After letting us enjoy fairly clement weather conditions for the first few days of the 2018 World Champs, it was as though the Lenzerheide weather gods knew that today, the chips were actually down. Rain, fog, and cold greeted the racers as they slipped and slid their way through morning practice to get ready for the first truly meaningful runs of the whole event. Although there were no points on the line today nor would Sunday's starting order be affected by the outcome of today's qualifying session, the Elite Men and Junior Men still had to make sure they made it into the big show. With 80 and 60 spots up for grabs respectively, and only the top 20 Elite Men protected, it meant taking no chances for some, and laying it all on the line for others.
The Elite and Junior Women also rode qualifying, but since there were more finals spots up for grabs than there were registered riders, it was a mere formality as far as the importance of the results go. Getting down the track is never a foregone conclusion here however, especially in the wet, so everybody had to bring their A-game regardless. To nobody's surprise, Rachel and Vali landed in the top spots, but while the gaps are huge in the Junior Women's, they turned out to be a whole lot tighter in the Elite category, promising a good show on Sunday.
In the Junior Men's, there were no upsets at the top, with Kade laying down a blistering time to claim the win today. How hard the people behind him were pushing is hard to know, as many of the contenders would have wanted to just make absolutely sure of getting into the big show.
All eyes on the big dogs then. With 80 spots on the line and 116 riders registered, a mechanical or even a minor crash could spell disaster for anybody outside the top-20. The slick conditions didn't help calm the nerves either. We're happy to report that it went smoothly for the vast majority of the riders we would have expected to see in the finals. Perhaps the most notable exception is privateer sensation Hugo Frixtalon, author of a top-3 World Cup qualifying run earlier this year, who sadly will miss out on the finals. For the rest, no major upsets to report, and a few fast runs to contemplate at the top of the table. While it's obviously hard to say just how hard the guys were pushing today, seeing so many of the big names up there means they're feeling good and that we can expect a showdown of seismic proportions come Sunday. We can't wait!