Friday saw the qualifying for downhill and the finals of the XC eliminator. With heavy rain overnight, the conditions were going to be a tough day for both racers and photographers. Flow’s Damian Breach stood in ankle deep mud all day to bring you his view of the World Cup.
This is what we fell asleep to last night. More rain. The rain had to be expected however, it is in a rainforest after all. The day started wet once again and the view from the top was a little less than inviting. The mud was thick, however early on in the day it was still pretty wet and that’s better than what happened later in the day – as it started to dry out. It slowly turned into a thick sludge that was a nightmare. Greg Minnaar on his tentative first run down the hill. The first rock garden had a few people puzzled and Greg was one who spent a bit of time looking at the best and safest way through it all. There was several lines, and of course, the fastest was also the scariest. Everyone’s favourite: Chris Kovarik. We were thinking that his last internet edit with backing electronic music was a sign of Chris changing, however to see him on the track today alleviated that fear. He still Slay(er)s it. You would think that Gee Atherton would be at home in the wet and mud however Cairns is a little different. It’s worse. Gee qualified in 6th spot so maybe it’s not so bad for him. Nick Beer booooosts the huge triple on the high speed section. Respect. Even though the rain held off for most of the day the forest was still a dark scary place for all. Just after this jump was the speed trap and the thicker mud today seemed to drop the top speeds by about 10kph. This isn’t child abuse, this is a loving father doing all he can to stop his son from hitting the deck. The mud was so super slippery to walk on, let alone ride. The alien tree is big and alien like. It’s also right next to a very sloppy and slippery part of the trail which the aliens would probably like. Aussie junior Aiden Varley does his best not to disappear into a huge rut. That’s right, it’s not a berm, it’s a rut carved through the mud. Aiden finished 4th in qualifying however at 31 seconds off the pace it’s clear to see how the conditions today came into play. There was a decent crowd watching downhill qualifying – the most popular shoe choice was none at all.
With everyone crashing it feels pretty bad picking out just one example. Apologies to Jill Kintner as she was not the only one to hit the Cairns mud today. With conditions so poor people were probably expecting Sam Hill to do well in qualifying however Sam ended up in 50th. Ed Masters of New Zealand shocked everyone with his 4th place in qualifying. Let’s hope he keeps it up for tomorrow as it may be the first time in UCI history that an actual Viking is on the podium. Connor Fearon slipped into the top 10 with this much extra weight added to his bike. The bikes at the end of the run were a mess. Just as the XC Eliminator started, so did the rain. Glenn Jacobs has built a pretty cool section of the cross country trail right next to the event village. Much like a 4X trail of old it has berms, jumps, and multiple lines – all within arm’s reach of the fans. The XC eliminator dropped right into it after a hard, long sprint up a muddy hill. Even though the conditions were wet the fans still came out in numbers to cheer everyone on. The top section of the opening sprint in the XC eliminator was probably a relief as it meant a nice, soothing mud bath. Have we mentioned that it was a little muddy today already? There’s nothing better than poaching someone else’s flash to create some MTB art. Alexandra Engen raises her arms as she wins the Cairns XC eliminator.