Val di Sole showcased the incredible depth of Trek’s development efforts

More than half of the available U23 and junior podium spots were occupied by Trek riders at a notoriously difficult venue

There are a lot of incredible mountain bike venues all over the world, but few test rider’s mettle like Val di Sole. The cross country and downhill World Cup tracks are two of the meanest on their respective circuits, and the attention surrounding a World Cup double only ratchets up the pressure on already heavily-scrutinized athletes.

Those circumstances make the success and consistency of Trek’s young athletes all the more remarkable. Trek Sessions and Supercalibers were mainstays on Val di Sole’s junior and U23 podiums. Let’s tally up the steps, shall we?

TFR DH's Sacha Earnest embracing The Union's Ellie Hulsebosch for winning the junior women's DH event in Val di Sole. Sacha took second for a Trek 1-2.

  • In men’s U23 XC racing, Trek Factory Racing-Pirelli XC’s Riley Amos continued his Olympic-distance hot streak, winning his fourth straight XCO. He took second in short track — so far, the only World Cup race he hasn’t won this season — behind another Trek rider: Good friend Bjorn Riley, who also took second in Sunday’s XCO for Trek Future Racing. PODIUM COUNT: 4
  • In women’s U23 XC racing, Isabella Holmgren won Sunday’s XCO by a whopping 1:26 over second place, giving her two XCO wins in two tries this season for the Lidl-Trek road team. She also took second in Friday’s short track, just ahead of Trek Future Racing’s Emilly Johnston in third. PODIUM COUNT: 7
  • In women’s junior DH racing, The Union’s Ellie Hulsebosch finally broke through for her first World Cup win of the season after coming oh-so-close several times. Just behind her, Trek Factory Racing DH’s Sacha Earnest took second for her third podium of the year. It was not only a Trek 1-2, but a New Zealand 1-2-3, with Erice van Leuven coming in third. Oh yeah, and Hulsebosch winning time would have been fastest in the elite women’s final as well. FINAL PODIUM COUNT: 9

Isabella Holmgren has been a force in mountain biking for Lidl-Trek, winning her second U23 women's XCO in a row.

After short track racing, Amos was stoked about the level of competition, and in particular how well Riley and the Trek Future Racing squad had put him under pressure. The race was a great example of how a strong development ecosystem raises up all the riders within it.

“I chased one attack down early because I just didn’t want to risk it, and Bjorn perfectly timed a second one and I just didn’t have the legs to go for it,” Amos said. “It was a beautiful move by the Future Racing boys. They worked together, put a target on me, and executed, so I’m super stoked to get second.

“There’s no better guy to get it than Bjorn, too. It’s been really close all year.”

Bodhi Kuhn may not have had the day he wanted on Saturday, but there's no denying the impressive confidence and consistency he has displayed as a first year elite.

In total, Trek riders made up nearly 60 percent of the podium steps available to them across five events in three different youth racing divisions. And that’s not even mentioning so many other standout young performers. 

  • Madigan Munro of TFR XC took fifth in short track and sixth in XCO, and is now third on the overall standings for both events. Johnston is second in both standings.  
  • Bodhi Kuhn of TFR DH and Lachie Stevens-McNab of The Union are just 19 and 20 years old, respectively, but they are thriving on the men’s elite circuit. Kuhn has qualified for every World Cup final of the season, and though he crashed during his finals run in Val di Sole, he was sitting P12 through the first split, and is now in 22nd overall. Stevens-McNab is 15th overall despite missing Saturday’s final due to an unlucky bent brake rotor during his semis run. He took third in the Leogang finals last weekend. 
  • After a season of injuries and bad luck, The Union’s Chris Hauser finished ninth in the junior men’s DH race on Saturday, giving the young Italian rider his biggest shot of confidence since winning Lenzerheide in 2023. Unior-Sinter’s Oli Clark also had a good day, taking sixth.

Trek Future Racing's Emilly Johnston is sitting second overall in the U23 women's short track and XCO standings in what has been an incredibly tight overall battle.

If Nové Město felt like a breakout moment for young Trek riders, Val di Sole seemed to be confirmation that they’re here to stay. The depth of young talent within the Trek ecosystem — across disciplines, teams, and nations — is a sight to behold, and has been one of the best subplots to another ever-dramatic World Cup season.

Evie Richards back in action after missing Nové Město with concussion symptoms.

Evie Richards and Gwendalyn Gibson return

Every athlete enters the season full of hope. Quickly, they see how they stack up against their competitors, many of whom also feel like they just had their best offseason of training ever. Expectations are slightly (or significantly) readjusted, and the athletes settle in for a long series of fierce battles for MTB supremacy.

That’s how racing should work, in theory, but for an unlucky few, the season begins with an all-too-literal thud. For Gwendalyn Gibson, it was a crash at Round 1 of the MTB XC World Cup in Mairiporã, Brazil, where she suffered a broken collarbone during the elite women’s XCO. For Evie Richards, it was lingering concussion symptoms from a crash during Round 2 in Araxá.

Gwendalyn Gibson stoked to complete her first World Cup XCO race of the year.

Both riders returned to racing in Val di Sole after missing six combined World Cup starts. Their finish positions didn’t reach their lofty standards — Gibson was 13th in short track and 15th in XCO, and Richards was 11th and 29th, respectively — but that fact is academic. They both were able to get through the World Cup weekend cleanly, and can now turn their attention to building through the end of the season.

The return to racing was especially helpful to Gibson, who had just one complete World Cup race prior to Friday. Coming back via short track racing is a particularly difficult endeavor.

“I was really happy with my first race back,” Gibson said. “The high pace of XCC was such a shock to the system. I struggled a bit with the speed at first and found myself at the back. But I just kept fighting and started to find the race legs and moved up a lot in the final laps. 

“My fitness is there. The rest will come back each race.”

There's no keeping Evie down.

Richards had four World Cup starts under her belt before Friday, including a short track win in Mairiporã. The former World Champion has stratospheric expectations for herself for good reason, and she’s looking forward to finally feeling like her old self again.

“I was pleased because I could push,” Richards said. “I think there’s always a bit of you, when you’ve had a big break, you think that there’s going to be some miracle and you’ll just end up on the front. Miracle did not come. And it was a baptism of fire but I’m happy.

“I said, it’s like I haven’t been to a supermarket in six weeks, and this was like supermarket shopping on Christmas Day. So it was a lot to process.”

The good news for both riders is that they don’t have to worry about their legs getting cold. Round 5 of the XC World Cup will take place next weekend in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, at a brand new venue where they may be able to surprise the field.

Of course, racing giveth and racing taketh. Anton Cooper was unable to start Sunday’s men’s elite XCO due to illness, and Jolanda Neff chose to skip Val di Sole and race on the road instead to help resolve the breathing issues that have plagued her early season.

Mountain bike racing is and forever will be a brutal sport, but for Gibson and Richards at least things are looking up. With the second half of the season fast approaching, it will be fascinating to watch them carve out their space within a cutthroat women’s field.