The sun rises over the quaint village of Meribel, bringing dawn to what is set to be one action packed weekend of bike racing. Practice on track today and although its a chilly start, it heated up quickly. Jump in and join the action.
Early start for group B practice riders with teams rolling in for 7am, one of the last times this season so might as well enjoy the moments.
Race fans milling around the pits this evening, eager to get a glimpse of the superstars...at least that's how the french are making them feel. I don't think so many autographs have been signed on a practice day before.
Sitting just outside the top 20, Steve will have to put the hammer down in his quali run. Smashing out laps with Ratboy all day, Peaty finishes his day off on a high 20 and stoked for qualis.
Clocking off the day here in Meribal with a fresh bike ready for qualis tomorrow. The Saracen bikes looking tidy as ever considering the roots of the brand and where they have come to today.
Still the only rider on the new frame, Emmeline seems at home with the alterations. After speaking with Sam, he tells me how they are still in quite deep development with the new bike and really just trying to dial it in and make it perfect before they make the switch.
Final morning preparations on the bikes before practice kicks off. Rachel's mechanic Joe gives her steed the final wipe down before she gets it muddy in the woods.
The Windham win for young Taylor Vernon seems to have put him on a bit of confidence boost as he takes the 1st in timed practice today. Another win for Taylor could really see him tick off his season and set him up nicely going into his first year of Elite next year. "[audio url="http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/13-2_audio.mp3"]"
It was really unexpectedly busy around the place today with plenty of race fans already starting to fill in and the track side looking more like a quiet race day than practice. If its this busy today then its going to be mad come race day.
Although putting down two laps in timed training, practice today for Gwin has been somewhat chilled out. Making it out later and then cruising around, Gwin has the ability to turn it on when he really needs to. A dangerous tactic for Ratboy, as Gwin finishes his day back in 64th on the timed practice sheet. Nothing to go by as far as results, but it sure does add a little bit of tension.
Cool as a cucumber, Josh Bryceland doesn't really know the meaning of pressure. Coming into the race from a week of chilling out in the UK, Josh is, as he ever is, joking and laughing around in the pits, and getting loose and wild on track. 1st in timed practice and eager to hit it...'Lets go racing!' "[audio url="http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/29_audio_01.mp3"]"
With the only female rider to take 3 wins this season, Manon is holding tightly on to her number 1 spot, but with Emmeline and Rachel snapping closely at her heels she will be feeling the pressure come race day. A top quali run should relieve the pressure but the fight will be on to the finish. She chatted about her day. "[audio url="http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/19_audio1.mp3"]"
Remi Thirion has the ability to all of a sudden turn it up and grab everyones attention. After making his spectacular win in Andorra last year, Remi slowly fell from the limelight, but today he was looking strong, composed and really wanting it. A 6th place Timed practice will set him up nicely going into qualis. Also he is spotted running some tech telemetry gear on his bike, according to the Commencal mechanics this is to perfectly dial in his suspension, something they did in Andorra last year too...
This track is right up Danny Hart's street, but maybe coming into this round post Crankworx wasn't the best idea. Although a bob or two richer, the jet lag and party fatigue could affect his racing this weekend. I spoke to him about his thoughts on the day. "[audio url="http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/25_audio.mp3"]"
Gee Atherton always has a way of entering every race with an open mind, putting all other results behind him and focusing on the job at hand. This alpine track should suit Gee and he could place well. Not in the hunt for the overall, he would love to be the one to throw a Joker into the pack. 2nd in timed training today. "[audio url="http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/27_audio_011.mp3"]"
Both Sam & Bruni could be the key to the teams success this weekend with the overall team title. Rolling in on the yellow boards this week after Ragot's win last week, the team will be keen to hold onto this one. After speaking to Bruni post Windham, he was over this season and wanted to just push it aside and think about World Champs and next year. Looking quick in practice he could be still up for it on home soil...that was until he got another flat!
Greg Williamson put in a solid day on track today as he rounds out the timed runs top 10. Each member of Trek World Racing have been picking their way in at each race, with Brook's podium, Nico's top quali results, and Lauries solid Junior efforts, perhaps this round is one for Greg to excel.
Mick Hannah back out at his first World Cup after injuring himself at the start of the year. His first time riding in Whistler last week set him up nicely coming into this final round. Although the overall contention he had at the start of the year has vanished, it would still be a great result for him to place high after his big injury.
Brendan out on track and really getting into the loose technical aspect of this one. Known widely for his whips and big shapes, Brendan is pretty damn handy when it comes to the tech also. Missing out on the positions he has really been looking for this season, Meribel could give him a much needed shot in the arm.
More mountains than you can shake a stick at out here in the Alpes. Big freeride line down the middle of the ridge anyone?
Troy Brosnan didn't get off to the best of starts this week with his bike not arriving from Whistler, but the show must go on as he rolls out on one of the proto frames until his race bike turns up. Both him and Gwin looking to hunt down the Rat this weekend and snap the title out of his hands.
Crowds soon formed around some of the more awkward technical features to see what the other riders are rolling their dice on. Faustin Figaret dropping in on a track that he knows all too well after a National win here last year. Home soil advantage starting to show.
One man that could upset the apple cart this weekend is this man, Sam Hill. A track that very much suits him and is uncannily similar to the track that he won on only a few weeks ago, Sam could really throw a curve ball. Checking lines in the top section with team mate Joe Smith, he scopes a sniper rock hop.
Skids and schleybles all day, riders were actually having a ton of fun just riding their bikes. Lachlan Blair throw his best at the top of the track during practice this morning. But remember kids, Fun doesn't make you fast...or does it?!
Eagerly checking out lines to find the seconds, Ragot has a habit of spending a lot of time doing this. A morning plagued with mechanicals and crashes, she pulled it together towards the end of the day for a couple of runs of timed practice. I caught up with her int he pits to get her thoughts on the day. "[audio url="http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/10_audio4.mp3"]"
A rock line that he spots and sends with some ease. These are the tricky challenges that Sam Hill really thrives on, which then showed in his Timed Training run where he ended up in 3rd.
It sometimes takes riders some time to really get into the flow on all new tracks but it didnt take much after the sun baked out the early am wetness. Riders were quickly into it and smashing out the runs. It wasn't hard to for riders to get 6-7 laps in on this three and half minute track.
There are three main names in contention for the female overall this weekend and this lady Rachel Atherton is one of them. After a strong season last year, Rachel has struggled some what to kick off her 2014, but her win in Cairns didn't put her out the runnings, with a good run and some luck...who knows?
Leaving the disappointment from Windham across the pond, Laurie Greenland has come into Meribel with a fresh head and an open look on this weekend's results.
Hunting down the American for the overall this weekend, Loris Vergier is feeling confident that he can bring it home, making it a potential two overall titles for the French team.
FMD looking all fresh in their new 2015 Fox kit. With Eurobike around the corner, a few new bits have popped up here and there in Meribel. Neil Stewart pulling shapes all over the track and will be looking to top off the season with another top result like he had at the start of the season.
Watching the racing action in front of you, its hard to forget what is right behind you. Huge rocky peaks surround the hills in the never ending valleys of the French Alps. Sure is up there as one of the prettier places in the world to go and have a bike race.
Taking it seemingly chilled today in practice, current Junior series leader Luca Shaw will need to pull it out the bag this weekend if he is to hold on to his number.
Ben Cathro making the time out of his busy coaching schedule to come race out here this weekend, his first non-UK World Cup race since his last full season back in 2011 when he was racing under the wing of MTBcut. Great to see him out here and all the bush whacking antics that come in his wake.
What a venue to end the World Cup season on. Meribel have really out done themselves on this one and feeling on an all time high about the track, everyone is keen to go racing. Tomorrow brings another day and the we kick it into gear with Qualifying. An all important chance to pick up some last minute points going into Saturday's finals.
The cold alpine air bringing a chill to your spine through out the day, especially in the trees, but the altitude up here made the sun intense, almost too much at times. All I'm going to say is I will be bring the factor 50 along with me tomorrow! Morning dew settled on the mountainous foliage.
An evening of rain yesterday started to get everyone a bit concerned about track conditions, but after making it up to the top to find le lac hadn't burst its banks and the sun was beaming down on us, we all had got excited about the prospect of dusty alpines tracks.
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PRACTICE DAY ONE
It was time for practice yesterday morning and as the Juniors rolled out it was a chilly start to the day. Everything soon warmed up and the laps were clocked up all day long. Some riders were making the most of the track and racking up 6 or sevens runs whilst others were taking it easy, Gwin only had a couple of runs but we all know he can turn it on when needed.
After some crashes and line searching Emmeline Ragot stuck in a good time and came across the line with a 3rd place. Rachel Atherton laid down the fastest Women's time of the day with Manon 5 seconds back on her and Ragot another 5 down.
Taylor Vernon made the numbers count after his Windam win and took the fastest time ahead of Thomas Estaque and Loris Vergier who will be pushing for a home win to snatch the win from Luca Shaw.
Check out the full results from yesterday's timed training results below along with the rest of the action from Meribel.