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Photo Gallery: Leogang World Cup

The storied venue of Leogang, Austria, hosted the 2021 season-opener for World Cup DH, and the third stop of World Cup XC.

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Last weekend marked a return to World Cup racing after 2020’s significantly abbreviated and spectator-free season, and the excitement in Leogang, Austria, was palpable as fans once again cheered from outside the tape. With rainfall impacting qualifiers on Friday, it was shaping up to be a bit of a mess for Saturday’s DH season-opener, but in true Leogang fashion, the sun made an appearance on Saturday and reduced the slop-factor for finals. The classic Leogang track got a rework during its year off of racing, and though it hosted the 2020 DH World Champs, some of the new elements are still fresh for racers. The final turn, one of the steepest sections of the course, turned out to be an Achilles heel for a few on the day; local Vali Höll was on a scorcher of a run for her Elite World Cup debut when she crashed there (although her run was still enough for second place), almost in the exact place where Brook MacDonald crashed in the men’s race.

If Vali Höll’s debut racing in the Elite category is any indication, she’ll be making plenty more podium appearances this season.

But it was the steep, slick-rooted, deep-rutted Vali’s Hölle forested section where the race was truly won and lost. First-place qualifier Troy Brosnan held his position in finals, winning the men’s Elite race in a spectacular come-from-behind run, in which he went green in the final split of the course, after making up some serious lost time in Vali’s Hölle. It was Brosnan’s first World Cup win since 2017, while reigning DH World Champ Cami Balanche won Elite women’s, doubling down on her success on the Leogang track.

The women’s elite DH podium, with Cami Balanche in first, then Vali Höll, Monika Hrastnik, Marine Cabirou and Tahnee Seagrave.
Troy Brosnan revels in his first World Cup Champagne spray since 2017.
Brosnan’s come-from-behind win proved that every move and every millisecond counts in World Cup racing.

For the first time in Leogang’s 10-year history as a World Cup venue, it also hosted the XC race (though it did host XC World Champs last year). The Lycra crowd battled it out first in Short Track during seven full-gas laps on the hilly 1-kilometer climbers’ course, before tackling the XC course on Sunday. Leogang’s first-ever XC course measured 3.5-kilometers with 221 meters of climbing through the forest, marked by the 22-percent-grade Black Mamba climb, a steep, rooty descent and the 28-percent Greenhorn climb. In the elite men’s and women’s categories, the same two racers prevailed in both Short Track and XCO—Loana Lecompte, and Mathias Flückinger, both of whom also lead the overall standings.

A sea of XC in Leogang for the venue’s first World Cup XC race.

It was 2 for 2 on the weekend for Mathias Flückiger.

Short Track with a view. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot leads Jolanda Neff, Haley Batten and Jenny Rissveds.

U.S. racer Haley Batten, who’s preparing for her Olympic debut next month in Tokyo, ultimately took fifth place in Short Track and 16th in XC, and is still sitting in third in the overall standings, after explosive performances in Albstadt and Nove Mesto.

Haley Batten.
Loana Lecomte won both Short Track and XC, and holds the overall XC World Cup ranking.
Canada’s Catharine Pendrel pushes to P26, as the new mom aims for the Olympics and her final World Cup season.
It’s Leogang and Aaron Gwin, so you never know what’s going to happen, and in what spectacular fashion he might pull off the impossible, but this year, his run remained drama-free, and landed him in P22.
Commencal racer Thibaut Ruffin post-flight.
Charlie Hatton headed to the finish line.

If you missed any of last weekend’s action, you can catch the replay over at Red Bull TV, and stay tuned for the next doubleheader coming up July 3 in Les Gets, France.

Photos: Michal Cerveny