The opening UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup of the season is underway at Maribor, in Slovenia, which last hosted this competition in 2010 ©UCI

Canada’s Mark Wallace did best in wet conditions to top qualifying today as this season’s International Cycling Union (UCI) Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup opened up in the Slovenian city of Maribor.

 The UCI World Cup was returning to Pohorje Bike Park for the first time since 2010, and the 2.6 kilometres long track, with a vertical drop of 450 metres, was testing enough without the onset of bad weather.

Wallace goes into tomorrow’s day of finals with the best time, 3min 17.756sec, 1.852 seconds ahead of the winner of last year’s World Cup opener, Aaron Gwin of the United States, with another AmericanUS rider, Finn Iles, taking third place at 2.021 back.

The rain began while the elite women were on the course - and Australia’s Tracey Hannah, who has taken overall bronze in the last three World Cups, coped best with a time of 3:30.206.

But Britain’s world champion Rachel Atherton made a great start to her campaign to retain her overall title as she took the second qualifying spot at 2.482 seconds back, ahead of team-mate Tahnée Seagrave.

As expected, the junior men and women’s qualifying was led respectively by France's Thibaut Daprela and Austria's Vali Höll , with the latter fnishing almost 10 seconds clear of her nearest challenger.