The first World Cup "double" is chock full of thrills and storylines
Welcome to the first World Cup “double” of the year. The cross country mountain biking season is in full swing, with two World Cup events having already provided a novel’s worth of storylines. Meanwhile, the downhill mountain biking World Cup is only just beginning, after the season’s scheduled start in Fort Williams was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The best riders in both disciplines will take on a beautiful and fast rolling course in Leogang, where the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships were held just last October.
The forthcoming weekend is going to be chockablock with racing, drama and chaos, all revolving around the Austrian Alps. It should be the best weekend of mountain bike racing of the year so far, and the Trek Race Shop will be well represented in every event. Here’s everything you need to know:
Trek Factory Racing's DH squad makes its new-look debut
Familiar faces abound, from high-flying Kade Edwards, to undefeated in 2021 Charlie Harrison, to defending WORLD CHAMPION Reece Wilson.
Joining them is brand new signing Loris Vergier, who finished as UCI’s No. 2 overall elite men’s downhill rider last year. The JUST turned 25-year-old Frenchman will race alongside his teammates for the first time in Leogang, but he is reportedly already fitting in well. He is TFR’s oldest downhill rider by 35 days over Reece Wilson. Suffice to say, the team has no shortage of youthful exuberance.
“From the outside, that’s why I was convinced [to come]. It looked like one of the cool teams — the cool people, the cool riders,” Vergier said in an interview last January about joining TFR. “[Trek] is professional and everything is done right. It’s moving into the future and progressing all the time. And the riders are just chill. So it’s the best combo. You have cool teammates, fast teammates and then a company that wants your best.”
The new, high pivot Trek Session will also be making its World Cup debut. The redesign has already proven its racing bona fides — see: Harrison’s 3-for-3 gold medals, or Vergier’s win in Italy last May — but Leogang will be its biggest stage yet.
RockShox Trek's Vali Höll and Jamie Edmondson are in Leogang to make TFR feel old
Consider the fact that Edmondson is the grizzled veteran of HIS squad at just 20 years old. When the RockShox Trek Race Team was introduced this January, it was the youngest team in the sport. Höll is just 19 years old, and their teammates Ethan Shandro and Tegan Cruz are 19 and 15, respectively.
Edmondson and Höll will represent the team in Leogang, and both have big ambitions. Edmondson will race the elite event after he finished third as a U21 rider in all three Enduro World Series events he started last year, and took fourth as an elite at the downhill World Cup event in Lousã.
Höll will race in the elite category at a World Cup for the first time, but she has already proven that she should be among the favorites to win after taking the top podium at Crankworx in Innsbruck last year.
Leogang is a home course for the Austrian rider, but Höll experienced bad luck at last year’s World Championship when she injured her ankle in a crash during practice while taking on the course’s canyon gap. This weekend, she’ll get another chance to conquer the course and earn her first elite World Cup medal.
TFR XC crescendos into World Cup No. 3
The second XC World Cup in Nove Mesto was full of season-affirming results for TFR. Evie Richards secured her first elite Olympic-distance World Cup podium. Anton Cooper finished eighth in the XCO event, continuing arguably his best career start. And Jolanda Neff, coming off a disappointing short track performance, came up from a fourth row start to finish eighth in the XCO event.
Neff also won a Swiss national title after Nove Mesto against arguably the deepest national team field in the sport. After a rocky performance at the first World Cup in Albstadt, where she struggled with hay fever, Neff is going to Leogang with full momentum.
Youngsters Riley Amos and Maddie Munro will also be kitted up in Leogang. Amos, riding once again in his combo Bear Development/TFR kit, took second in Nove Mesto in the U23 event at just 19 years old. Munro, who is racing after recovering from a crash last April, has only just turned 19, and is anxious to be back on a world stage.
Unfortunately, Stéphane Tempier won’t be able to race alongside his teammates. He is still resting up after struggling with illness in Nove Mesto.
His presence will be missed on a fast, hilly course that should be a brilliant showcase for the depth and competitiveness in both the men’s and women’s fields. XC racing has been breathlessly exciting this season, and Leogang should be no exception.
The downhill course: Steep, fast and now full of trees
The downhill course is open and flow-y until, suddenly, it isn’t.
The first two thirds of the course winds through open mountain side, into tunnels and over river gaps. Towards the end of the course a thickly wooded area changes the tenor of the race dramatically, forcing riders through really steep, really gnarly terrain that will test their stamina and bike handling.
The course also features a big gap jump, new as of the 2020 World Championship, that gave many riders fits late in their runs. Hopefully it will be easier to navigate now that they’ve had a chance to experience it.
The XC course: Emphasis on speed and climbs
Like the downhill course, the XC course also rolls fast. Unlike the downhill course (for obvious reasons) the XC course features two significant climbs that promise to deliver hell on the legs. In total, the course has 689 feet of elevation gain. And those ascents are followed by extremely technical descents that, as in the downhill course, won’t provide riders much rest.
Getting out to a fast start will be key to avoiding losing time in traffic before the first incline starts, heading into the woods. The course begins with an open 200-meter straight that should encourage a chaotic battle for positioning.
The first descent ends into an open field and the first feed zone, before heading into the longer of the two climbs, which features nine switchbacks. In all, Leogang’s XC course should make for brilliant theater, with setpieces that show off every aspect of the racing skillset.
How can I watch?
As with most things World Cup, Red Bull TV has you covered. And best of all, it’s free.
You won’t be able to catch everything, however. Sadly, downhill qualifying on Friday is not part of the broadcast, nor are any U23 or junior events. But everything else is available. Here’s the 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 — 12:30 p.m. local, 6:30 a.m. ET
DH elite men’s final — approx. 1:30 p.m. local, 7:30 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