Last weekend saw Leogang host its second XC World Cup in a row after the wet and wild 2020 World Champs, but for the second year, we were treated to the same Elite race outcomes. Friday's XCC Short Track racing saw both Loana Lecomte and Mathias Flückiger take wins with the pair also taking victory in Sunday's main race. 2021 saw the same results with the pair now becoming the only riders to have ever secured XCC and XC wins in the same weekend at the same venue.
Interestingly, the Elite Women's race not only had the same winner as 2021, but the exact same top three riders. Second-placed Jenny Rissveds and Laura Stigger in third were slightly closer to Loana Lecomte this year, but the young French rider still managed a sizeable winning margin of over a minute.
Following his record-equalling win in Brazil at the start of the 2022 season, Nino Schurter has come very close to surpassing Julien Absalon's record, but is yet to take another win. While he is still hunting that next win, he has shown incredibly consistent performances with no race outside the top three with one win, two second places and a third place. Nino is always a threat for the podium, but recent years have seen those top finishes become a lot harder with some incredibly fast competition from the likes of Mathias Flückiger, Tom Pidcock and Mathieu Van Der Poel. It's great to see one of the greatest racers back at the sharp end and he still has another five World Cup races and World Champs left this season for a chance at another win.
After Loana was caught back up at the first round of the season after trying her usual tactic of riding away from the start, we questioned whether she would ever be able to do it again after catching everyone by surprise in 2021. But, Leogang has shown that the young French rider is back and proving why she can be so dominant with no rider having an answer to her speed all weekend. A win of 1:13 may not be one of her biggest, but I think any rider would be happy with a winning margin of that size and it is the biggest we have seen in the Elite Women's racing this year by around 20 seconds.
The U23 rider from Chile is absolutely dominating in 2022 with back-to-back wins at all four races so far this season. Martin has always been one of the fastest U23 riders, but this season has seen a whole new level of performance with his smallest win actually coming from Leogang at 19 seconds. Wins earlier this season have seen victories of 36 and 37 seconds alongside a massive 1:10 margin in Nove Mesto. Martin is one of the older riders in the U23 field and we will keep our eyes on him for potential future success in the Elites.
Leogang provides one of the toughest challenges for riders with some massive and steep climbs paired with some of the most technical descents. Despite this, it just doesn't provide the most exciting racing to watch with the old school course splitting apart the field on the climbs and making for large time gaps between the top racers instead of the tight, more exciting racing we've seen at other rounds.
Friday's XCC Short Track didn't get the approval of the riders with some of the racers not happy with the long climbs on wet and muddy grass making it more of a shorter XC race rather than the flat-out sprint of the normal XCC courses with tight finishes. Proof being that Sunday's winners were also the winners in Friday night's Short Track. Sunday's course is a favourite among climbers with the track basically involving a big climb at the start and second half of the course, but with little in between to shake things up, it's not the most interesting for spectators. We have been at Leogang on the same course for three years now and maybe it is time for a rethink for future races.