We've had the first taste of who's going fast at Lenzerhiede thanks to the introduction of a qualifying session to the World Championships. Normally there's a seeding day that means even less than a World Cup timed training but a little bit of of drama was injected by this rejig.
Lenzerheide qualifying split winners
Split 1 Martin Maes
Split 2 Amaury Pierron
Split 3 Loris Vergier
Split 4 Brook MacDonald
Split 5 Loris Vergier
Well, we say that but everyone qualified from Junior women, all but two qualified from Junior men, everyone qualified from Elite women (even Myriam Nicole who got disqualified) and only about 30 waffers were culled from Elite men... so maybe not that dramatic after all.
The low stakes mean we don't really know who was pushing and who was cruising. We have some times but how much they'll mean come Sunday... we're not entirely sure yet.
Brook ended up on the top of the pile after the shakedown. He ends the season the way he started it in Losinj with a qualifying win, hopefully he has better luck this time come racing! We had rain for the first time at Lenzerheide over the past two days but either it had pretty much dried out by qualifying or the rain doesn't affect this place too much as Brook's time was just six seconds off Greg Minnaar's winning time of last year.
There are five splits to analyse so let's get into them with the top 20 finishers from qualifying:
The first split is the longest of the whole track and Martin Maes kicks on from where he left off. He takes the first split but it's not by much with Bruni 0.027 back, in fact all the top six are within 0.7 seconds meaning it's very much still to play for. Fearon leads out the rest of the pack about a second back.
Out the back, Pardal is already three seconds off the pace and Pierron starts slowly, was he taking it easy through the rock garden that spat him out yesterday?
From 24th at the first split right back up to the top in the second, it's Pierron's time to shine. Split 2 is another long one and Pierron takes it by 0.4. Moir and Gwin are both also flying and pretty much inseparable. Again, it's super tight through the field, this time with everyone back to Martin Maes in eighth within a second of Pierron.
In contrast to Pierron, Bruni throws away a great first split with a crash and drops a load of time, we've actually left him off this graph as he skewed the scale so much.
It's super tight at the top already! Hart has had consistently good splits that deliver him to the top spot at this point. He's got zero breathing room though with Gwin and Maes both breathing down his neck and within four hundreths of a second. Vergier is half a second back then MacDonald half a second back on him.
Bruni's slide out sees him back out of the top 20 at this point.
There are three clear winners in this split with Brook and Fearon only just behind Vergier, who takes the split. Bruni gets right back on the horse and bangs in a fourth place split half a second back.
Hart, Gwin and Maes, who were leading up to this point, all lose more than a second here. Reece the Bruce has his worst split and ends up way back.
Split three changed everything and Vergier takes the driving seat by more than half a second. We're two minutes into the track now, in La Bresse the race was starting to wind down at this point but here the action is just beginning.
A super-tight group has formed behind Vergier - Maes, Gwin, MacDonald, Hart - all within 0.3 seconds of each other. Bruni makes it back into the top 20, but his march forwards is just gathering momentum.
When we get towards the end of any track, there's only one man to look out for - Brook MacDonald. Once again the Bulldog proves his strength and endurance as he puts 0.5 seconds into the field in just 30 seconds of track. Bruni's recovery continues as he goes second fastest, just ahead of Luca Shaw.
Brayton hustles himself a fourth, his best split of the day, and Fearon is fifth. Look at Maes, Gwin and Hart, these guys were charging for the win at split two but continue falling back as the track goes on.
Sector four has spread the field out completely. Brook now looks in a commanding position with three quarters of a second's advantage over Vergier. Fearon is third with the Hart, Maes, Gwin group stalling. Brayton forces his way into the top ten. Bruni's recovery continues - he's 11th now.
It's a short 20 second sprint to the line and Vergier takes it by less than a tenth from Bruni. Brook is right up there again in third and secures himself that top spot.
Gwin and Maes seem to wake up again and put in good splits but Danny is middling again. Marin and Brayton both put in strong splits here too.
The top four all hold steady but Gwin and Hart switch places at the last gasp. Bruni slips himself into the top ten.