If there is one thing that Leogang can deliver year in and year out, it's close and incredible racing. Tight times force riders to push the limits from top to bottom on a track that often rewards riding the ragged edge more than smooth and steady. But, that fine line is easy to cross and no one found that out more than Tahnee Seagrave and Luca Shaw today. Both going off track from pushing just that little bit too hard and paying the price. While Luca went cartwheeling into the trees, Tahnee's mistake was a bit more subtle, as she would make it to the bottom with the 3rd fastest time only to be disqualified ten minutes later for not re-entering the track in the same spot she left it. Rules are rules, but sometimes they can make for a difficult pill to swallow.
During the women's race, Myriam Nicole also made a small mistake while chasing down the early fast time of Rachel Atherton, and while she came close, today was not going to be her day. Just the smallest of mistakes and in the end, a loss by the smallest of margins - just over half a second. Keeping her cool, however, from top to bottom was Rachel Atherton, who after suffering a cruel twist of fate just one week ago, was looking for redemption in Leogang. With that bitter defeat still fresh in her mind, and more than a year since her last World Cup win, you can bet today's victory was the sweetest form of revenge. The big question now is whether or not she can get back on the winning streak of 2015 and 2016 that saw her absolutely dominate the women's field? If Myriam Nicole has any say in the matter, you can be sure that there will be a battle over points between these two all the way to the end of the season.
For the Juniors, it was Vali Holl once again dominating to take her third win in three rounds amongst the Women. And in the junior men, we saw out first repeat winner in Kye A'hwrn, who backed up his Fort William win with another in Leogang and now leaves Austria as the series leader. Thibaut Daprela would come second by a scant 0.05 of a second, ensuring that a rivalry is surely brewing between the Aussie and the Frenchman.
In the elite men's final, there would be drama right from the start, as angry clouds moved in and rain began to fall just as the first riders took to the track. No sooner had riders in the pits began to worry, the sun made a blazing return and once again, a bullet of bad weather was dodged in Leogang. As the race got into the serious end of things, it would be Aaron Gwin who would throw down the gauntlet with an inspirational run. You can't beat someone who never gives up, and despite barely being able to hold on to the bars all week, Aaron dug deep and delivered once again. None of the top 10 qualifiers seemed to be able to knock him off and as the race came down to the final three, Gwin was starting to feel that hot seat heating up to the max. It wasn't until Amaury Pierron was on track that things would begin to spice up a bit. He was up at one split then down at another but always in touch, and by the time he reached the final steep chute, it was clear he was on the faster run. With Gwin demoted and Amaury assuming the finish line throne for the second week in a row, all eyes turned up the hill to Luca Shaw. Shaw would be up at the splits, out to prove a point after Fort William, but all would come undone for the young American just 30 seconds from the finish line. A big crash over the bars would be Luca's race done, gifting Pierron his second race win in as many weekends and the lead in the overall points standings.
Three World Cups down and we still have no clear-cut favorite in either elite category and, with the rough and rowdy tracks on the horizon later in the summer, things are just going to get more entertaining. Hopefully, a one month break will be enough time to heal injured bodies and minds before we meet again in Val di Sole.