The Austrian Alps at Hinterstoder was the setting for Day 1 of the inaugural King's Gate today. One hundred and thirty riders from 21 different countries converged on this small mountain town, with most staying in the campsite located right below the finish line.
It's a high-class field featuring 2015 and 2016 World Champ Carlos Paixão of Brazil, and current 2017 points leader Daniel Engel of California. Women's World Champ Emily Pross is also competing despite breaking a toe in recent weeks, and she faces Melissa Brogni of Brazil, one of the few women on the tour who could challenge her.
In Luge, last year's World Champ Abdil Mahdzan of Malaysia will face off against Spain's Mikel Echegaray Diez, the 2015 World Champ.
With another three days to go in the event, the goal today was to stay out of trouble and work out the track, which is highly technical, featuring kinks, chicanes, and tight hairpins in rapid succession. There are limited overtaking opportunities, so the strategy is likely to be simple; get out in front and go fast.
Track safety was an initial concern of some riders due to the reliance on ski race safety netting rather than hay bales, however organizers have rushed to double the netting in some crash zones, and have also ordered 200 hay bales to arrive tomorrow to beef up the critical spots.
Text: Colin Beck
Lugers at the first corner
Repairing the nets
Live video from after King's Gate corner
Nicolas Demarais going sideways
Lugers in the first corner
Teaser for All Year Long broadcast @ King's Gate
WELCOME TO KING's GATE (AUSTRIA)