All photos – credit Red Bull Content Pool
In the latest episode of the Making Up The Numbers podcast Jack Reading states that Leogang is the hardest track to race on the World Cup circuit. Once bemoaned as being ‘too bike parky’ that all changed with the addition of a new, incredibly steep bottom section for the 2020 World Championships.
The rest of the track remains familiar. Straight out of the gate riders are greeted with a series of open corners, separated by a tricky off camber which usually claims at least one victim in their race run. It’s then ‘fast with jumps’ until roughly a minute in when riders hit the stumps sections; the second of which is particularly tricky and crucially leads on to the motorway. One small mistake in the stumps equals reduced exit speed on to the fastest section of track. Depending upon the direction and force of the wind, riders will try to squash the motorway jumps if they can so they’re not overjumping them or wasting time in the air.
After going flat out for over two minutes riders then enter the woods with a complete change of pace. Steep, tight and rooty, in the wet the woods are absolute carnage. The mud is claggy and consistent as opposed to the odd patchy section. Riders exit the woods on to a huge gap jump (which famously claimed Vali Hoell’s ankle in 2020 in her last practice run before her home World Championship race) before sprinting the bottom section to the finish line.
Trying to pick a winner in the Men’s race is hard. The new bottom section has put such a different spin on the track that pre-2020 results can’t really be used as a guide. Having won the opening two rounds in such convincing fashion it’s hard to look beyond Amaury Pierron. Although he’s won here in the past it’s not his favourite track though and with two wins from two he might already have the overall in the back of his mind?
One thing’s for sure, it will be tight. In Fort William a few weeks ago the top 20 were separated by nearly 10 seconds, in Leogang last year, the same number were separated by under 7. Troy Brosnan took the win last year, he’s on the way back from injury and may race this weekend but don’t expect big things after nearly four months off the bike with a broken ankle. Had it not been for a small mistake in the lower woods, Thibaut Daprela would’ve won that race. Fastest in the first two sectors he was nearly a couple of seconds up on Brosnan. Daprela had some special lines at the top and before a pedal has been turned he’s my pick for this weekend. Currently sitting eighth in the overall he’s far enough away to risk it all. Another rider in a similar position is Emilie Siegenthaler’s pick for the win, Loris Vergier. Vergier sits one place ahead of Daprela in the overall coming into this round.
Current Standings – Elite Men
- Amaury Pierron 455
- Laurie Greenland 289
- Benoit Coulanges 289
- Danny Hart 216
- Matt Walker 213
After breaking his collarbone in Fort William it’s unlikely we’ll see Loic Bruni racing this weekend. His teammate Finn Isles will hopefully return though after missing Round 2 with a concussion. There will be no Remi Thirion though, the Frenchman famously broke his back here on the bottom jumps and misses this round with a broken arm. Also missing is 2020 World Champion Reece Wilson. As discussed on the podcast, Wilson has been struggling for form and announced this week that he’s putting his season on hold and we wish him all the best.
Then there’s the weather. Heavy rain is forecast for practice on Thursday and seeding on Friday. Things should dry up for racing on Saturday but this is the mountains so anything can happen. In the wet Leogang is a completely different animal and an outsider could surprise everyone, Emilie picked local boy and Austrian National Champion David Trummer as a possible winner.
In the Women’s race it’s highly likely the winner will either come from either Camille Balanche, Vali Hoell or Myriam Nicole. Hoell, in her home race, crashed last year on an innocuous corner in sight of the finish line. She still finished second though but the can she handle the pressure? Her two Elite World Cup wins both came in Snowshoe at the end of last season when the pressure was off. She needs to win one now when the pressure is on. Nicole crashed twice in her race run last year and didn’t look herself in Fort William three weeks ago after crashing hard at the season opener in Lourdes. If she’s fully recovered she’ll be a threat. Balanche the winner of the last two races in Leogang and currently leading the overall and her consistency probably makes her the favourite.
Current Standings – Elite Women
- Camille Balanche 435
- Myriam Nicole 370
- Vali Hoell 325
- Nina Hoffmann 292
- Marine Cabirou 246
Nina Hoffmann, the winner in Fort William doesn’t favour this kind of track and has only podiumed in Leogang once before. Tahnee Seagrave remains out with a concussion. Marine Cabirou and Monika Hrastnik were both on the podium in 2021 and remain as podium threats again this time around.
In Junior Men Jackson Goldstone and Jordan Williams are consistently posting times that would be good enough for Top 10 in Elite. Goldstone was second here last year, Williams fourth so maybe the Canadian has the slight edge this time around.
In the Junior Women expect a three-way battle between winner of the first two rounds, Gracey Hemstreet, Phoebe Gale who’s been second in each of those races and 2021 World Champion Izabela Yankova.
Watch it here:
The Big 5 Leogang Talking Points…
- Can Camille Balanche make it a hat trick of wins in Leogang?
- Can Hoell deliver when the pressure is on?
- Can Pierron continue his dominant start to the season and make it 3 wins from 3?
- What impact will the weather have?
- Can anyone catch Jackson or Jordan in Junior Men?
Live finals schedule on Red Bull TV:
The Women’s Elite final will be broadcasted on Saturday, 11 June, at 11:25 (BST)
The Men’s Elite final will be broadcasted on Saturday, 11 June, at 12:45 (BST)
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