Following Fort William it was a mad dash out of the Scottish Highlands in order to reach the small alpine village of Leogang, Austria. While racers and race fans love back to back rounds it can be a massive undertaking for the support crews and staff to tear down, travel and set up in time for the next round and a trip to Leogang is no exception. By air, land, and sea the riders and all the infrastructure set off on what, to some, felt like an endless journey. Luckily after the horrendous weather that plagued Fort William everyone was greeted to extremely warm temps and ample sunshine in Austria, allowing tents, shoes, cameras, and clothing to finally dry out.
As for the venue, Leogang always seems to get a bad rap for having a track that is too straight forward or too "bike parky
", and while this may be true over the years it has still created some incredible racing. In 2012 we saw Greg Minnaar win World Champs by the narrowest of margins, in 2013 Steve Smith would claim his World Cup title in a race that came down to the very last run, and in 2014 we saw Aaron Gwin race on only his rim while Loic Bruni crashed in sight of the finish to give Josh Bryceland his first ever World Cup Victory. The times have always been tight and there have always been a few crux sections that have decided the race, so while it may not be the hardest track in the world it's still a great one for racing the clock.
What's in store for racers in 2015? How about a very, very different track that might just silence the haters a bit?
Gone are many of the simple hard packed sections in the woods, and in their place we now have multiple off cambers, fresh cut woods deep in loam, and lots and lots of new corners. It is anything but straight forward, and anyone who has raced here for years will not be able to rely much on prior experience. Even the open bits have seen some clever taping to force riders off and back onto the main line to put more of an emphasis on carrying speed. Yes a few bits do look awkward, but nothing looks dumb or out of place. It is not simply change for the sake of change, but rather it is change for the better.
While the fresh cut bits will evolve over the weekend, the other wild card thrown into the mix will be the weather. We are in the Alps after all, where warm and sunny weather in the mountains almost always means afternoon thunderstorms, and this week should prove to be no exception. While track walk took place under sunny skies and on a surface that was dry and dusty, the day ended with a thunder storm of biblical proportions that flooded the pits and nearby river in a matter of minutes. Needless to say the track that the riders walked today is not the one they will be riding tomorrow and we expect to see a lot of slipping, sliding, and roost flying everywhere. Something we have never seen here in Leogang.
We're in Leogang all weekend, so stay tuned for more from the pits and practice in the days ahead.
About the PhotographersDave Trumpore • Age: 35 • Years Shooting: 4
Dave spent the bulk of the past 17 years racing professionally before realizing that despite qualifying for the random World Cup final here and there, the next generation was just way too fast and way more talented. Upon hanging up his racing boots in 2010, it would be a few years until Dave picked up a camera and started shooting the odd race here and there as a way to stay in touch with all the friends he had made over the years, and the rest as they say is history. In just a few years time his photos have graced the pages of just about every MTB magazine and major media outlet, while his commercial client list includes a who's who of the cycling industry, and he is lucky enough to shoot regularly with some of the best riders on the planet. Currently at Pinkbike, Dave shoots the Downhill WC and the Enduro World Series as well as contributing to the occasional editorial story.
Matthew Delorme • Age: 40 • Years Shooting: 8
Matthew DeLorme is just one of Pinkbike’s motley crew of World Cup Photographers. He currently lives out of a Ogio bag, and calls the road his home. Delorme works for Trek Bicycle, covering their MTB racing programs. He can usually be found laying in the dirt trackside, cracking jokes and saying things that make little to no sense. He enjoys capturing accessory moments and the journey every bit as much as catching the action shot.
Nathan Hughes • Age: 28 • Years Shooting: 2
Nathan Hughes was snared as mainstay Pinbike media crew for the 2013 World Cup season and has been trapped behind the lens and the keyboard ever since. In between the biggest bike events of the year Nathan can be found on client shoots, making far-off travel stories and trying to catch a moment to spin the pedals himself. A great appreciation of the wilderness, the fear of a normal life and the quest for the perfect picture will have him hooked and looking to raise the bar for years to come.