George brings us a close look on the likely riders to watch at the next round of the DH World Cup, in Lenzerheide.
All photos: Red Bull Content Pool
I’m never quite sure how to pronounce Lenzerheide. Is it Len-zer-hide or Len-zer-heidi? Hopefully it’s the latter because it fits beautifully to the tune of Ms. Dynamite’s 2002 hit “Dy-Na-Mi-Tee” but if you know for sure, please advise in the comments. Anyway, on with the racing…
Round 4 of the 2022 DH World Cup will take place this weekend in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. Since its arrival on the World Cup scene in 2015, Lenzerheide has featured every year, except 2020 when the season was shortened due to Covid. Safe to say, it’s not one of the most anticipated rounds but it always provides tight, exciting racing.
At 2.2km in length the track is short by World Cup standards. If you were to look for the dictionary definition of a ‘bike parky race track’, there would just be a picture of Lenzerheide, any picture of Lenzerheide really. It’s extremely fast from top to bottom, with riders hitting 65km per hour in some sections. As you might expect there are a lot of jumps and step downs and then roughly halfway down there’s the Shimano ‘Too Steep To Plunge” section which has a few different line choices and would probably be the best place to watch if you were there in person.
There’s a full track preview here: https://www.redbull.com/int-en/videos/uci-mountain-bike-world-cup-2021-lenzerheide-dh-track-explanation
Past winners on this track have been, er, French. A lot of French. So much so that last year the Men’s podium contained Frenchmen in the first 4 slots with Loris Vergier taking the win, 2018 winner Loic Bruni in second, Thibaut Daprela in third and 2019 winner Amaury Pierron in fourth. Then it was a couple of Brits with Laurie Greenland taking the final podium spot and 2016 winner Danny Hart in sixth.
Expect similar this weekend but perhaps with different names. Bruni is teasing us that this might be the week he comes back from his broken collarbone but more likely it will be the next round in Andorra. Never fear though, his countryman Benoit Coulanges is having a fabulous season and seeded fastest at Round 3 in Leogang.
It looks like Reece Wilson who finished eighth last year is still out but fellow Brit Matt Walker took the win in Leogang. Then there’s Charlie Hatton who won Crankworx, Innsbruck the week after Leogang. Outside of the French and the Brits, Canada’s Finn Iles has done OK here and Greg Minnaar won here in 2015 and 2016 but a good outside pick might be new European Champion Andreas Kolb who also took his first podium in Leogang.
As Jack Reading said in latest episode of the podcast, for outright speed you need to make series leader Amaury Pierron the favourite. However, this is the track where riders who are ‘on a roll’ after winning previous rounds seem to do well, Pierron in 2019 and Vergier in 2021 are just 2 examples so Matt Walker is a good pick.
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In 2021, the Women’s race was dominated by a French woman in Myriam Nicole. She won seeding by over 4 seconds and in her race run, went fastest in 4 of the 5 sectors, crossing the line 2.5 seconds ahead of Tahnee Seagrave with Vali Hoell third.
Despite sustaining a head injury at Round One this year and not looking like her old self (yet), Nicole is probably the favourite for this race. Current series leader and fastest woman in the world this year Camille Balanche has never done better than fifth in Lenzerheide but expect that to change this weekend. The Balanche of 2022 is quite different to the one of previous years and will be pushing hard for the win. Hoell couldn’t put it together on home soil in Leogang but won Crankworx, Innsbruck so maybe it was just the pressure that got to her and she’ll eliminate the mistakes this weekend. Rachel Atherton is also in Lenzerheide and teasing us that she might race this weekend…
Overall standings after Round 3
- Amaury Pierron 580
- Matt Walker 443
- Danny Hart 401
- Benoit Coulanges 380
- Laurie Greenland 354
- Camille Balanche 685
- Myriam Nicole 555
- Vali Hoell 460
- Eleonora Farina 395
- Nina Hoffmann 368
In Junior Men, having grown up riding in Whistler and having taken the win here last year it’s hard to see beyond Jackson Goldstone, but Jordan Williams will continue to push him hard. In Junior Women 2021 World Champion Izabela Yankova was dominant here last year, winning seeding by 18 seconds although that was cut to 3 seconds in the race by Gracey Hemstreet. Expect those two and Phoebe Gale to battle it out!
Five big questions
- Can anyone break the French strangle hold on Lenzerheide?
- Returning riders! Will we see Rachel Atherton, Loic Bruni, Tahnee Seagrave or Reece Wilson in the start gate this weekend?
- Brits abroad! Who will be the top ranked Brit this weekend? Hart, Greenland, Walker, Hatton?
- Will Camille Balanche be able to improve on her previous best of fifth?
- Who will win out in the epic photography battle between pan shots and whips?
How To Watch The Downhill World Cup at Lenzerheide
On Red Bull TV:
- The Women’s Elite final will be broadcasted on Saturday, 9 July, at 12:25 (CEST)
- The Men’s Elite final will be broadcasted on Saturday, 9 July, at 13:45 (CEST)
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