Friday morning here at Mont Sainte Anne dawned bright and clear with hardly a cloud in the sky, it promised to be a good day out on the mountainside. Since yesterday’s practice was cut short the athletes were keen to punch out as many runs as possible this morning, the gondola was running full steam yet the track itself had taken a few too many hits.

Almost everyone said the track had become difficult to the point of being scary with massive bomb holes opening up, jagged rocks being exposed and long mud stretches that don’t appear to be drying out. It’s become a battle for bike and body alike.

Each category had no real surprises with Aussie Kye A’Hern taking the fastest qualifier of the day (with series leader Thibaut Daprela only half a second back) in Junior men and Valentina Holl qualifying 1st in junior women (by over 30 seconds). Paddi Butler also had a great run to qualify 5th!

In the Elite women it was the two UK riders Tahnee Seagrave and Rachel Atherton who ran away with qualifying, our Tracey Hannah was in touch before hugging a tree about halfway down, she still rolled across the line in 4th.

Danny Hart was the fastest down the hill today with a storming 4:20.966 followed closely by Loic Bruni and Amaury Pierron. Our Aussies had a mixed day; Troy Brosnan had a solid run to qualify 6th, Jack Moir is back in the hunt with a 14th place, Dean Lucas rolled into 30th and Graeme Mudd cruised down late in the day to 42nd. Connor Fearon smashed into a rock that destroyed his wheel but is protected so we will see him race tomorrow, he was hovering at about 10th after the first 3 minutes. Unfortunately, Jackson Frew, Darcy Coutts and Connor Clancy had some mishaps in their runs and missed out on the top 60 qualifying spots. Mick Hannah and Jake Newell both opted not to race due to injuries.

Racing tomorrow is shaping up to be an epic, with similar weather conditions to today and a slightly drier (if not more beat up) track every category has a unique story to unfold. Will Kye A’Hern claim his 3rd ever World Cup win and can Valentina Holl dominate the field again and achieve a time worthy of an Elite Podium. Will the British women stay clear or will Tracey Hannah or Myriam Nicole step up? With the absent Aaron Gwin will Danny take his first win with the new team, also remember that if Amaury Pierron beats Loris Vergier he will take the overall title before the final round in La Bresse, France.

Mont Sainte Anne turned it up to 11 today.
Plenty of spare wheels lined up at the Canyon tent, the boys have done more laps than most here at MSA and it’s paid off, all 3 are poised for a top result!
The Intense Amigos. Charlie and Dean with new 5tens while Jack dries his out in the sunshine.
Possibly the most experienced bike mechanic on the planet Doug Hatfield from Santa Cruz always has time for a chat.
MSA is a double-header World Cup, meaning there is an XC race here as well, this is how the Downhillers cross over the XC track, step it up Mark Wallace.
You’re number 1 qualifier in junior men, Kye A’Hern from Australia. Give em hell tomorrow buddy.
Vali Holl is going to be a superstar. At 16 years of age she would have qualified 8th in Elite, every race she tries to get down in a time to place her within the Elite Women podium times.
Another young gun of the future Thibaut Daprela qualified 2nd just a whisker behind Kye, he’s been the man to beat lately.
Paddi Butler mentioned he had a pretty smooth and relaxed run to try and keep the body and bike good for tomorrow. Chasing another World Cup podium tomorrow.
Tracey Hannah mentioned that this track is Hardline for girls. She looks strong out on track, all that’s needed is to link it all up.
All 3 Pierron brothers qualified for the main event. Antione might have been the most stylish though.
Dean Lucas said he had a pretty messy qualifying run, he’ll look to clean it up tomorrow.
Brendan Fairclough just because… Brendog! Oh and he did qualify a solid 13th today too.
Bulldog Brook MacDonald stormed into 5th today, he is an absolute weapon on track and I’m not sure how his bike survives!!!
Connor Fearon was sitting in 12th after split 3 before a rock decided to split his wheel open.. More wild riding from him tomorrow.
Tahnee Seagrave took the win here last year and after qualifying 1st everyone is watching her back.
This is a composite image of three lines on the last sweeping berm before the finish straight. Loic Bruni with the newly formed inside rut, Remi Thirion with a pretty risky middle line and Troy Brosnan on the high line. Which is faster?
Charlie Harrison is pretty much an adopted Aussie nowadays right? The Intense Factory Racer flew down to 11th pace today.
The dirt just loves to follow the riders here!
Miranda Miller dropping off La Tarzan and into 9th place.
Troy Brosnan was a speedy 6th today, he still has to find 2 seconds on the track though…
Rachel Atherton with eyes on the prize. It’s first place or nothing for Rachel.
Marcelo Gutierrez has no time to take in the view down to the St Lawrence River. He’ll need to find some time to move up the leaderboard tomorrow.
Myriam Nicole was a little way back in time today, but you can never count her out when it gets technical.
Graeme Mudd does his best not to live up to his name… 42nd today.
Greg Minnaar is not only back, he’s back in the top 10! Checkout his wicked wrist brace too, dropping off La Tarzan.
Jack Moir back up to race speed, a solid 14th today!
Oh too close, Jackson Frew just missed the cut today by half a second…
Jake Newell chose to sit out racing today after sustaining a back injury after a massive crash on Thursday, he tried a couple of runs in the morning but it was just too sore to contend a full run.
Loic Bruni, it’s been a while since visiting the top step for the Frenchman. I’d give him the win this weekend for kit though!
Loris Vergier has to beat Amaury Pierron to keep his overall contentions alive, he’s pushing it hard on track trying a few creative lines along the way.
Darcy Coutts laying it all out there, unfortunately, today it wasn’t enough.
Another day in the books, check back in tomorrow for a final race report!

Words and photographs by Matt Rousu.