Thunderous crowds, a treacherous track, an unforgiving clock and some high-speed racing, the Mercedes-Benz UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup in Leogang had it all. Here are some of the highlights from the weekend's racing in the Austrian Alps:
Leogang is ready for the World Championship in 2020
Leogang once again turned into the hotbed of downhill mountain biking last weekend, drawing in crowds from all over Europe. With a changed track, spectators were in for some real adrenaline-pumping action right out of the start gate. Thousands of fans lined the track, watching the world’s Downhill elite battle it out on the track appropriately called “The Speedster”. With the alpine sun hitting the track, the conditions were loose, dusty and fast and the cow bells and chain saws were out in force, creating an atmosphere unlike any other World Cup stop, from top to bottom and in the finish corral, showing that Leogang has what it takes to play host to the UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Championships from September 4 to 6, 2020.
The French are on fire
The French are continuing their dominance as Loic Bruni (FRA) secures his second win this season and bounces back from his 8th place finish in Fort William, which was won by fellow Frenchman Amaury Pierron, making it three out of three for the French this season. After a less-than-ideal qualification run on Saturday, Bruni would find an extra gear on finals day – but it wasn’t until the very last rider was in the finish corral that his victory was safe. Coming out of the gate on fire, Bruni was up by 0.7 seconds at the first split and kept building his lead from there – making light work of the wood section and opening up the throttle on the motorway section, the fast Frenchie entered the woods with 2.5 seconds to spare, an advantage that was already solid, but that Bruni was still trying to push further. Crossing the finish line with a lead of 3.2 seconds, the last part of the track proved crucial for Bruni to take the win ahead of Greg Minnaar (RSA) and Troy Brosnan (AUS), who both could have taken the win if not for small mistakes on the track that cost them valuable thousandths of a second in the battle for first.
The GOAT is back
Following an injury-heavy 2018 season, not qualifying in Maribor, and finishing an atypical 6th in Fort William (having won there a historical 7 times), Greg Minnaar needed a podium spot, and what better way to do that than in Leogang, where he’s been on the podium 9 times (including this year), 5 of which were in the Top 3 and winning the World Championship title there in 2012. After winning the qualies on Saturday, Leogang knew it was in for a treat come Sunday. Coming out of the gate on fire and clinically dismantling the top part of the track, Minnaar entered the ‘Roots of Asitz’ less than a second behind Bruni. Minnaar found half a second in the roots, closing the gap to the Frenchman and the large crowd in Leogang knew it was coming down to a photo finish. Racing along the final section of the track and almost sending the final jump to flat, Minnaar crossed the line in second place, 0.3 seconds behind Bruni, proving that you should never count out “The GOAT”. It’s not every day that the Top 3 are separated by less than 0.8 seconds once all is said and done.
Nina Hoffmann climbing her way to the top
In only her second year racing on the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup circuit, Nina Hoffmann (GER) is fast on her way to become the next household name among the Downhill racing elite. After finishing in third place in Fort William she now backed up her solid performance in qualies with a second-place finish in Leogang, right behind Tracey Hannah. Hoffmann would make quick work of Kate Weatherly’s (NZL) time – gaining a massive four seconds on the Kiwi on the upper section. Continuing to attack the track through the technical sections and pressing on the gas on the motorway, she held a massive lead coming into the final woods section, where she managed to find more time, passing the finish line almost seven seconds faster than Weatherly. With only Rachel Atherton and Tracey Hannah left at the start, she was sure of a Top 3 finish, but Rachel Atherton’s (GBR) crash at the top would see Hoffmann move up one more spot, giving her back to back podium appearances. Can she maintain her momentum in Andorra?
Another one bites the dust
Fast, loose, tight – the Leogang track had it all. The dusty conditions played their trick on many riders, and took out heavy hitters along the way – both Loris Vergier (FRA) and Rachel Atherton (GBR) were on what could have been a winning place before washing out in different sections of the track – Vergier near the bottom, Atherton close to the top. Just these two crashes alone have some serious repercussions on the Overall Standings – Vergier is outside of the Top Five looking in, with less than 30 points difference to Greg Minnaar (RSA). If we take a look at the Top 3 in the Men Elite, only 70 points separate them: Troy Brosnan (AUS) currently holds 520, Loic Bruni (FRA) has 515 and Amaury Pierron (FRA) is sitting in third with 450 points. Danny Hart (GBR) is currently sitting in 4th with 435 points. Can he hold off Greg Minnaar in Andorra? Meanwhile Tracey Hannah (AUS) has taken a 150 point lead on Rachel Atherton, while Germany’s Nina Hoffmann is only 25 points behind the Brit.
Re-watch the entire live-broadcast and all the highlights of the second round of the Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup on-demand and anytime on redbull.tv. Get the latest on everything bike related on the Red Bull Bike Channel at redbull.tv/bike.