I’m going to go a bit ‘me me me’ for a moment now, afford me a paragraph would you please. Thing is, in all the years – decades now – I’ve been riding bikes and having been immersed in the race scene, there are a few places and events that have managed to evade my radar. Leogang is one of those, but arriving here mid-week I felt I already knew every rock and root on the track – I’d seen them all in photos and video for years. And hey, as the joke goes, there ain’t many of them on the bike park track anyway. Strangely, today on my first walk down the full course (side story: food poisoning, say no more), it all became clear. It’s not so much joke as reality. Things are pretty easy going as far as World Cup Downhill track levels go here, and if it weren’t for the short sections of fresh tech that have gone in I’d almost say anyone could get down it (that’s not true by the way, but it ain’t no Lourdes). The track’s simplicity took me by surprise, but qualifying results quickly brought me back to reality and I remembered once again that variety is the spice of life.
You see, fast and seemingly straightforward as it may be, put a bunch of race-hungry downhillers on course and things are still going to get heck-a rowdy out there. And that’s just what happened today. Reign the track in and the times only get tighter, which means people tense up at the thought of having to put it all on the line – no room for error – which in turn causes error. With dusty dry gravel turns up top those too eager quickly suffered; through the moist woods fresh roots claimed their victims; and in the familiar and at first glance simple lower sections rogue rocks and roots pinged riders off-line and into oblivion. For want of a better phrase, downhill is gnarly as hell whatever mountain you race it on.
Results from qualifying were varied just as this sport’s tracks are. Some got too excited, some showed a game face, some hesitated where they should’ve accelerated.
Finals is going to be an interesting one that is for sure. Gwin and Atherton stated their intentions in qualifying, but if their rivals can reign it in and nail down a solid run things could just get even tighter at the top for the main showdown. Riders ready.