Not a whole lot to report on Leogang, other than some track changes and a few absences. First off… the DH track.
In 2010, the first year Leogang stepped up to the World Cup Circuit, it was widely regarded as an “old school” track. The trails being used were converted bike park trails and had been ridden hard. Like really hard. It was all about big berms in the open, a bunch of bike park (i.e. short) tables on a fire road linking the berms and the woods, and what single track there was in the woods was worn down to arm-thick roots and load of rocks. But mostly roots.
Flash forward to now. Not much has changed. Like an aging actress, there’s been a nip here and tuck there but she’s still berms at the top and woods below linked with a table top strewn ‘motorway’. So, basically business as usual. However, the tables have all been artificially ‘lengthened’ with wooden booters placed in front of them, which will allow riders to carry more speed as now they can clear to transition and pump vs. landing flat. The old rock strewn double-droppish section lined with safety netting has been replaced with a couple big turns, too. But that’s the sum total of the course changes.
Riders to watch: in the men…not Danny Hart; safe to say that unless you’ve been living under a rock, Hart’s shoulder injury and subsequent season ending surgery is old news. Other than Hart, all the usual suspects should be in attendance: Gwin, Gee Atherton, Minnaar, Hill, Steve Smith, Brook Macdonald… you know—literally, the usual suspects. Gwin won here last year during the World Cup… But Minnaar took the IXS Cup here this past May… And Steve Smith is on a roll following the Whistler Crankworx (notching dominating W’s in the Garbanzo DH, Air DH, and Canadian Open DH). Even though Minnaar, Smith, Bulldog, and Hill are all legit threats, given how dominating Gwin’s been all year, only a fool would bet against the American.
The race that’s gonna be a knock down drag out will be the Junior DH title: Loic Bruni’s been dominating all season, so in some ways this is his race to lose; but Richey Rude has been right behind him all season long. Leogang’s got some pedaling sections to it, so if Bruni falters at all, Rude’s going to be stepping into rainbow sleeves.
For the ladies, a few faces are missing: namely Tracy Hannah (broken femur at Val d”Isere), Myriam Nicole (broken collarbone at Crankworx Whistler), Emilie Siegenthaler (Scott 11—also a collarbone), and Jill Kintner (broken arm at Windham; she may have raced the pump track at Whistler Crankworx, but she’s not cleared to ride DH yet). Contenders, then: Florian Pugin took this race last year, and Rachel Atherton took it during the IXS Cup before Val di Sole… On both occasions Emmeline Ragot was also on the podium. Hmmm… Pugin is coming off of some tough luck at Mt St Anne and Windham, and the time off may have her a bit rusty. And as much as I’d like to see Ragot duke it out with Atherton, Ragot is coming off of a sore shoulder and may not be full strength, whereas Rachel Atherton is injury free for the first time in forever, so the nod has to go to Atherton. For the junior women…I don’t think anyone’s going to edge out Tahnee Seagrave—she’s 16 and absolutely killin’ it.4X
The 4X Pro Tour saw Thomas Slavik and Anneke Beerten dominate all season long. But it was an Olympic year so a lot of top names were either focusing exclusively on BMX or mixing and matching. Consequently, making a call on a winner here in Leogang is damn near impossible as those Olympic BMX focused racers (like David Graf and Roger Rinderknecht) are coming to Leogang with ‘bomber’ fitness and clear focus. As a result, I’m going to say it’s anyone’s race amongst the top riders for the men and the women.
One thing that will make this track one to watch is the course make over from none other than Guido Tschugg. The man can build, that’s for sure! This track is now an entirely different beast compared to the track that was here last year. The basic skeleton is the same, but the track is now bigger, meaner, and worthy of being called a World Championship track... Among the changes? A 52-foot set of doubles. Yes, the 4X will be a wild one in Leogang.