Switzerland’s Camille Balanche and Australia’s Troy Brosnan came out on top as the 2021 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup downhill season kicked off in style at Leogang in Austria today.
The 2.2km long track has 469m of vertical drop with top speeds of around 65km. After a long week of practice in wet and muddy conditions, the skies cleared and the speeds increased for race day. These drier conditions contributed to what was one of the most exhilarating World Cups in recent times. Although nothing like the conditions of the 2020 MTB World Championships in Leogang, the infamous woods section remained the crunch point. It was a case of smooth and easy would get you through safely but these days World Cup’s are seldom won with that approach
In the women’s race, Balanche did the rainbow stripes proud with a tidy but quick run to win her first-ever World Cup race and prove that her 2020 World Championships victory was much more than luck. Balanche’s run bumped Monica Hrastnik off the hot seat after the Slovenian rider, who claimed bronze at the Worlds last year, once again showed her attacking style and increasing consistency. Reigning World Cup champion Marine Cabirou had a huge nosedive over the jumps, then a series of mistakes in the woods section while compatriot Myriam Nicole had a similarly chaotic run with two crashes. Leogang local Vali Höll was the last woman down and she flew through the motorway sector as well as navigating the tricky woods, only to crash on the final corner to slip second behind winner Balanche.
Results: Elite Women
1. Camille Balanche SUI 4:07.850 2. Valentina Höll AUT +1.412 3. Monika Hrastnik SLO +1.471 4. Marine Cabirou FRA +5.878 5. Tahnée Seagrave GBR +8.680
1. Camille Balanche SUI 220 points 2. Valentina Höll AUT 210 3. Monika Hrastnik SLO 156 4. Marine Cabirou FRA 155 5. Tahnée Seagrave GBR 122
The course was drying quickly and the elite men faced an unknown beast after the women’s race with conditions drier than at any point in the week. A strong wind on the open top section compounded the difficulty. On his return to World Cup racing after nearly two years sidelined by injury, 2018 World Cup champion Amaury Pierron of France was solid through the first splits but sensational into the woods section. South Africa’s Greg Minnaar was as clinical as ever in the first half of the track but then seemed unsettled and rode a lot of the lower section uncleated. 2020 World Champion Reece Wilson returned to the scene of his triumph with confidence and made it count with a super clean run that fell just short of Pierron as Benoit Coulanges moved into third. France’s Thibaut Dapréla turned the splits green finally and, despite a massive stall that put him 0.131 down at split four, he threw everything at the final sectors with insane energy to go fastest. Brosnan recovered from a nervous start to build momentum in the woods section and turned on the speed in the final sector to edge out Dapréla for his first World Cup victory since 2017.
Results: Elite Men
1. Troy Brosnan AUS 3:26.019 2. Thibaut Dapréla FRA +1.235 3. Amaury Pierron FRA +1.478 4. Reece Wilson GBR +1.898 5. Benoit Coulanges FRA +2.234
1. Troy Brosnan AUS 250 points 2. Thibaut Dapréla FRA 190 3. Amaury Pierron FRA 140 4. Reece Wilson GBR 137 5. Danny Hart GBR 135
Stay tuned for round two in Les Gets, France, three weeks from today.