And appropriately enough for an area whose name translates loosely as ‘Sunshine Valley’, the golden orb’s been beating down hard all week with temperatures topping the 30-degree mark. Like Fort William a fortnight ago, all the courses are baked hard, starved of moisture and dusty as hell. Which means only one thing: very, very fast racing.
Speaking earlier to Liam Killeen, Commonwealth gold medallist and one of Team GB’s leading lights, he described the XC circuit: “It’s running really hard and fast, especially on the lower sections, and overall it’s a lot more technical than I’d expected.” Such sentiments were echoed by DH star Tracy Moseley as we grabbed a quick word after her latest practice run. Drenched in sweat from the boil-in-the-bag combo of full face and armour, she said: “It’s certainly quick but I’m happy with these sort of conditions.”
Unlike the World Cup series which runs for several rounds around the globe, the Worlds (as it’s commonly known) is a one-off. A winner takes all. Up for grabs the ultimate prize: a rainbow jersey. The chance to wear those multi-coloured stripes on your sleeve for ever.
But what many people don’t realise is that the championships themselves actually last a whole week, culminating in the blue riband finals at the weekend. Things kick-off with an opening ceremony — think It’s a Knockout meets mini Olympics — before the athletes get their legs spinning in a series of warm-up events and training sessions. Then finals in different events for different age categories — including trials — are spread over seven days.
So far there’s been plenty to shout about for Eastern European nations and, of course, the Swiss as they’ve taken the lion’s share of medals in the cross-country events already decided (see below). Today sees the Cross-Country U23 Men’s final with British hopes lying with Ian Bibby, Ross Creber, Ian Field and David Fletcher. However with two World Cup podium regulars in the starting line-up — Nino Schurter (Sui) and Burry Stander (RSA) — that’s where the smart money’s going.
We’ll be posting more updates over the weekend, so check back to see how the Brits are doing. Downhill and Four-Cross on Saturday, with Cross-Country on Sunday. Fingers crossed!
RESULTS SO FAR:
CROSS-COUNTRY JUNIORS MEN
1 — Peter Sagan (Svk)
2 — Arnaud Jouffroy (Fra)
3 — Matthias Rupp (Sui)
Best Brits: Hamish Creber (39th), Alex Paton (47th), Sebastian Batchelor (50th).
CROSS-COUNTRY U23 WOMEN
1 — Tanja Zakelj (Slo)
2 — Nathalie Schneitter (Sui)
3 — Aleksandra Dawidowidz (Pol)
CROSS-COUNTRY JUNIORS WOMEN
1 — Laura Abril (Col)
2 — Barbara Benko (Hun)
3 — Mona Eiberweiser (Ger)
Best Brit: Annie Last (9th)