The word "bikepark" is muttered like an expletive in the pits of a downhill World Cup, usually peaking whenever the circus rolls into the quaint Austrian mountain town of Leogang. Although the track may not be what a lot of riders' would describe as their favourite to race, it usually gives us some of the tightest and intense racing of the year. It's also been home to some iconic moments over the years. Stevie Smith clinching the overall as he pirouetted his bike around in the finish arena, Ratboy's long overdue first win while Bruni's victory hunt extended after crashing while green, Gwin's remarkable and seemingly impossible chainless win, Morgane Charre and Greg Minnaar taking home World Champs gold... The Leogang hillside has played host to some great racing, and the 2019 edition looks set to be another you won't want to miss.
The contrast between the two back-to-back venues is stark and doesn't just stop at the terrain beneath the rider's wheels. Having spent all week in a constant deluge of rain in Fort William we've arrived into the Leogang Bikepark in glorious sunshine, that was of course until we headed up for track walk... Thunderstorms often bubble up here in the afternoon, charging over the mountains before disappearing as quickly as they arrived.
There's been plenty of changes up on track to freshen things up, the first of which is straight out of the start gate. Instead of doing the usual first jump and corner, they'll hook right off the jump and onto the off-camber from last year which should add some spice to proceedings. Below that they've taped in some additional tight chicanes that'll force riders to slow down and work their bikes through, diving and ducking off the usual route. The other major change is the final plunge into the finish area which is out for this year, in its place is a fresh section through the woods with a drop complete with some rather chunky roots for good measure. The track has been slowed down a lot in spots which has both its plusses and minuses, and while the majority of the track has limited line choice, the fresh sections should cut in over the weekend to keep riders on their toes. After tomorrow we'll have a greater idea on how the weekend will develop, stay tuned.
: @natedh9 @davetrumpore @mdelorme @andy9 @rossbellphoto