Everything you need to watch a massive World Cup race in Leogang
With the first World Cup double in Leogang, we can officially say the downhill and cross country mountain bike seasons have entered full swing.
The DH boys last raced in Fort William on May 21, and the XC gang a week before that on May 13. Both squads will be racing at the same venue for all six remaining World Cup races. And with additional chaos will come multitudes more pressure.
Leogang is the perfect backdrop for fireworks. The bike park venue is laid within the Austrian Alps. The trails are fast and the sights are unbeatable. What’s more, Trek Factory Racing riders Loris Vergier, Jolanda Neff and Vlad Dascalu will all be racing among the favorite in their respective classifications.
This weekend is going to be jam-packed with racing, and will set the tone for a blistering three more months of World Cup racing. Every season is a saga, and Leogang could prove to be a pivotal chapter as riders aim to lock in the form that could carry them to overall podiums.
Let’s catch up with where our heroes are in the story, and what to expect in Austria …
TFR DH: Down but not out
Fort William’s return to the downhill World Cup circuit wasn’t as triumphant as the Trek Factory Racing squad hoped. Vergier led the way with a strong sixth-place finish, but what looked like a podium run was derailed when he hit an ill-placed rock and took off his chain. Reece Wilson finished 17th, and Kade Edwards settled for 57th after falling on an early turn in the course. Charlie Harrison, meanwhile, never got the chance to race after breaking a finger during practice.
Harrison and Wilson will miss Leogang, leaving the squad at half strength. The good news is that Vergier and Edwards are both riding well. Vergier might be at or near the top of the overall World Cup standings if not for misfortune during his first two races — he was on a potential winning pace in Lourdes, but slid out on a dusty berm and finished 12th. Edwards took 13th in Lourdes after what was arguably the best World Cup final run of his young career, and proved it wasn’t a fluke by taking 13th in qualifying in Fort William.
Vergier and Edwards will be two of the most closely-watched riders in Leogang, no matter what team you root for.
TFR XC: Battling hard at partial strength
The TFR XC squad has put together some strong highlights this season despite ailments and injuries dogging every member of the team at various points.
Illness ripped through the team at the season opener in Petropolis, but Evie Richards and Vlad Dascalu pulled out third-place finishes in the short track and Olympic-distance events, respectively. In Albstadt, Dascalu finished third in XCO again after a fourth-row start, but Neff and Richards had muted performances after dealing with health issues in the lead-up, and Maddie Munro sat out her planned season debut after suffering a concussion while pre-riding the course. In Nové Město, the team had its best race yet, taking three Sunday podiums — Dascalu second in XCO, Cooper fourth, and Neff fourth in women’s XCO after winning short track — but Richards finished 36th after struggling with back problems for a second straight race.
Richards will sit out Leogang to give her back the rest it needs before the summer gauntlet begins. Riley Amos will also miss the men’s under-23 event to give himself a chance to properly recover from a series of health issues that have affected his preparation.
The TFR XC squad is certainly keeping doctors busy, but there’s no question that resting up will help riders later on. The team’s best results this season have come when riders have been fully healthy, and Dascalu (aiming for a fifth-straight top-three World Cup finish), Cooper, Neff and Munro are ready to take their best shots at a tough course in Leogang.
DH course preview: Fast until it's not
The Leogang World Cup takes place within a bike park, so fast and flow-y is the name of the game. For the first two-thirds of their runs, riders will try to keep their momentum building through winding turns, through tunnels and over river gaps.
Then things get technical.
Last year, a wooded section was added to the lower portion of the track, forcing riders to take a very different approach to the course they had come to know and love. Deep ruts, steep gradients, tight squeezes — this section will be hell on tired bodies, and could decide the race.
The track ends with a massive gap jump before a tight last turn and a fast finishing straight. This course was seemingly designed with dramatics in mind. It’ll be fascinating to see what a powerful and supremely skilled rider like Edwards can bring to the race, not to mention Vergier, who punctured last year after a fast start to his final run.
XC course preview: Uphill, downhill and everything in between
The XC course in Leogang is relatively new, and was built with a smorgasbord of features that has something for everyone, whether riders like to grind climbs, bomb descents or suss out the fastest lines through root-y trails.
At 725 feet of climbing per lap, riders will certainly be getting a workout in. Two climbs make up the bulk of the elevation gain. The first, soon after the start of the lap, features momentum-sucking switchbacks before a jitter-y descent that won’t give riders any reprieve.
The second climb is steeper but much straighter, and spits riders out onto flow-y, shallow descent that may be the only reasonable section where riders can catch their breath. One last short, steep, twisty up-and-down section then sends riders into a full-gas descent to the line to start the challenging 3.5-kilometer course once more.
This year, TFR XC is sending three riders who thrived on the course in 2021. Cooper took third for his second career World Cup podium box performance, and Dascalu wasn’t far behind, finishing fifth at 42 seconds after Cooper while riding for Trek-Pirelli. Neff took fourth in a thrilling finish, just 14 seconds out of second place.
These riders knows the track well, and will be well-prepared for its devilish features.
How to watch
Red Bull TV has free live streaming of the event once again. And outside of downhill qualifying and U23 and junior events, you can watch everything. Here’s the broadcast schedule:
- XC short track elite women’s final — 5:30 p.m. local, 11:20 a.m. ET
- XC short track elite men’s final — approx. 6:15 p.m. local, 12:15 p.m. ET
- DH elite women’s final — 12:25 p.m. local, 6:25 a.m. ET
- DH elite men’s final — approx. 1:45 p.m. local, 7:45 a.m. ET
- XC Olympic elite women’s final — 12 p.m. local, 6 a.m. ET
- XC Olympic elite men’s final — approx. 2:30 p.m. local, 8:30 a.m. ET