The Form Guide: Who's Going Fast Coming Into the 2020 Leogang Downhill World Championships

Oct 8, 2020
by James Smurthwaite  

Thanks to COVID, riders have had the longest offseasons of their careers and it has now been more than a year since they last went racing at the world level. We've missed a summer full of World Cup racing but it does mean that riders have had plenty of time to prepare for these upcoming World Champs and should be coming into them more hungry than ever.

The long offseason has also given us plenty of pre-season racing to enjoy as domestic race scenes were able to get back on their feet a bit faster than international races. Yes, racers will have been putting in long hours in their pain caves but there's no substitute for the intensity that comes from racing against competitors between the tape. Domestic race scenes have been flooded with World Cup talent in a way we haven't seen since the golden days of the BDS or NORBA races and it has been great to follow along.

How seriously can we take these results? It's tough to say. We have no doubt that for some of the racers the results were less important than the track time and the opportunity to test new setups but when you put a racer between the tapes it's hard to imagine them not wanting to go at 100%. There's also the obvious omission of a few racers who are instead keeping their cards close to their chest. Either way, it's definitely fun to over-analyse this stuff and take a guess what it might mean for the upcoming World Championships.


Europe



Despite being hit by COVID very hard in spring, Europe has managed to put on the most racing this year and we even saw the first World Cups last week in Nove Mesto. Throughout the summer we've seen the best riders from the continent descend on France for its super-strong domestic races but there has also been Crankworx Innsbruck and the iXS Test session in Schladming to keep us entertained.

French Cup

France's domestic race series is probably the strongest in the world at the moment and riders from all over Europe congregated in the Alps for a 4 round series. Myriam Nicole won two French Cup rounds, the Brioude DH Cup and added a French Championships jersey to her World Champs jersey and looks to be the strongest woman from these races. Camille Balanche showed her strength in muddy conditions after she put 15 seconds into Monika Hrastnik and the rest of the field at the Métabief washout and Marine Cabirou won the Les Gets Invitational and picked up two-second place French Cup finishes despite having her off-season disrupted with a COVID-19 infection.

It was no surprise to see Loris Vergier at the top of the timesheets in the Les Gets Invitational and two of the French Cup rounds and his 7-second victory in the mud of Métabief was especially impressive given the calibre of the field. A new French talent emerged this year in Benoit Coulanges, he could be a great Fantasy pick as he won the French Championships and one of the French Cup rounds. The final win in the French Cup went to Loic Bruni who clearly hasn't slowed down since doing the double last year.

Round 1 - Alpe D'Huez

Men

1. Loris Vergier - 3:27.98
2. Angel Suarez +1.23
3. Thomas Estaque +1.61

Women

1.Mélanie Chappaz - 4:07.65
2. Mariana Salazar +6.10
3. Estelle Charles +10.71

Full Results
Round 2 - Les Duex Alpes

Men

1. Benoit Coulanges - 3:05.32
2. Hugo Frixtalon +1.08
3. Loris Vergier +1.32

Women

1. Myriam Nicole - 3:27.32
2. Camille Balanche +4.22
3. Melanie Chappaz +11.20

Full results

Round 3 - Métabief

Men

1. Loris Vergier - 3:35.19
2. Greg Minnaar +7.42
3. Benoit Coulanges +8.65

Women

1. Camille Balanche: 4:31.32
2. Monika Hrastnik +15.62
3. Veronika Widmann +17.85

Full results
Round 4 - Les Orres

Men

1. Loic Bruni - 3:24.19
2. Finn Iles +1.47
3.Thibaut Daprela +2.43

Women

1. Myiram Nicole - 3:55.86
2. Marine Cabirou +4.29
3.Tracey Hannah +4.75

Full results

French National Championships

Men

1. Benoit Coulanges - 3:11.68
2. Loic Bruni +0.72
3. Loris Vergier +0.86

Women

1. Myriam Nicole - 3:37.20
2. Marine Cabirou +3.64
3. Agnes Delest +16.58

Full results

Other French Races

Les Gets P2V Invitational

Men

1. Loris Vergier - 3:20.35
2. Benoit Coulanges +2.24
3. Loic Bruni +2.86

Women

1. Marine Cabirou - 3:58.96
2. Tracey Hannah +2.04

Full results
Brioude DH Cup

Men

1. Amaury Pierron - 1:31.355
2. Baptiste Pierron +1.298
3. Benoit Coulanges +2.212

Women

1. Myriam Nicole - 1:44.622
2. Mariana Salazar +8.726
3. Monika Hrastnik +9.564

Full results



Crankworx Innsbruck
Bernard Kerr riding that 10th-year anniversary Pivot to 10th place.

Probably the most high profile race this summer has been the Crankworx Innsbruck downhill. The real winner on the day was Brook MacDonald who was returning from a broken back but David Trummer recorded the fastest time in his first race for the YT Mob. There was also a first in the women's race as Vali Holl claimed her maiden elite victory and announced herself as one of the favourites for the World Champs this week on her home track in Leogang.

Men:

1.David Trummer - 2:49.081
2. Ed Masters +1.655
3. Charlie Harrison +1.870

Women:

1. Vali Höll - 3:12.139
2. Tracey Hannah +0.951
3. Morgane Charre +6.211

Full results



NotARace - iXS Cup Test Session
Photo Leopold Hermann

While technically not a race, the iXS Test session definitely threw up some interesting results. David Trummer found himself at the top end of the timesheets on both days and he was joined by a Commencal 100% rider in second place on both days. Andreas Kolb was fastest on Day 2.

Vali Holl showed her speed again by taking the win on Day 1 but Nina Hoffmann was the most consistent rider over the two days with a second and a first placed time.

Day 1

Men

1. David Trummer - 2:20.660
2. Greg Williamson +0.172
3. Adam Rojcek +0.389

Women

1. Vali Höll - 2:37.652
2. Nina Hoffmann +0.189
3. Melanie Chappaz +6.005

Full results
Day 2

Men

1. Andreas Kolb - 2:22.977
2. Thomas Estaque +0.876
3. David Trummer +0.919

Women

1. Nina Hoffmann - 2:42.629
2. Monika Hrastnik +2.506
3. Melanie Chappaz +5.263

Full results


North America


The epicentre of North American racing was the Neko Mulally spearheaded Downhill South East series that saw most of the top American riders race at least one round. In Canada the Crankworx Summer Series allowed us to assess the form of BC-based riders.

Crankworx Summer Series

The Crankworx Summer Series saw three weeks of intense racing around BC including three downhill races and the resurrection of the Psychosis downhill race. Finn Iles dominated the series and the downhill with wins in Sun Peaks and Silver Star to bookend the series. He was also second to Henry Fitzgerald in the Psychosis race. The final win went to Jesse Melamed but he wasn't selected to represent Canada at this year's World Champs.

Of the women who raced in the Summer Series, only Miranda Miller was selected for the World Champs squad, she picked up a second-place and two third places.

Silver Star

Men

1. Finn Iles - 2:12.262
2. Kasper Wooley +0.901
3. Brett Rheeder +2.428

Women

1. Vaea Verbeeck - 2:35.885
2. Andreane Lanthier Nadeau +3.29
3. Miranda Miller +3.78

Full results
Psychosis Downhill

Men

1. Henry Fitzgerald - 11:19.19
2. Finn Iles +9.62
3. Rhys Verner +13.09

Women

1. Andreane Lanthier Nadeau - 14:32.69
2. Georgia Astle +4.68
3. Casey Brown +19.64

Full results

Kicking Horse

Men

1. Jesse Melamed - 2:51.84
2. Rhys Verner +0.61
3. Kirk Mcdowall +0.75

Women

1. Casey Brown - 3:28.71
2. Vaea Verbeeck +2.87
3. Miranda Miller +11.89

Full results
Sun Peaks

Men

1. Finn Iles - 4:28.33
2. Henry Fitzgerald +2.35
3. Rhys Verner +5.21

Women

1. Vaea Verbeeck - 5:12.46
2. Miranda Miller +3.58
3. Casey Brown +9.23

Full results



Downhill South East
Colin dusting me out.

The honours were shared pretty evenly at the Downhill South East rounds with Dakotah Norton claiming two wins and Charlie Harrison and Neko Mulally taking the spoils on the others. Frida Ronning was the fastest woman this year but was not selected for World Champs.

Windrock I

Men

1. Dakotah Norton - 2:44.03
2. Luca Shaw +3.54
3. Isak Levisson +7.55

Women

1. Frida Rønning - 3:21.78
2. Kailey Skelton +3.01
3. Rachel Pageau +13.81

Full results
Windrock II

Men

1. Charlie Harrison - 2:48.30
2. Neko Mulally +4.39
3. Seth Hanson +9.25

Women

1. Frida Ronning - 3:23.8
2. Rachel Pageau +6.68
3. Caroline Washam +12.5

Full results

Snowshoe

Men

1. Neko Mulally - 3:44.87
2. Seth Hanson +7.34
3. Titus Nicholson +21.28

Women

1. Caroline Washam - 4:43.49
2. Frida Roenning +3.32
3. Angelica Pietranton +1:10.36

Full results
Sugar Mountain

Men

1. Dakotah Norton - 3:14.89
2. Chris Grice +10.18
3. Isak Leivsson +11.45

Women

1. Frida Roenning - 3:55.66
2. Caroline Washam +16.27
3. Mazie Hayden +18.74

Full results


Oceania


Most of Oceania's racing took place in the Southern Hemisphere summer before the effects of COVID really started to be felt. Most races went ahead as planned but they all happened more than six months ago so riders' form may have changed since the dust settled.

Crankworx Rotorua
Tracey Hannah finished in first place for the women and had a full 24 second gap separating her and the next racer.

At Crankworx Rotorua we weren't yet prepared for the havoc that COVID would wreak on the racing season as only Italy's Torquato Testa was prevented from competing by New Zealand regulations. Tracey Hannah and Mick Hannah took the wins and Sam Blenkinsop added to a successful domestic campaign by finishing second.

Men:

1. Mick Hannah - 3:00.16
2. Samuel Blenkinsop +1.41
3. George Brannigan +2.38

Women:

1. Tracey Hannah 3:32.44
2. Jill Kintner +24.38
3. Vinny Armstrong+ 24.73

Full results



National Races
Sian A'Hern dominated the women's racing this year in Oceania and ended up as the continental champion. In the men's races, two names rose to the top. In Australia it was Troy Brosnan and in New Zealand, Sam Blenkinsop, they were both their respective National Champions with Blenki also picking up the Oceania title.

Australian Open - Cannonball

Men

1.Troy Brosnan - 5:20.32
2. Jackson Frew +2.96
3. Connor Fearon +4.75

Women

1. Sian Ahern - 6:07.83
2. Tegan Molloy +4.72
3. Kyleigh Stewart +28.96

Full results
NZ Open

Men

1. Greg Williamson - 3:05.02
2. Sam Gale +0.09
3. Sam Blenkinsop +0.32

Women

1. Leah Smith - 4:26.82
2. Melanie Blomfield +4.72
3. Emma Bateup +13.06

Full results

New Zealand National Championships

Men

1.Sam Blenkinsop - 2:25.470
2. Sam Gale +0.987
3. George Brannigan +0.99

Women

1. Jessica Blewitt - 3:08.293
2. Shania Rawson +2.234
3. Sacha Earnest +3.924

Full results
Australian National Championships

Men

1. Troy Brosnan - 3:33.899
2. Connor Fearon +1.234
3. Aaron Gungl +3.164

Women

1. Sian A'Hern - 4:15.402
2. Tegan Molloy +15.329
3. Ellie Smith +36.258

Full results

Oceania Championships

Men

1.Sam Blenkinsop - 2:36.41
2. Sam Gale +3.14
3. Dean Lucas +4.41

Women

1. Sian A'Hern - 3:22.83
2. Jessica Blewitt +0.2
3. Shania Rawson +2.87

Full results


Who has had the best off season?


Women

It's hard to look past Myriam Nicole as the in-form woman coming into the World Championships this season. The standard of racing was consistently the highest in the French Cup and she pulled off a number of classy wins throughout the series. Her biggest competitor based on pre-season form is probably Vali Holl. The two women are yet to face off in any event this year but it will be fascinating when they do. Nicole has experience on her side and is used to the pressure of the one race/one chance format of Worlds but Holl is on her home track and has nothing to lose in her first elite championships.

All of this forgets that Tahnee Seagrave is back racing in Leogang but she is recovering from a dislocated ankle, broken tibia and fibula and ligament tears that were picked up following a crash in February. At full fitness, she's one of the fastest women on the planet but her pace this week will be dependent on how well her recovery has gone.

Men

As you might expect, the French are looking ferociously fast coming into this World Championships. Yes, Amaury Pierron may be out with an injury but there's still Loic Bruni, Loris Vergier and Benoit Coulanges who have all picked up wins in the pre-season. With the weather forecast set for rain all week in Leogang, Vergier's win at the Métabief mud fest could be the most significant but that will all depend on how well the hard-pack race track holds up in Austria. Beyond the French, David Trummer, Troy Brosnan, Sam Blenkinsop, Dakotah Norton and Finn Iles have all also shown winning form this off-season.

Just like the women, there are also some racers who we haven't seen much of this off-season too. Gwin has been testing a new mullet set up but we only saw him race in the Mob'n Mojave. He's still on the hunt for his first Rainbow Stripes and he's performed some miracles here in Leogang in the past too. We've also not seen much from Laurie Greenland or Danny Hart either. They were both World Cup winners last year and have had some of their best rides at World Championship races in the past.


51 Comments

  • 36 5
 Does anyone else notice how pretty a rear wheel is when it doesn't have a 50t cassette bolted to it?
  • 10 1
 Single speed DH bikes are the most underrated things ever along with gearbox bikes and 26in wheels
  • 19 3
 Hey Pinkbike Eds: Why don't you put any effort into the proper spelling of riders' names?
PFP a few days ago and now Vali Höll (or Hoell if you cant be bothered to use an ö).

just a thought....
  • 16 2
 Burritto says what?
  • 4 1
 At least Fabien Barel is not racing anymore, so we don't get to see it written Fabian everywhere. Smile
  • 2 0
 @mi-bike: frrrrrrrrrrtttttttttttt!
  • 9 0
 I miss Marine Caribou
  • 2 0
 And Les Duex Alpes instead of Les Deux Alpes.
  • 19 1
 Our money is on Marine!
  • 5 7
 Biased much?
  • 17 0
 @SCOTT-Sports quite literally. And the sport appreciates your backing athletes like her.

Beer
  • 16 0
 Danny Hart for me. Consistent on the off season and loves mud.
  • 2 0
 For sure. I've high hopes for Greenland too, but I'm biased.
  • 2 0
 That bottom part has written Hart all over it ...
  • 12 0
 Surprised they didn’t mention Jack moir at all, he did pretty well at his first ews races this season. I’m interested in how he’s going to do on the canyon dh bike as he definitely has speed and he’s come top 10 at leogang before with a crash in his run.
  • 1 0
 I think he's underrated, listening to him on the pinkbike podcast it sounded like when Gain joined the intense factory team he brought over a bunch of equipment sponsors that Jack just couldn't get on with (not having Maxxis tires was the biggest IIRC) which I can totally understand. Promising EWS results paired with solid 2018 finishes set him up for a solid year in downhill.
  • 1 0
 Yep, Jack is on fire and looking pretty comfortable on that sender. He's good in the mud too. Bring home the gold Moi Moi!
  • 4 0
 Came here having no idea who to choose, left here having no idea who to choose. Although, PB you should give 50 point to everyone who has the Bulldog in their team as a good will gesture
  • 12 0
 I specifically left him off my team as a good will gesture to him...
  • 9 2
 Come on Gwinner! It's now or never!
  • 1 1
 I want him to win one so bad!
  • 1 0
 @thewho07: I want him to lose so bad. Haha.
  • 4 0
 Scottish boys all the way.
  • 1 0
 Yeeeeeow!
  • 2 0
 I think the only winner this weekend will be the weather. Thanks 2020!! You just keep on giving don’t ya!?
  • 4 0
 Go David gooooooo!!!
  • 1 0
 For some the champs race is going to feel like the first race after the off-season....because it is. Will be an interesting one.
  • 2 3
 Vergier is my pick..the woman is a tricky one given the weather seagrave is used to that slop its an open race imo wich makes it so exciting in both fields.race practice through the year.extended off-season training weather,excitement all factors
  • 3 0
 If it's a mudder, how could you bet against Hart?!
  • 8 0
 His father was a mudder, his mother was a mudder.
  • 2 0
 Is there going to be a replay of the races available as per usual? Also assuming that won't be blocked to certain nations...
  • 3 0
 Never ever ever count Greg out!
  • 2 0
 The dogg is going to be hard to stop
  • 2 0
 Call me crazy, but my money is on Loic!
  • 1 0
 Well...who's loic??
Smile
  • 1 0
 Any news on whether Hardline is happening? Or, is this the end of the season?
  • 1 0
 My bet's on Loris this year,insane speed in metabief with muddy conditions too...
  • 2 0
 Is this on TV?
  • 1 0
 might be on bbc red button, best bet is to use redbull tv
  • 1 0
 It depends ...
  • 1 0
 Given the state of the track I'd place my bets on Laurie here.
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