Val di Sole can be a great place – especially when the weather is like it has been today. A diet of sunshine and temperatures pushing 30 were the order of the day. The only downside is that this heat makes the mud dry and that really stinks – heading out on to the hill to get shots of the Junior and Under 23 women’s XC, today’s two main events, was not as pleasurable as it could have been with the constant stench of mud following me every step of the way.
The start of the women’s Junior XC race – Britain’s Annie Last centre left
The course is very slick out there today
In the under-23 race Chengyuan Ren did not have the best performance
Left Laura Abril on her way to Colombia’s first ever mountain bike medal Right The under-23 women’s podium
But having now walked the course I can confirm that it is drying, lines are forming and most of all, it is fearsome. Starting out on grass the 6km loop climbs viciously up in a real granny ring grinder. Thankfully most of this is smooth going on drier tracks. Under the trees though the course reveals its real nature with some rocky singletrack and thick, sticky, smelly mud that claimed a lot of victims. Most of these were in the second half of the course where another climb which was near unridable by the Junior women gives way to an open descent under tree cover. Although wide, this downhill offers precious little room for error with some big roots and loose rock all with a coating of mud.
The first riders to suffer three laps were the Juniors and away from the winning rider – Laura Abril, the first ever Columbian rainbow jersey winner – GB rider Annie Last finished a great ninth. Only a minute and a half down on fifth place and riding confidently this was a standout result for Annie who is still studying hard at college!
The under-23 women’s race unfortunately didn’t feature any GB riders but there was a great battle out on course between Tanja Zakelj of Slovenia and Swiss rider Nathalie Schneitter. On the final lap Schneitter was pleased to have finished on the podium after suffering a puncture on the downhill. The hole in the tyre was so big that it was irreparable and with no tech zone available it was a long ride back to the finish.
Tomorrow is the first downhill seeding run and the Junior men’s XC where there is good representation from the GB squad. Hopefully we will see a repeat of David Fletcher’s medal in Fort William from a younger rider in 2008.