The day started in soggy fashion, riders emerging from the downhill track coated in filth, which sent mechanics from the more well-resourced teams into a frenzy of mud-proofing. Spike tyres, silicone spray, moto-foam in every crevice – it was all about making the bikes shed mud. The particular blend of Cairns mud is so gloopy, it can easily add a few kilos to a bike, which you’ve then got to haul across the dreaded flat sprint into the finish, so keeping it mud free is all important.
As it would pan it, all the panic was soon replaced with more positive vibes as the tropical sun that’s been playing hide-and-seek these last few days finally made a more sustained appearance. Things dried out fast with the 30-degree heat and breeze, leaving the track in ideal condition for downhill qualifying.
Far more cross-country riders were in attendance today as well, with the first official practice sessions getting underway. The XCO course here in Cairns draws universal praise from riders; it’s not just a straight up and down sufferfest, but has some genuinely good fun flow to it as well as plenty of technical challenge. The huge Australian junior contingent eagerly made the most of practice, mixing it up with sweating Europeans who were heard cursing the humidity.
We didn’t catch a glimpse of either of Australia’s medal hopefuls Dan McConnell or Bec Henderson, but Julien Absalon was out there and riding with a dropper post too. He was happy to point out that even if it didn’t actually make him go faster, he was having a lot more fun with it on the bike!
The crowds on course for downhill qualifying were doing their best to make it feel like race day up there. We hope they’ve all still got voices left to yell for tomorrow!
They’ll have plenty to scream about too, with Mick Hannah and Troy Brosnan qualifying in first and second, ensuring they’ll be the last two riders down the hill tomorrow! The atmosphere is going to be wilder than Bull Riding night at Slippery Jim’s Backpacker Shed, Cairns. Tracey Hannah has been looking solid and focused this week too, and her third place today shows that she’s right on pace with Manon Carpenter and Rachel Atherton too. A Hannah double would be the dream outcome; we’ve had a taste that it’s possible now, so join us tomorrow to see if it can become reality.