BOX CLEVER: LENZERHEIDE QUALIFYING GALLERY
After a fun filled day of sunshine mountain bicycling in Thursday practice on Lenzerheide’s brand new World Cup course, racers knuckled down to the hard work on Friday: business time… Qualifying.
The relentless sun is as brutal as the course itself, and conditions both climatic and under tyre have made this tough to crack. On first inspection and from hearsay prior to the event it seemed as though we might be heading to another ‘bike park’ venue here, but while Lenzerheide does have machine built courses for the masses on its hill, the World Cup track is far from a roll down the park (sorry).
Several days of riding with no rain has blown the course to pieces, with big holes top to bottom taking their toll on the body and dusty ruts in the turns taking no prisoners. It is loose, and small mistakes can soon turn into huge slides or sudden wipeouts.
Lenzerheide is a temptress willing riders to go faster, its true character now exposed: it is ferocious, merciless and most definitely ruthless. Mistakes here only come in large measures and, as we saw in Friday’s qualifying, whether that means overshooting a gigantic huck or laying it down in a turn, the result is are equal; a proper beating. Notably Junior series leader Andrew Crimmins and Freerace World Champ Brendan Fairclough took the bigger slams of the day, with the latter stumbling dazed and confused in the track before our eyes, his Swiss opponent willing him to continue before he succumbed and fell to the floor.
We almost don’t want to mention Loic Bruni as the edges of our seats can’t quite restrain the excitement as it is. The Frenchman nipped in front of Aaron Gwin in qualifying and looks set for his first ever World Cup win. But then we’ve said that before. Connor Fearon of Australia aimed for a top 15 and came out with a third, he himself stating that his clean run with no pressure – not getting too excited and losing out in the uncaring loose dirt – equated to a fast time. In the women’s category Emmeline Ragot is looking as fired up as ever and rocked her way down the hill into the lead in front of a content-looking Rachel Atherton and an unflustered Manon Carpenter. And in the Junior category the UK’s very own Laurie Greenland brought it home – despite taking a cruel low blow early on in the match – to qualify first ahead of Alex Marin Trillo and Charlie Harrison.
It is going to take precise calculation and unfaltering focus to put down a clean and fast run here in Lenzerheide. Who will it be to hold their head high and step out of the ring victorious?
Photos by Seb Schieck and Ben Winder