4 Things We Learned at the 2021 Leogang DH World Cup

Jun 15, 2021 at 7:08
by James Smurthwaite  
1. The 2020 World Champs Weren't as Much of a Lottery as We Thought

Last year's woods section was a constantly shifting, minefield of roots and ruts and while it produced a pair of World Champions that not many people predicted beforehand, it seems it wasn't actually as much of a lottery as it appeared.

At World Champs last year, Camille Balanche was the only woman to make it down the course without crashing and this year again she looked the most comfortable in the woods, not putting a foot wrong and even popping out of the speed-sapping low line off the drop without needing to put in a pedal stroke. Monika Hrastnik also repeated her third place finish from World Champs, this time just behind Vali Holl instead of Myriam Nicole.
Camille Balanche took the win for the women Slipping and sliding just enough to keep her speed up in the woods.

In the men's race, Brosnan jumped from eighth up to first but if you look at the fastest woods times, it's the same names that crop up this year as last year. Reece Wilson was fastest through the Red Bull key section and in fact all of Sector 4 with Remi Thirion, who won bronze at that race, just over a second behind.

Adapting to a changing track and reacting to a bike that's moving unpredictably beneath you are valuable assets for a rider to have and seeing the same names near the top of the timesheets once more is a clear indication that skill rather than luck allowed riders to prosper in Leogang's tricky new woods section.

2. Switzerland Earns its First Elite Downhill World Cup Win Since 2007

Despite its deep heritage in cross country, with legends like Schurter, Sauser, Neff, Frischknecht and Blatter, Switzerland has never enjoyed the same level of success in downhill. It's a country that holds some of the most legendary tracks in the World but on Saturday Camille Balanche became only the third ever Swiss rider to win a downhill World Cup.

It has been more than a decade since Marielle Saner last recorded a victory for Switzerland on home turf in Champery in 2007. Saner also won a World Cup in Schladming in 2004 and prior to her, Sari Jorgensen won in Nevegal in 1998. Camille Balanche has not been in the sport long but she's already one of Switzerland's most decorated downhill riders with a World Cup and World Championships win to her name. She just needs another World Cup win to equal Saner's record and judging by her run on Saturday, we don't think it will take her that long to achieve.
Balanche takes an eager look back as she begins realizing she may have pulled off the win again on the same track and similar conditions as Worlds in the fall.

3. It's Been a Long Time Coming for Brosnan

On Saturday, Troy Brosnan became the 22nd member of the 3 win club for Elite men at World Cups. His last World Cup win was at Vallnord in 2017 and his first goes all the way back to Fort William in 2014. This gap of seven years marks the longest time a rider has ever had to wait between getting their first World Cup win and their third. The next rider on that list is Gee Atherton who took six years between his first win in Schladming in 2004 at his third at 3rd at Fort William in 2010, then Cedric Gracia and David Vazquez both have five years between their first and third.
Some fizz to celebrate a rare Monster 1 2 3 on the mens podium.

Despite the victories coming sporadically, Brosnan has been relentlessly consistent in the past seven years and has stood on the podium 26 times since that first win in 2014. The fact that he can still be competitive and challenging for wins seven years after he first broke through is testament to his mental fortitude and perseverance. Brosnan is always going to be knocking on the door and with the form he's carrying into this season, we don't think he'll be awaiting another three or four years for his next win.

4. Commencal is Dominating the Numbers Game

There were times over the weekend when it seemed like every other bike on the mountain was a Commencal Supreme. The Andorran brand is supporting five teams this year - Commencal / Muc Off by Riding Addiction, Commencal 100%, Dorval AM Commencal, Commencal Nobl and Commencal 21. As you might expect, it was a successful weekend for the brand with half of the available Elite podium spots split between its riders.
A huge mistake in the lower woods cost Thibaut Daprela his first elite win today

Commencal now occupies the top two spots in the UCI Teams rankings with Dorval AM (on the current Supreme) in first place on 88 points ahead of Commencal / Muc Off by Riding Addiction (on the new Supreme) in second place on 71 points. The next nearest team is the Canyon Collective Factory Team but they currently sit on 53 points, already a fair way back on the two super-strong Commencal teams. With so much talent in its ranks, we expect the Commencal teams to be the ones to beat as the season progresses.

Other Notes:
• It's obvious that Vali is a force to be reckoned with. There's a generational shift taking place in women's DH; but, is it wrong for us to hope for at least a short period of time where Vali, Rachel, Tahnee, and all the other top women are all healthy and on form?
• Thibaut Daprela, wow.
• We've seen people gap into the wall before, and we're not sure if it's appreciably faster, but seeing Brook Macdonald attacking the course like that makes us happy.

Author Info:
jamessmurthwaite avatar

Member since Nov 14, 2018
1,770 articles

  • 138 0
 Also - Every rider is going to be much more aware of course marker poles next round!
  • 7 0
 Not sure if they already do but they should start and have a wide top cap so it can’t happen again
  • 12 2
 @lance2012: you mean a wide top cap so they can properly rip someone’s balls off as the slide along it?
  • 29 0
 @lance2012: just make them out of pool noodles- Your welcome.
  • 9 0
 Honestly, its about time something was done about marking poles. As a long time cyclocross racer i have always worried about the fencing. Here they use rebar for that or stiff plastic poles. Both of which i felt could go right through you in a crash.
  • 3 0
 @fabwizard: In skiing they use plastic or something and they always hit the poles. I have never seen the pole hit a skier back.
  • 7 1
 What did i miss? What happened?
  • 8 0
 @AFunFox: If you are talking about the poles the skiers intentionally hit (called gates in ski racing), those definitely bounce back up sometimes. It's usually more of a slap since you are so low to the ground compared to the height of the pole, but I've seen some injuries to the face from some unlucky bounces.
  • 2 0
 @AFunFox: the poles they use in slalom skiing to make the gates have a joint at the bottom. So the part that is in the ground is fixed, and the upper part can wiggle freely. I'm not qiite sure how they are made, but i guess something like stiff version of a vacuum-cleaner tube.
  • 12 0

As a former ski racer... They can hit back, and hard.

Ski poles are designed with a hinge at the base where it's inserted in to the ground and will shear off if enough force is applied. They're not great at running a ribbon between as they will just all fall over together, even in skiing non hinged poles are used for this.
  • 27 0
 @fabwizard: If geographically feasible (European events), they should bus in some Poles to stand on the edge of the track.
  • 2 0
 @AFunFox: My friend needed surgery to repair a testicle from splitting a ski racing pole.
  • 1 0
 @Jvhowube: I read the comment to fast and saw “replace” instead of “repair” I have never heard of that because of how low skiers get.
  • 3 0
 @lance2012: just make poles higher, in ski racer come low through the gate; mtb rider seats much higher, so just making poles like 2m(6+ feet’s) will eliminate hazard
  • 7 0
 @nickmalysh: probably would need to be higher than that but definitely potential

Was also thinking what about an inflatable pole.

Similar to those clappers at sport events but longer with some kind of weighted breakaway base

I should patent that before specialized does and sues me.
  • 1 0
 Glory poles into sorey holes, don‘t feel so excited this time
  • 1 0
 @fabwizard: seriously. Watching the Nove Mesto women's XCC I was thinking "why do they have those blue pointy things as markers/fencing?". Sure enough, with it being nice an slickery Pauline Ferrand-Prevot goes down and whacks her head/face on one. Could have ended much worse.

  • 1 0
 Someone's balls were made very much aware of the course markers Smile
  • 113 3
 This whole thing about the woods being a lottery is such bull and so unfair on the winners of Champs. In Reece’s case this is inside his wheelhouse coming from Scotland whereas it doesn’t suit the usual suspects from warmer climes.

The real shame is the sport has drifted into benefitting a type of rider that are used to fast, dry tracks. We should however give those who excel in the wet the credit they deserve when the tracks suit them.
  • 26 3
 Not sure the sport specifically benefits people who like dry tracks - its just that its a summer season sport so typically it is drier rather than wet. We get the odd wet race or even snow impacted (Lourdes a few years ago).

Wilson definitely knew what to do in the wet but to suggest any pro DH rider is unable to adapt to wet roots is a pretty flawed statement.
  • 33 1
 @LukeDaws - I think looking at alpine skiing is instructive here. Nobody in their right mind skis the sort of surface you have at alpine skiing races, unless they're racing or training. Those courses are actually injected with water to turn them into what more closely resembles solid ice rather than the sort of snow we'd expect on a groomed ski run. But unless they do that, the tracks deteriorate like crazy between the first and the last run. So they bite the bullet and create a course that has a chance of being consistent throughout the event, and just deal with how brutal it is to ski on. Which makes for fair racing (unless, of course, it gets really warm, in which case the sheet of ice turns to slow-as-hell slush).

Well, DH racing on bikes tends to deteriorate courses as well. Think back to races where rain hit smack in the middle of the start order and really messed with the late starters. Between that, and the logistics of needing lift access, you end up in bike parks, and in those parks, you end up on tracks that don't blow out any more over the course of a race weekend.

This track at Leogang seemed to have achieved consistency a different way - the top is all bike parky, sure, and then you have the woods section that's already a fully rutted mess, so you get it wet and muddy and it stays consistently unpredictable with no two runs allowing the exact same lines. Which made it fair racing - it was universally tough for all starters. But it's atypical of what DH racing has become, and I'd argue that they can't really keep that up over the years because that section is going to erode something fierce and cause serious problems for the bike park. It seems like the organizers there got tired of people complaining at how bike-parky their track was, so it turned into a 'hold my beer' sort of thing where they just added that uber-gnarly woods section.
  • 38 0
 I'm honestly curious how much truth there is to the idea that some riders are dry vs. wet track specialists. We always hear this, especially that British/Scottish riders excel in the wet while Aussies or Californians are great in the dry. But Brosnan absolutely dominated the woods section, and who can forget Gwin's MSA run in the pouring rain a few years back?

Curious what conditions actually favor specific riders. Wet vs. dry? Steep techy vs. smooth? Shorter vs. longer tracks? Maybe a subject for a Nerding Out-type post, looking back over multiple years of race conditions.
  • 12 1
 they're pro Dh racers. if they cant adapt to gnarly weather conditions, then they shouldn't be pro DH racers. That's part of the sport, and always will be. I'm not sure I understand this criticism.
  • 1 0
 @Drew-O: it’s probably more physiological that those either used to bad weather or those confident in there abilities are less effected by the thought of riding in bad weather.
  • 8 4
 @paulskibum: it's a NORTHERN HEMISPHERE summer sport! I personally think the season should be split between the hemispheres on a shoulder season, to really get a mix of conditions. I mean....is it called the WORLD cup, or the EUROPA(plus a dog bone US race every now and again) cup?????

the UCI is bollox
  • 3 0
 @conoat: I agree it would be nice to see more races in other areas besides Europe and North America. Unfortunately, I understand some of the issue comes from the teams themselves and not having the budgets to do so much travelling. Especially the smaller teams and privateers. With no MSA this year, I wouldn't be surprised if the rider list at Snowshoe is reduced from the normal numbers.
  • 2 0
 Just like how in XC racing it are the climbs which take most time hence have the biggest influence on the result, I think in DH racing it are the slow tech sections where the difference is made.

And yeah, I know. Thibault... Yet still, he was really really quick through the fast upper section though lost soo much in a relatively short woods section.

As for the north-south thing, some remember (or have heard their old dads murmur) about Sam Hill, Champery, fourteen years ago. I wouldn't generalize. Some riders are good on some type of terrain, others are better on other. Brits pride themselves on being great in the wet but I wouldn't say they've excelled here (or at the worlds). At least not compared to those from Alps countries.
  • 3 0
 @Drew-O: I guess all pros are adaptable and great in everything but they’re still human and all have a preference. In my case I’m more comfortable in tech rock than smooth single track because that’s what I grew up in.

In some cases I’m sure the psychology is a huge factor and people like Hart know the odds shift further in their favour when it’s wet and rooty.

My point is really that these things aren’t a lottery when the same people get the measure of them and gp through consistently, as Reece did in practise for world champs. It was the same at fort bill a few years ago when it poured and the woods were described by many as ‘unridable’ yet Minaar went through them time and again.

Some riders are good as full gas, some are from BMX and like the flow and pump and others grew up on steep wet roots. All I’m saying is the conditions on that day suited someone skill set and comfort zone where it pushed others outside theirs. But hey, mountain biking is an outdoor sport, it’s done in the mountains where the conditions change and it’s great to see things mix up.
  • 7 0
 @Ironchefjon: my criticism is at the insinuation that it was a lottery that Reece won world champs when everyone was saying he was consistently the fastest on that track in those conditions all weekend.

He even said after this race he was happy to prove his world champs wasn’t just luck, as some have clearly insinuated.

It’s horrible that people have tarnished what is the achievement of a lifetime when it was deserved and everyone raced the same track.
  • 3 1
 @paulskibum: Exactly! Troy Brosnan from Australia (a dry country), lives in Adelaide (a super dry city). You'd be lucky to even see one or two muddy days a year where he comes from.
  • 5 1
 "Doesn't suit riders from warmer climates." Lol. Sam H and Troy both grew up and live in dust bowls. True champions adapt and master all racing conditions.
  • 2 0
 @LukeDaws: Well yeah, I guess we all agree that it wasn't a lottery. But that was clear well before the start, wasn't it? The riders who were confident how to deal with the terrain didn't consider it a lottery, maybe only those who weren't that confident (and maybe some journalists). What I do think the Rob and Claudio were correct about but what seems to be skimmed over is that for riders to do well in the woods, they had to preserve some energy in the top section. They said it, then seemed to have forgotten about it. Amaury wasn't particularly fast at the top but did really well in the woods. Then so many riders went faster up top (remember how Rob and Claudio went wild every single time) yet made mistakes in the woods. It is just that Thibault went really, really fast up top that he had some compensation but even he lost time further down. Yet in this split by split analysis I still read how well those riders did up top, it is only by how you define "well". I don't question that Amaury and Camille could have been quicker up top too, they'd just have been more likely to make more mistakes in the woods or in those last corners where Vali and Brook went down. Alternatively, I do think that there are more riders who could have been more concentrated in those lower sections if they had preserved some more up top, and may have clocked a better time overall. Admittedly this is still guesswork as it all happened the way it happened. But this was the analysis they did before the race (to preserve some in the top sections) and this is how it worked out. The rider who may could have gotten away with going full tilt top to bottom would have been Greg Minnaar, considering how well he does on longer tracks like Fort Bill. Bummer he suffered a mechanical.
  • 1 0
 I don't think anyone doubted that Thirion is a technical wizard and that Reece was the fastest guy in the world at that point.
It is really nice that Camille showed it wasn't a fluke, putting in some incredibly composed riding to take the win again.
Do us Brits have an advantage in the slop? Maybe at a baseline level and psychologically, but the best riders can absolutely adapt to anything.
  • 16 0
 Dude... that IG clip from Thibaut was so revealing. You'll know exactly that moment he lost the race. SO FAST this guy!
  • 5 0
 Incredible watching and trying to determine when/if he's on the brakes. The level of commitment is unreal.
  • 5 0
 Clearly, Thibault Daprela is a (young) beast who is able to surprise everyone in a near future, especially Pierron who's got his worse competitor in the same team. Gambles are open...
  • 2 0
 Ha! Totally. Came here to say the same thing, if he hadn't had that moment he'd probably have won with at least a 3 second lead. Absolutely amazing riding.
  • 1 0
 you mean about 2:30 min right? I think the last riders that went down werent aware that rut was so deep.
  • 13 0
 Calling it a lottery, just because the top dogs f*cked it up and a few lesser known riders performed exceptional on that day really takes away the credit the riders deserve. At world champs many of the "top level" riders just went too fast and crashed. A few of the "not so top level" riders didnt try to ride the track faster than it can be ridden and placed high.
  • 15 3
 Brosnan will dominate this year, he's been extremely consistent for a few years and I can see that consistency being above everyone else this year
  • 21 8
 Woah, slow down mate. It’s only one race.
  • 4 1
 One thing I reckon they should do is have a decade champion. It’s the rider with the most points from world cups (and also the same points for positions at the world championships should be applied) from the entire decade.
That would be really interesting. I think for the 10s it would be Gwinner but maybe Brosnan. I wonder who it would be for the nineties and noughties. Does Roots and Rain already have that, perhaps?
  • 5 1
 Too much talent for any one rider to dominate this year. I could see it being one of those years where a different guy wins every race. You know Bruni and Pierron are gonna get wins, and likely Minnar, Vergier and Daprella too.
  • 2 2
 @DoubleCrownAddict: Bruni, Minnar, and Vergier will be winning hee haw this year.
  • 4 1
 @oevets4130: Oh come on, you'd be nuts to bet against Bruni or Vergier taking a win at some point. Though not at Les Gets obvs, that's between Amaury and Thibaut.
  • 2 5
 I don’t think Minnaar will win again. He’s got a chance, but I don’t think he will convert it. Gwin definitely won’t win again. I hope DH wins the World Champs again. Him or Green Land.
  • 2 0
 @jaame: Minnar had the fastest time in one of the segments this race with a malfunctioning rear brake, so he's still capable. Agree about Gwinny though, he seems to be done.
  • 1 0
 @chakaping: I don't know, they want it too much. It's eating them up!
  • 9 0
 When pondering the unfairness of Reece's world championship being called a fluke, it's important to remember in this sport that there are a surprising number of pundits and members of the commentariat who keep predicting Aaron Gwin will win the next race and take us all back to 2013. As a Gen Xer listening to ageing millennials say these things I find this highly amusing. But there is a tendency not to pay attention to who is up and coming and hang on to those old names and be like Thibault what? Pau who? and have to explain these results away. I just loved this race with the mix of established names getting good results and the up and emerging top riders scaring everyone. Indeed, it is not 2012 any more and if you're gonna be on a podcast, please study the past season's race results carefully.

But I actually came here to highlight Camille Balanche as one of the exciting stories in 2021. The question is, how fast can she get? I think it is fair to say Balanche really was a surprise winning World's last year as she was consistently top 10 on average in 2019 (WC DH positions: 11,7,7,DNF,7,3,5,Cool and then was 6th at the two Lousa races after she won Worlds. But she is clearly a super pro-in-all-aspects athlete who's been at an elite level since well before she went to the 2010 Olympics for hockey and I am convinced she is hauling herself into at least the top 3. She does seem to make consistently fewer mistakes and have fewer crashes than her main competitors while bringing the speed up and up. I'm sure Vali will still establish herself as the generational talent but I think Camille's intelligence and pro approach is going to be super effective over the next couple of seasons.
  • 9 1
 Definitive proof that Commencal totally slaps.
  • 14 6
 Definitive proof that commencal's heavy bikes don't hold back strong athletes.
  • 8 1
 @IF-OBA-WILLS-IT: definitive proof that for a DH bike there are more important factors than lightness?
  • 2 0
 Brosnan says hi
  • 5 1
 i love commecal ( i have 2) but it`s obvious that they will dominate, how many teams they have 4 or 5?? hahaha its not fair vs the order factory brands that only have one like kona, santa cruz, giant... etc. You have 20 pro riders in every world cup statistically some are going to be in the podium.
  • 6 0
 the track would be quite hard on his xc bike, much to angry pinkbike commenter's dismay
  • 5 0
 So incredibly stoked for Troy. The men's field continues to be such a rad group. I'm really looking forward to the season - it will continue to be a nail biter no doubt
  • 3 0
 Does Commencal having such a high proportion of the results mean its the best bike or does it mean they have the highest proportion of the best riders? Id argue that the differences in bike tech these days is far smaller than the differences in riding ability.
  • 3 0
 Their team results and the number of privateers choosing the Supreme both strongly suggest it's the best bike (and it probably helps that it's not ridiculously expensive).
I was listening to the Downtime Podcast yesterday and Eliot Jackson actually did say "they already have the best bike and they're updating it", before remembering he rides for SC and backtracking to "one of the best bikes".
  • 2 0
 @chakaping: Privateers choice could also be affected by the price don't you think?
  • 1 0
 @parkisatool: did you miss where I mentioned that?
  • 1 0
 @chakaping: Nice edit mate
  • 1 0
 @parkisatool: poor reading comprehension skills mate
  • 6 1
 Angel Suarez was also a wow.
  • 1 0
 Great bike with great suspension. I'm surprised all the Commencals teams aren't on Öhlins.
  • 1 0
 In Spain we all screamed when he stalled there in the woods, what a shame, could've been on top definitely
  • 5 0
 Brook was on for a top 10 result. Let that sink in…
  • 5 1
 didnt realize that gee is in the game THAT long...
  • 3 0
 Holy shit! If Thibaut Daprela hadn't had that moment he'd have realistically won with a 3 to 5 second lead. Unreal.
  • 5 1
 If if
  • 1 2
 @ibishreddin: Yeah, If. Thanks for your contribution.
  • 4 0
 Really glad Troy won. He is a very consistent rider.
  • 2 2
 I would also add Pierron had quite the race for a first post-injury WC. I think I remember him saying he *thought* his pace was a top 15 pace not a podium pace. Excited to see how he stacks up with an unbelievable Daprela this year, and a newly invigorated Brosnan
  • 2 1
 Yeah I guess finishing second all the time is not really invigorated eh? what a load of utter bs
  • 2 1
 I've learned there is a lot of hate for Gwin who has been a good roll model. Yet there is no hate for Nino who is far from a roll model and embarrasses himself on social media.
  • 1 0
 I think the negative people stand out more, whereas there are a lot of people who either like Gwin or, at a minimum, are thankful to have watched and still be able to watch one of the greatest racers ever. That's what I keep telling myself anyway as it just makes no sense that some people have such negativity towards a guy who has never done anything bad. I still think Gwin has the skills to win, they just need to get that bike to work or Gwin needs a move.
  • 1 0
 Pau Menoyo Busquets won junior mens, so that's one more Commencal team (Commencal 21) picking points there. Not sure what the top junior women were riding though.
  • 1 0
 Gt,Scott and Trek. Trek had riders on all four podiums.
  • 1 0
 @peytodog: Alright, so that makes Commencal taking six out of twenty podium spots (two out of four wins), Trek four out of twenty podium spots (one out of four wins). Canyon takes three out of twenty spots with one win too.
  • 1 0
 Ultimately i have always thought the french have an advantage... Ski from toddler age, alps, variable weather conditions, croissants...
  • 2 0
 That statistic of the period from first to third win is one of its kind
  • 2 0
 I learned that anything can happen in Fantasy DH
  • 1 0
 No 4 Allways has been the case. I went to Fort Bill 2013 an nearly every other bike was a Supreme!
  • 1 0
 5. Vali Holl is REALLY competitive (and is going to destroy the rest of the field this year).
  • 1 0
 Cool to see a small bike company like Commencal showing the big bike companies how it's done. Aluminum bike are bad ass.
  • 1 0
 I am off to buy a Commencal bike now.
  • 1 0
 How come nobody wearing masks?
  • 1 0
 Brook is coming... podiums this year. Gone warriors.
  • 1 0
 Excellent points!
  • 1 0
 Go Troy from Accounts!
Below threshold threads are hidden

Copyright © 2000 - 2024. Pinkbike.com. All rights reserved.
dv42 0.027269
Mobile Version of Website