After several close calls, Vali Höll won her first elite World Cup race with a dominant run
Vali Höll dominated the fifth round of the women’s downhill World Cup in Snowshoe for her first career World Cup win as an elite. The result wasn’t just a milestone; it was a relief for a 19-year-old rider who has had the mountain bike world on her shoulders.
Höll entered her first elite World Cup racing season with massive expectations. She had won two junior world championships and two junior World Cup overalls, all while posting times that put her squarely among the fastest riders in the world. She hadn’t even finished high school, and she was being hailed as one of the sport’s biggest stars.
By any objective measure, her first elite season has been a success. Höll took two World Cup podiums, including a silver medal when she debuted in Leogang, and won the downhill event at Crankworx Innsbruck.
But along the way there were a few bumps and slips. She might have won gold in Leogang and Les Gets if not for late crashes during her final runs. Likewise at the World Championships in Val di Sole, where she seemed to have podium speed before taking a tumble and finishing 12th.
Attention can be difficult for young athletes. In a documentary about her journey released in August, Höll spoke candidly about how much she was looking forward to her first win and meeting the high standards she has set for herself.
That’s why her win in Snowshoe was so significant. On perhaps the most punishing course of the World Cup series, Höll finished strong, crushing the rockiest and rootiest sectors. From the third split to the fourth, she went from nearly four seconds in second place to more than four seconds in first. She finished 4.617 seconds ahead of second place Camille Balanche.
Höll’s win also came after she suffered a crash in practice that shook her confidence and put her ankle in pain. She would be forgiven if she struggled to focus on the big day. Instead, she earned a career result.
Höll now enters the final round of the downhill World Cup in third place on the overall standings, and just 110 points behind leader Myriam Nicole with 250 points on offer for a win during the sixth and final round in Snowshoe on Saturday. Höll has big prizes still in her sights.
But no matter what happens, Höll proved Wednesday that her future is still blindingly bright.