A mass exodus of World Cup teams and their riding machines is happening as we speak as riders make their way from Fort William down towards Dover, across the English Channel and then across Europe with their final destination being Leogang in the Eastern Alps... the land of Edelweiss of course.
Leogang has matured over the years but it’ll never shake its bike park image because, well it’s in a bike park. Despite what the haters say, it has been centre stage of a number of memorable moments for us World Cup fans.
Back in 2014, Aaron Gwin crossed the finish line with a rear flat tire to the applause of the crowd as well as his fellow racing compatriots (including Brosnan and Minnaar giving him a standing ovation from the hot seat). His determination weaved itself through to the following year when his chain came off before he could take the first corner. We all know how that turned out. Many, many minds were blown. But, then again, perhaps that’s what you get for putting a World Cup on in the middle of a bike park.
Credit: Red Bull
How can we forget yet another memorable moment, although this time, one that will probably bring a tear to your eye? Back in 2013, a young Stevie Smith was on the verge of World Cup history, and although he and Gee Atherton had been neck and neck for pretty much every round that year, the scores on the doors meant that all Smith had to do was to ride faster than the Englishman in Leogang to claim the World Cup overall.
It was heart-in-your-mouth stuff, particularly for Atherton who could see from the finish corral his World Cup championship falter at the last hurdle. In the end, the day belonged to Smith; he beat Atherton by 2.8 seconds and in doing so, secured those all important points to be the first Canadian in the history of the Downhill World Cup to win the overall. What a day.
This is an unofficial video, sadly. There doesn't seem to be an official version available online, which is a travesty.
Last year a few changes here and there added to the excitement of the race weekend. The track is largely open to the elements from the start-gate and you’ll find lots of fast sweeping corners and jumps over fire roads. The track picks up speed as it begins to skirt around the first wooded section but doesn't plunge into it.
A few jumps and chutes later, the track eventually arrives at what used to be the first woods section. Times have changed, and it was a couple of year ago when the trail builders cut a whole load of trees in this section down, making way for a new line full of big old roots and tree stumps. Out of this section, there’s a bit of a motorway, but it’s not as gravity orientated as the one in Fort William so there’s a bit of pedalling required.
Back into the woods, riders are confronted with some short technical sections, ending with a few tight turns before popping out of the treeline and into the finish area. This last section has seen its history of interesting and somewhat frightening tales; from Carpenter and Kerr’s ‘Tape Gate’ a few years back, to Rémi Thirion’s horrific crash in qualifying last year where he overshot the final jump, suffering multiple bone fractures. It’s good to see him back riding and full of fire this year at Fort William; one can only hope he gets some sort of redemption out on the Leogang track this weekend.
What Happened At The Last Round
Two races into the 2018 season and we now have four different winners, one of which broke their World Cup top-step-of-the-podium cherry on the dramatic hillside at Fort William last weekend.
The Scottish hillside of Aonach Mòr was in no mood for playing nice. The dry weather the area had seen made the track super quick, and occasionally it bit back at riders looking to capitalise on the conditions. On race day the rock garden in the woods saw a multitude of riders bumble their way down - some taking interesting lines too - but a few seeing the rocks a little too up close and personal.
In the Elite Women’s race, Marine Cabirou sat in the hot seat for a while, seeing off Katy Curd, Cécile Ravanel, and Tracey Hannah. Seagrave was up next and seemed to be having a steady run - her pace was deceptively fast - and as the splits started to show at the midpoint of the track she was almost 8 seconds ahead of Cabirou. Confidence was pushing Seagrave on, and coming into view of the finish corral, flying under the famous ‘Scotland’ arch, she decided to throw in a one-hander to the delight of the crowds. Seagrave crossed the line and had to wait for two more riders to make their way down. Losinj winner Myriam Nicole seemed to be having a good run but slipped out in the rock garden. Getting back on her bike, she worked her way down the track, knowing that she had a chance at a podium place. Nicole crossed the line 10 seconds down from Seagrave, and with only Atherton remaining, Nicole was guaranteed a second or third place. Back to the top of the hill and Atherton didn’t get far out of the gate before her chain snapped, leaving her to use only gravity and cunning to cross the line in an amazing third place. Seagrave took the win, and her first ever World Cup Fort William victory as an Elite rider.
Despite the weather forecast threatening a small thunderstorm during the Elite Men’s race, the riders managed to escape the rain and instead got sunshine and gentle winds. The home advantage played into Reece Wilson’s hands - he rode a solid run, sitting in the hot seat for a good while. Coming back from injury, Frenchman and 2017 World Champion, Loïc Bruni came close to unseating Wilson but he lost time in the last few sections and had to settle for sitting next to the Brit as the remaining field made their way down. Qualifying further down the field than usual thanks to a slashed tyre the day before, Gwin seemed to be on another blinder of a run, but the new rock garden was having none of it. A huge hole swallowed up the American’s front wheel, and over the bars Gwin went. Next up was Amaury Pierron who made everyone’s screens light up green with fast split times. Seemingly not making a mistake anywhere, Pierron held it together and crossed the line 2.7 seconds up from Wilson.
The Bill then threw a bunch of fate at the remaining riders; Dakotah Norton copied Rachel Atherton and snapped his chain off the start gate, Troy Brosnan came close but was unable to find the small gains to catch Pierron’s time, crossing the line 0.3 seconds behind the Frenchman. Then Vergier turned up looking fast; he managed to slot in between Brosnan and Pierron, losing out on beating his fellow countryman by 0.1 seconds. With only two riders left, next up was Danny Hart. Despite taking different lines here and there, they didn’t seem to work to his advantage and Hart failed to make a dent on the top times. Finally, Luca Shaw was the last man down, and despite being up by more than a second on Pierron’s time at the first split, much to everyone’s disappointment his race was short-lived thanks to a puncture. He limped home to contemplate what could have been, while the French celebrated Pierron taking his first ever World Cup win. I’m sure it’s not that last we’ll see of him either this season.
1st // Aaron GWIN // USA // 279 // No change
2nd // Loris VERGIER // FRA // 275 // -4 // Moves up from 10th
3rd // Amaury PIERRON // FRA // 273 // -6 // Moves up from 16th
4th // Troy BROSNAN // AUS // 270 // -9 // Moves up from 8th
5th // Samuel BLENKINSOP // NZL // 247 // -32 // Movs down from 4th
6th // Luca SHAW // USA // 232 // -47 // Moves down from 2nd
7th // Danny HART // GBR // 221 // -58 // Moves up from 9th
8th // Dean LUCAS // AUS // 180 // -99 // Moves down from 3rd
9th // Dakotah NORTON // USA // 167 // -112 // No change
10 // Laurie GREENLAND // GBR // 156 // -123 // Moves down from 7th
1st // Myriam NICOLE // FRA // 430 // No change
2nd // Rachel ATHERTON // GBR // 400 // -30 // No change
3rd // Tahnee SEAGRAVE // GBR // 386 // -44 // No change
4th // Marine CABIROU // FRA // 291 // -139 // No change
5th // Cecile RAVANEL // FRA // 245 // -185 // No change
6th // Tracey HANNAH // AUS // 230 // -200 // Moves up from 7th
7th // Emilie SIEGENTHALER // SUI // 176// -254 // Moves up from 8th
8th // Katy CURD // GBR // 160 // -270 // Moves up from 9th
9th // Monika HRASTNIK // SLO // 156 // -274 // Moves down from 6th
10th // Mariana SALAZAR // ESA // 130 // -300 // No change
What Happened Here Last Year
Tip-top conditions meant for excellent racing last year. In the Elite Women’s race, with Rachel Atherton out after sustaining an injury in a training session at Fort William the week before, it was a real test for the rest of the field to see who could make hay while the sun shined. Hannah was looking blisteringly quick - proven by her top qualifying time - coupled with being in the lead in the rider standings, she was favourite to take the win. But out of Atherton’s shadows was lurking a hungry Brit. Finishing a runner-up so many times before, Leogang is where Tahnee Seagrave decided to show the world what following a dream really meant. With a winning margin of just over half a second Seagrave secured her first World Cup win in Elites, much to her's and her family and fans' relief.
Credit: Red Bull
In the Elite Men’s race, we were gifted yet more close racing. The times were tight between riders as they made their way down to the finish line. Then a young Frenchman turned up; Loris Vergier. He had an awesome run and seemed to be unbeatable. Not even Minnaar or Brosnan could dent Vergier’s lead. Aaron Gwin was the last man on the hill and that started to make Vergier look nervous. Gwin’s run was complex with his splits showing green, then red, and then green again... crossing the line with a second and a half left in the tank and leaving Vergier to take second place.
Credit: Red Bull
2017 // Aaron GWIN // USA
2016 // Aaron GWIN // USA
2015 // Aaron GWIN // USA
2014 // Josh BRYCELAND // GBR
2013 // Steve SMITH // CAN
2012 // Greg MINNAAR // RSA *
2011 // Aaron GWIN // USA
2010 // Greg MINNAAR // RSA
2017 // Tahnee SEAGRAVE // GBR
2016 // Rachel ATHERTON // GBR
2015 // Rachel ATHERTON // GBR
2014 // Manon CARPENTER // GBR
2013 // Emmeline RAGOT // FRA
2012 // Morgane CHARRE // FRA *
2011 // Floriane PUGIN // FRA
2010 // Sabrina JONNIER // FRA
Note: * denotes World Championship race.
The Weather Forecast
Watching It In Person
There’s lots of activity going on at the World Cup weekend, and it’s not just mountain biking. The Out of Bounds Festival hosts open-air music concerts, a freestyle motocross show and a large expo area. The entry ticket to watch the qualifications on Saturday and racing on Sunday gets you into the whole weekend's package of events. Tickets start from €15 per adult per day for all the events bar access to the mountain on the gondola (although you can walk it). Alternatively, if you want to let the gondola transport you one trip up and one trip down, tickets are €24 each. Gondola-assisted entry tickets for both Saturday and Sunday are €40. Concessions are available, and for more information and to actually book a ticket visit the official site
Must Know, Must See, Must Do
Leogang is a town in the Zell am See area of the Salzburg region in Austria. Nestled in the mountains, in the past Leogang and its surrounds was a secret winter resort for those wanting to escape the crowds and sample some fine Austrian powder. Nowadays its summertime tranquillity is infused with the sound of summer sports, with mountain biking being centre stage thanks to its bike park. If you’re visiting and want to sample some history and culture, then there’s plenty to go around.
Salzburg derives its name from the salt formed and farmed within the local mountains. You can see the salt for yourself and learn about how it made the area prosperous by going on a salt mine tour. Don white overalls and pretend your on the set of a Beastie Boys music video… you’ll be taken down a mine shaft to wonder at the cave network and if you pick the right mine, you’ll even be taken on an underground salt-lake boat trip. Quite an eerie experience. If you wish to continue on a theme of being underground, then take a trip to one of the world’s largest ice cave just south of Salzburg city. Pack some warm clothes though as the 30-minute tour is in sub-zero temperatures.
Above ground, there’s plenty else to see in the countryside, like one of the numerous The Sound of Music tours that visit the various filming locations. If musicals aren’t your thing and you’re more of a World War 2 history buff, you can pop across the border into Germany and have a meal and take in the views at what was once the Eagle’s Nest, one of Hitler’s Bavarian residences. Built as a chalet on the mountaintop overlooking the Berghof - another residence of the Nazi party leader - he never liked heights so only visited the chalet a handful of times. The chalet survived the bombings of the Royal Air Force, who instead concentrated their Lancaster bombers on the bigger complex of the Berghof, smashing it to smithereens in 1945. What was left of the Berghof and Eagle’s Nest was captured by American and French soldiers soon after.
Of course, there’s more to this part of the world than sing-along musicals and recent history… the city of Salzburg itself is one of the biggest in Austria and packs a lot into its historic Baroque-style small, winding, cobbled-strewn streets (which have made the city a UNESCO World Heritage site).
Overlooking the city is the imposing Festung Hohensalzburg fortress. Build it 1077 and expanded over the centuries, thanks to a series of wealthy prince-archbishops who wanted to protect their income. A short walk up to the fortress grants you spectacular views of the city and its fine architecture, and inside you’ll find more about the history of the city and exhibitions as to what life was like in Salzburg through the ages.
The classical music-lovers among you will note that Salzburg is Mozart’s place of birth, so there’s plenty to see and do if you’re a fan of the young musical master. The house where he was born in the city is now a tourist attraction, and there are other buildings that host exhibitions and museums dedicated to Mozart’s life and connection with the city. There are also frequent recitals to go to should you want to totally embrace the spirit of Mozart.
Nicole is also riding better than ever, only misjudging a gravelly corner at the Fort which stopped her stepping into the hot seat. She will be a close second. It seems rude to predict Tahnée in third after winning Leogang last year and Fort William last weekend, but she has another win firmly within her grasp.”
“Even though he took a nasty tumble at Fort William for the second year in a row, there's no betting against Gwin at Leogang - he has won here four out of the seven times he's raced, and that's not taking in to account chainless and tireless runs. Second and third place are more mysterious after the Bill claimed some riders and their bikes, and shed some light on up and coming talent. I think Danny Hart is on form that hasn't really shown early season and will go 2nd. Pierron and that high-pivot monster-truck from Commencal will smash down to third.
I would say that Rachel fell victim to lady luck last weekend, but, nowadays it is not luck with the amount of snapped chains we've seen out of the start gate. Anyway, she is on top form and will power down to her first WC win of the season.
Pinkbike's World Cup Predictionator
1 // Aaron GWIN
2 // Danny HART
3 // Amaury PIERRON
1 // Rachel ATHERTON
2 // Myriam NICOLE
3 // Tahnée SEAGRAVE
The ScheduleWednesday 06 June
• 15:00-16:00 Downhill Course Walk by BroadcasterThursday 07 June
• 08:30-11:00 // Downhill Course Inspection by UCI
• 11:00-12:00 // Downhill On Board Course Preview
• 13:00-14:00 // On Foot Downhill Course Inspection - Elite Teams
• 14:00-16:00 // On Foot Downhill Course Inspection - All RidersFriday 08 June
• 08:00-11:30 // Official Downhill Training - Group B
• 11:45-15:15 // Official Downhill Training - Group A
• 15:30-17:00 // Downhill Timed Training Session
• 17:00-17:45 // On Foot Downhill Course Inspection - Riders and TeamsSaturday 09 June
• 08:00-09:45 // Official Downhill Training - Group B
• 10:00-11:45 // Official Downhill Training - Group A
• 12:15 // Seeding Run - Junior Women
• 12:30 // Qualifying Round - Junior Men
• 13:30 // Qualifying Round - Elite Women
• 14:00 // Qualifying Round - Elite Men
• Followed by // 30 minutes On Foot Downhill Course Inspection - Riders and TeamsSunday 10 June
• 08:00-09:00 // Official Downhill Training - Junior Women, Junior Men, Elite Women
• 09:45 // Final - Junior Women
• 10:15 // Final - Junior Men
• 11:00-12:00 // Official Downhill Training - Elite Men
• 12:30 // Final - Elite Women
• 13:30 // Final - Elite MenNote: All times are local and subject to change by the UCI/event organiser.
Hot off the road trip across Europe from Scotland, Pinkbike will be providing you with the best daily coverage from our team of photographers in Leogang this week. Tune in to Pinkbike to catch photo epics and results from the track walk on Thursday, timed training on Friday, qualifying on Saturday, and finals on Sunday.
For the Elite Women and Elite Men finals, you can watch the action on Red Bull TV on Sunday 10 June 12:30 CEST (Elite Women coverage) and 14:00 CEST (Elite Men coverage).
Here’s a breakdown of what these times mean in these main locations (w = Elite Women’s coverage, m = Elite Men’s coverage):
• 03:30 (w) // 05:00 (m) // Sunday // Vancouver, Canada (PDT)
• 06:30 (w) // 08:00 (m) // Sunday // Washington DC, USA (EDT)
• 11:30 (w) // 13:00 (m) // Sunday // London, UK (BST)
• 20:30 (w) // 22:00 (m) // Sunday // Sydney, Australia (AEST)
• 22:30 (w) // 00:00 (m) // Monday // Auckland, New Zealand (NZST)Note: These times are subject to change. Please check with your local provider.
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