It's hard to believe that we're here. October 9, 2020, and we're reporting on the first really meaningful timed run of the elite downhill racing season. Some of you might say "hang on, it's Worlds, who cares about qualifying", and in any normal year, you'd be mostly right of course (although unprotected riders still have to finish in the top-80 to ride in the finals). But this is 2020, and it's not done with the surprises yet. With snow in the forecast for Sunday, there is a chance that today's qualifying results will be taken as final. We'll know in two days.
Final or not, the conditions in Leogang were not easy today and not many riders made it to the bottom of the hill with clean kit, especially not in the junior categories. Stepping up to the elite ranks for the first time, hometown hero Vali Höll wasted no time announcing her arrival in the big league. Nearly 3 seconds ahead of Tracey, and 14(!) ahead of Myriam and Tahnee is no small feat under any circumstances, and to pull it off in these conditions shows just how strong Vali really is. The future is now.
In the men's elite category, it was an altogether more French affair - as usual, these days! Loris and Loic on top, separated by a second, with Remi Thirion and Thibaut Daprela in 4th and 5th. Finn Iles snuck the Canadian flag into the top three, with Australia, the UK, and Spain rounding out the top-10. Some riders appear to have taken it easy, betting on a Sunday final, like Gwin, Hart, and Trummer for example. Notable DNFs include Brook Macdonald and Laurie Greenland (both of whom are protected and can ride Sunday's final if all goes to plan). Brook gave people a scare, not showing up at the bottom of his run, but it seems it was related to a "handlebar issue" and Brook will be back in action on Sunday if the race goes ahead.
Vali Höll in audio, post-qualifying:
Brook Macdonald in audio, post-qualifying:
Loris Vergier in audio, post-qualifying:
Thibaut Daprela in audio, post-qualifying:
Remi Thirion in audio, post-qualifying:
Let's hope the weather lets us experience an epic final on Sunday live - stay tuned!