Leogang 2013 World Cup Preview
Tighter than a 90's skinsuit, it's World Cup finals time
Can someone tell me where that race season just went!? Seems to have flown by as we drop into the last race of the season and site of last years World Champs. So where exactly is Leogang/Leobanger/Legoland?
This weekend sees another World Champs; 4X is joining back up with the DH circuit in Leogang for final race in both World Series. Red Bull have come up trumps and will be showing both events live on redbull.com/bike so thats basically your weekend sorted. Time to get down the corner shop for either tea and biscuits or beers and Bombay Mix!
We all know what this weekend is focussed on though, two World Cup Champions will be crowned come Sunday afternoon and after what has been one of the most incredible race seasons to date, we are in for a treat.
Blown. Rachel exhausted after taking the win in Hafjell.
Rachel Atherton is comfortable at the top of the women's field with a 160 point gap back to Emmeline Ragot. The clincher is Manon Carpenter, so hungry for a win she will be looking to devour the 45 points between her and Ragot and take a step up the podium for the overall. Do the maths and it isn't over, but on her current form it would take a nightmare result for the title to be taken from Rachel. She has been solid all season and there's a good chance she will make it stick for the overall. It's not often you see the series leader vest covering up a World Champs jersey. Barring any screw ups she will be adding the overall title to the cabinet back in Llangynog next week.
Where it's tight is at the top of the Men's title race, Gee Atherton leads Steve Smith by 17 points. Seventeen points, thats 6.8% of the 250 points on offer this weekend meaning that qualifying is going gain some serious extra importance come 1:30PM CET on Saturday. The 200 points that are left on offer for the win could see either rider storm ahead but it's what others do here that could rock the World Cup Title boat.
Minnaar can win here and do so under the greatest of pressure.
Minnaar is out of the title race, even if he landed the top spots in both qualifying and finals he would still be short of the overall. However, he is strong here and could upset things at the top. He won Worlds here last year, 3rd in 2011 and another win for him in the 2010 World Cup shows that this track suits him. Greg can go fast here but it will only serve to tighten the gap between Atherton and Smith rather than shift them from the top two steps.
Dejected after Hafjell Gee will no doubt come out charging in Leogang
Atherton is Mr Consistent in Austria, but he won't want to continue his form precisely. 2010 World Cup, 2nd, 2011 World Cup, 2nd and 2012 World Champs 2nd Gee has been 2nd at every major event here in recent years. Not the best omen for him going into this race but a more timely view would take into account his season's performance which has been superb.
Last weekend saw him get personal with a tree in the slippery rocks of Hafjell but in sector one he was only 0.521s back on Smith. To put that into perspective, eventual 2nd place finisher Danny Hart was 1.724s back at the same point, Gee was charging and could well have stolen the win had he not crashed. Gee knows he has it in him and so does everyone else, and we are all going to be on the edge of our seats come Sunday.
On the form of his career Steve Smith is primed for Leogang.
Then there is Stevie Smith, he has been on form all season but that has stepped up a notch since his first win in Mont Sainte Anne. He won pretty much everything DH race orientated at Crankworx and then took the win in Hafjell giving him a decent average of a win every week since MSA back on the 11th of August.
Steve has a mixed history here but one that isn't too shabby, 11th in the 2010 World Cup, 4th in 2011 then 3rd at Worlds shows he is moving in the right direction at this track but the pressure on both him and Gee will be immense come qualifying then on race day it will go intergalactic.
There are others though, Blenki has been on solid form all year and has been in the mix here before as well as taking 4th last weekend in Hafjell. Team mate Loic Bruni is also a real danger man, mixing it at the top in qualifying at Hafjell he was 3rd behind Mick Hannah by only 1.837s. Loic crashed out in his race run but before he did was only 1.112s down at split one, time he was more than capable of making up going by qualifying.
Giant can't be ruled out either after Needles and Hart landed podiums in Hafjell and team mate Gutierrez coming in 7th there could be some interesting results coming from the boys in blue. Danny and Needles both ride well when relaxed, Danny proved that at Worlds in Champery and Needles last weekend in Norway so there is every chance they could get back into the top 5.
We don't want this again Josh!
Lets not forget Peaty and Ratboy Bryce as well, Sheffield Steel showed us he still knows how to race coming in 6th last weekend and Josh is so deserving of a win it's unreal. With contenders like Gwin and Macdonald out injured there may be some breathing space in the top ten, we could easily see some surprises at the final race unfolds. Simmonds, Brosnan and Mulally are all ramping up, the last race could be just what they need to pop some champagne.
Looking back through opinions in our previous track walks from Worlds along with the races in 2010 and 2011 there seems to be a recurring theme. The general feeling is that technically the track has become easier year on year, some riders saying that its more fun because of the changes and some thinking it's too easy. You might expect time gaps to shrink if technicality has been reduced, but they have done the opposite, with the exception of Worlds last year.
In 2010 the top 5 were separated by just over 6 seconds where as in 2011 the gap was over 9 seconds. We will have to wait for this years track walk to see if anything major has been altered but I am betting that times are going to be tighter than ever with what's on the line.
Here is the schedule for the weekend:[pdf url="http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/2013_UCI_DHI_World_Cup_-_4X_World_Championships_-_Programme_-_LEOG_-_Ver___.pdf"]
We will be getting the track photos from our man Laurence soon and the video will be dropping too but for now check out the track map:
The 4X track has been designed by racer Guido Tschugg and will be pretty mental if it looks anything like this in the flesh! Not a big vetical drop but there should be plenty of speed and overtaking if we are lucky.
If you want to relive the action from the last World Cup in Leogang then here are the DirtTV edits from the last World Cup here and Worlds is here if you are really keen!
The weather is looking ok right now but could the heavens open on Sunday? With Gee taking a dry win at the start of the season in Fort William and Steve pulling it off in the Norwegian rain the weather will play a part but everyone can cope with both.