The young Austrian, Valentina Höll, nickname Vali, is what you’d call a high-flyer. The 15-year-old regularly manages to ride quicker than some of the Elite Women athletes. This season, she is unbeaten in the Pro U17 iXS European Downhill Cup and she knows Bikepark Leogang like the back of her hand. The current unofficial Youth World Champion of the iXS International Rookies Championships will be competing in the Elite Women category for the first time in her career at the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Championships in Saalfelden Leogang in 2020. We talked to the downhill enthusiast about the Biketember Festival in Saalfelden Leogang, the Worlds in 2020 and bike alternatives.Hey Vali, you are pretty busy this season. Did you compete in a race every weekend this summer?
Most of the races take place in May and June, which isn’t really convenient because of school. I participate in the EDC, that’s only five races, but I tend to join near-by races spontaneously – whenever my dad is available. *Laughs*Bikepark Leogang is your home spot, you have been shredding there since you were a little girl. When did you start biking?
When I was three years old, I was able to cycle with stabilizing wheels. I only started to ride downhill when I was twelve. When you were six years old, you were doing your homework in the restaurant at the Asitz Valley station while waiting for your parents who were shredding the bike park. Did you go for a ride together afterward? What did you like best about biking back then?
I really enjoyed biking with my parents – and I still do! It’s so cool to be able to share this with my parents. I don’t think there are many parents who do the same sport as their kids.It has been almost ten years since you were doing your homework at Bikepark Leogang. Since then, a lot has changed, the ‘Rider’s Playground’ looked very different back then. Nowadays, the Riders Playground features more lines, a great pumptrack and since last year, even an anchor lift! What do you think about the world’s biggest bike park for beginners?
It’s absolutely awesome! I think they used to have two lines back in the day, but unfortunately, the magic carpet wasn’t in operation, so I always had to push my bike up which I didn’t find that awesome back then. *Laughs*Today, you are more likely to shred the “Speedster”, Leogang’s world cup track. The “Speedster” is known for being extremely fast and slippery. How many times do you think you have ridden the “Speedster”?
Wow, no idea, that’d be interesting to know. But I have to admit that I have ridden the “Hangman” more often, I think. I have only been riding the “Speedster” for two years because before, I never really dared to try a world cup track.From September 15-17, the Biketember Festival will take place in Saalfelden Leogang. During Biketember, you will participate in the last race of the iXS European Downhill Cup of this season. Since you have won every single race of the iXS European Downhill Cup, you must be quite relaxed about the season finale, aren’t you?
I know the track by heart, that’s why I am pretty chilled. Of course, I am nervous before every race, but I don’t care about the points. The main thing is that I can charge!With which Elite female athlete would you like to do a crazy shredding session in the bike park? Is she also your role model, and if yes, why?
I would love to ride with Tahnée Seagrave. She is one of the few girls who throw style during her run – that’s so cool! Or Casey Brown! Shredding with her would be awesome too!In 2020, the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Championships will be held at Saalfelden Leogang. This will also be your first Elite year. Are you already looking forward to finally racing with Tahnée, Manon, and all the others?
It will be interesting for sure. I am very intrigued to see how everything will turn out. I guess I will be very nervous when riding with the Elite Women during practice. When all your idols are riding next to you, the concentration will be a difficult task. *Laughs*The season is slowly but surely coming to an end. What are you going to do in the winter?
This year I will have to train a lot. I will fly to Northern Ireland for my winter holidays to spend more time n my bike but I hope there will be plenty of proper powder days this winter as well. *Laughs*This year, the bike is celebrating its 200th birthday. What would you do with your time without a bike? Is there an alternative?
Maybe skiing… Other than that, I wouldn’t know what to do! *Laughs*Thanks for the interview, Vali, and good luck for the rest of the season!
Photo Credit: Iam Leon / Daniel Roos.