In less than one week the EPIC Bikepark Leogang will welcome the mountain biking elite to this year's UCI Mountain Bike World Championship in the disciplines Cross Country, Downhill and E-MTB. The second World Championships to take place in Saalfelden Leogang will run from October 7 to 11 - but this time under slightly different conditions. Local matador and Austrian Downhill star Vali Höll knows: "Everyone is happy that something will take place this year after all."
Getting everything ready for this year’s World Championships was a major challenge for the team around the organizers Marco Pointner and Kornel Grundner. However, with their carefully elaborated hygiene and prevention concept, they laid the foundations for a successful realization of the event.
The preparation for a major sporting event such as the World Championships begins many months, if not years, in advance for the athletes. Usually, other races play an important role and often serve as an indicator of their own form.
Downhill top candidates Vali Höll and Loic Bruni about their preparation for World Champs 2020
This year's exceptional situation, which resulted in a lack of competition and increased the focus on individual training, makes it difficult to predict the outcome of the races. In addition, the extension of the Downhill course will provide additional excitement. Surprises are practically guaranteed here.
The local matador Vali Höll (AUT), who is competing in the Elite Class for the first time this year and is especially looking forward to her family "finally being able to watch her live on Red Bull TV", experienced many things differently this year. The lack of racing sometimes challenged her motivation a little. Especially the outlook on the World Championships at home and the anticipation of being back in the start gate soon have been the driving forces in extremely exhausting training sessions. "My focus clearly was on training: gym three times a week plus road bike, indoor trainer or Enduro and of course bike park laps," Vali replied to the question of how her preparatory work and the amount of training hours she had been able to follow compared to other seasons.
The current and four-time World Champion in the Downhill Elite category, Loic Bruni (FRA), is looking forward to the fight for the rainbow jersey again. However, he has had a hard time getting used to the new circumstances and the season with only a few races under his belt: "To be honest, everything was quite chaotic for me and the adaptation was very difficult in the beginning. I had an injury at the end of May, so I couldn't get on the bike for six weeks. When the bike parks opened later than usual, I had to be patient. Now, I feel really good on the bike again and I'm ready for World Champs!” The defending World Champion, Loic, won already the World Cup in Saalfelden Leogang in 2019. He is extremely motivated and knows that the competition is strong and says that it will most definitely be an exciting event. “I know I can win in Leogang, but I also know how incredibly high the level is, as well as the strength of the competition”, Loic said about the tough battle for World Championship gold.
Nino Schurter and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot about the pressure, the new track and this year's training
Peak excitement is a given due to the new track for the Cross-Country races, built specifically for this year’s World Championship. The pressure on the athletes is high – due to the lack of races, riders will not have the normal momentum going into World Championships as in previous years. The World Cup in Nové Mesto, which is taking place at the moment, could shed some light on the athlete’s performance levels and show everyone how they stack up against each other.
Nino Schurter (SUI), eight-time World Champion and seven-time overall World Cup and Olympic champion has "never trained as much as in 2020" and hopes to be able to harvest what he has ambitiously sown in training in the few remaining races at the end of the year. The Swiss top favorite for the Cross-Country title clearly sees this as his advantage in terms of the new and completely unknown tracks: "Although all athletes have the same conditions, I think I can rely on my experience when it comes to the ideal preparation for this situation."
After Pauline Ferrand-Prévot's (FRA) last year ended with victories in the World Cup races in Val di Sole and Snowshoe, 2020 began in a tough way health-wise for the defending World Champion. She can hardly wait to return to the start line now that she is fully recovered: “I love the atmosphere at competitions, especially at World Champs. The warm-up, the excitement at the start line and my burning legs that let me know I'm giving all I got.” As for the new track, which is unknown to all riders, the conditions couldn't be more balanced: “It's the same for everyone. The cards are shuffled and redistributed. So, let's play cards,” says Pauline and makes a statement to her opponents, leaving no questions unanswered: “I am absolutely determined to defend the rainbow jersey. It really means a lot to me.”
In order for the World Championships to be a success, a high level of commitment will be required from the fans this year as well. Due to the regulations, nobody is allowed to follow the event on-site and fans are asked to stay at home. To everyone’s delight the World Championship title fights will be broadcasted in TV in several countries around the globe and – with some exceptions – made available worldwide on Red Bull TV live stream. And let’s be clear about this: Despite all the circumstances, the excitement for the UCI 2020 Mountain Bike World Championships in Saalfelden Leogang to take place could not be greater.
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