Saalfelden Leogang greeted riders and fans with cloudless skies, hot temperatures and a 2.6-kilometer-long high-speed track, the ‘Speedster’. After the first two UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cups of the season were heavily affected by the weather, the hot and dry conditions in Leogang provided riders and teams with a welcome change. With reigning World Champion, World Cup Overall Winner and defending Leogang champion Rachel Atherton (GBR) out with a shoulder injury and Aaron Gwin (USA) chasing the Leogang hat-trick, the stage was set for one of the most dramatic World Cups of the season.
The women’s race saw Switzerland’s Emilie Siegenthaler set the first fast time of the day but staying above the fastest qualifying time of Tracey Hannah (AUS) it was clear it wouldn’t last long. Myriam Nicole (FRA) put down a clean and extremely fast run beating Hannah’s top qualifying time by nearly 1.5 seconds on her 29er. But the day belonged to Tahnée Seagrave (GBR).
Right out of the gate Seagrave was already up by half a second at split 1 and extended her lead through the motorway jumps in the middle of the track. She made quick work of the technical wood section extending her lead even further and after throwing a huge whip over the last jump crossed the finish line two full seconds faster than Nicole. With only one women left at the top, all eyes were on the fastest qualifier Tracey Hannah. The first few splits showed Hannah and Seagrave neck-and-neck but in a nail-biting finish Hannah had to settle for second place, only 0.69 seconds behind Seagrave who celebrated her first ever World Cup win, Myriam Nicole completed the Top 3.
Tahnée Seagrave: „I grew up in Les Gets, France so for me to come out and see a sunny day and a chairlift is just prime. The track was running really good and the girls are riding so fast. It’s just good fun and it’s working so well at the minute. I am relieved to get down to the bottom in one piece as always.“
The crowd barely had time to take in the breathtaking scenery of Saalfelden Leogang’s mountains as the men started hammering down the ‘Speedster’ right after the women’s race finished. The relatively unknown Slovenian rider Jure Zabjek was first to turn heads as rider after rider failed to beat his time for what eventually turned into his best ever result in 12th. Jack Moir was in the spotlight next as despite crashing in the top section, the splits showed him pulling time back and taking the hot seat after crossing the line. Mark Wallace (CAN) and Danny Hart (GBR) also did their part to add to the history of the Leogang World Cup as both snapped their chains in a flashback to Aaron Gwin’s legendary chainless run, but both failed to repeat what Gwin had done two years prior, eventually finishing in 27th and 11th.
As the top 10 started to drop in, Troy Brosnan (AUS), Bernard Kerr (GBR) and youngster Laurie Greenland (GBR) put down runs that seemed hard to beat until Loris Vergier blasted down the mountain attacking hard and getting loose on the edge of control. Crossing the finish line Vergier took over the hot-seat with an unbelievable 2.9 second margin. Fort William winner Greg Minnaar was up next but narrowly missed out beating the time of his Santa Cruz Syndicate teammate. Aaron Gwin was now the only one left at the top able to spoil Vergier’s party and sure enough the American wasted no time dropping into his run. Unbelievably fast, yet smooth as butter, Gwin set off down the track and crossed the finish line 1.4 seconds faster than Vergier to take his 3rd straight victory in Leogang.
Aaron Gwin: “I don’t have a lot of words. I am just so stoked. It’s been about a year since my last win. I am just so happy, it was so much fun. It was a wild run, really dry and I made some mistakes at the top. I had some pretty loose moments and even grazed my hand on a pole. It was a full board race run. I am stoked to get down without a crash. It was just a great weekend all around.”
Four action-packed days of biking have come to an end with the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup. The weather, the races, the contests and side events made the Out of Bounds Festival better than ever. 22,000 spectators not only enjoyed the main events, but a whole host of amazing side-events such as pump track and bunny hop contests, a trial show with Tom Öhler and a spectacular aerial show by the Flying Bulls. The Out of Bounds Festival will be back from June 7th to 10th 2018. Bike fans can also look forward to another highlight in Saalfelden Leogang as the UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Championships will be held in Bikepark Leogang in 2020.
News about the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup and biking in the Saalfelden Leogang region can be found on the bike channel: http://bike.saalfelden-leogang.com/ or on www.mtb-weltcup.at
You will find further information about Bikepark Leogang here: http://bike.saalfelden-leogang.com/ or on https://www.facebook.com/BikeparkLeogang/
News and information about the Saalfelden Leogang region can be found on: www.saalfelden-leogang.com/en or on www.facebook.com/SaalfeldenLeogang