping off the new (and improved) rock drop into the finish line straight. No doubt looking for a solid performance on home soil.
Marine Cabirou has style for miles!
Tracey Hannah, eyes on the prize this weekend.
Loris Vergier fresh off his first World Cup win in Andorra last month, he’s looking super quick out here too.
Dean Lucas looked pinned through this super fast section, he’s keen to show the mountain bike world he didn’t get 2nd just because of a dryer run last year
Loic Bruni blessing us photogs with an awesome purple kit to shoot in a green forest. 2nd fastest in timed training today.
Laurie Greenland is one of the next young guns who is destined to win a World Cup, will it be here this weekend?
Kye A’Hern was lapping all day with Troy and Mark, after a couple of wins earlier in the season Kye is hungry to get back up on that top step.
The world is simply a better place thanks to Kaos Seagrave…
Jackson Frew has just been selected to race World Champs this year, he’s been riding like a man possessed after taking 2nd place last weekend at the US Open
Jack Moir is back, stoked to see him tearing it up with the Intense crew, the trains are epic boys!
The entrance to La Tarzan had most riders searching for answers on foot before committing to it on the bike.
Connor Fearon in the misty rain. He skipped the afternoon timed run saying he had a solid top to bottom run earlier in the day.
Sam Blenkinsop, a joy to watch him ride. He’s been a podium threat all season long too.
When it rains, just wait for Danny Hart to show you how to ride, he was one of the only athletes to get through this section in the rain!
When it rains here, it really pours… This is the set up corner for the new La Tarzan drop (which I didn’t get to capture today, tomorrow I promise)
The lightning storm came a little to close for comfort, these metal boxes that ferry the riders up the mountain a nice target. Practice was suspended for a couple of hours in the afternoon.
Brendog with a casual seat bump jump over the last 12m double in the late afternoon timed training session.
When your Timed Training Run is interrupted by a slower rider, Troy Brosnan recommends a bar hump over the final jump.
Phil Atwill has been building up his season nicely after an injury in the off-season, he’s just a day late for Wheelie Wednesday though.
Yeah… Let’s hope for less of this tomorrow.

Be sure to check back tomorrow with all the Qualifying action!!!

Words and photographs by Matt Rousu