Interview with Vali Höll
The countdown has started - in two weeks the UCI Bike World Championships 2020 in Saalfelden Leogang will start. And at the same time the big performance of the downhiller Valentina "Vali" Höll draws nearer as well. We met her at the Bikepark in Leogang,and talked about her preparations for the Bike World Championships 2020 and Covid 19.
With top speed on the winner's podium?
Valentina "Vali" Höll has a big advantage at the UCI World Championships at the Epic Bikepark in Leogang, because it's her home. The local hero, who comes from the mountain hut Spielberghaus, which is located above our neighbouring village Saalbach, has become very popular over the last seasons in the downhill szene. Since 2020 she counts as a favourite for the World Championships, because she won the Worldcup 2019 in Lenzerheide.
Everything has been different than expected
At the beginning of the year, Vali was preparing for her first season counting to the elite of the downhill szene. Moreover, her whole family was looking forward to seeing her race down the mountain. Vali tells us at the beginning of the Interview: "Since last year my whole family thinks about the World Championships. Everyone of them wants to be a part of it."
However, then everythiing was different because of the Covid 19 pandemic. Many races had to be canceled and so it was really challenging for Vali: "The last few years have been tremendously difficult for me. I come from the group of Juniors, where I won everything which I could have won. But now I am a part of the elite and I cannot judge where I stand. Before the World Championships take place, there are only a few races where I can show what I can. There are really talented and strong competitors. And the first big race is the home race."
Looking forward to it
Despite all the challenges, Vali is definitely looking forward to the World Championships. "I think it is so cool to have my first big race here in my hometown. I am really happy to be able to have a race here in Saalfelden Leogang," Vali says with a big smile on her face. And Vali definitely has every reason to be happy, because she already showed us in the last few years that the trail "Speedster" is her favourite one. Last year at the World Cup, she would have won the bronze medal in the elite group with her good time. "I really did my best when preparing for the race and I think my speed is really good." So the future for the World Championships looks really rosy.
Bikepark instead of children's playground
The way to a World Championship is a long one, and not only the last weeks and months before the races are essential. Everything must harmonize to reach your goals and get good results. This is definitely the recipe for success from Vali, because her whole family is passionate about biking and lives the lifestyle a 100%. She started mountain biking when she was a little child. "I can remember my childhood, when my parents picked me up from school and brought me to Leogang. However, at this time I only watched them bike down the mountain, while I was doing my homework," tells us Vali. However, at some point she had enough of just watching and started biking herself. "This was the time when I started to bike at the Riders Playground."
The best memory of the World Cup in Leogang
So the beginning of her successful bike career was made in the Bikepark Leogang. That's the reason why she has a very special connection with this village. "The Bikepark Leogang is great, because it offers something for everyone. Doesn't matter whether you are a racer, a beginner or a little shredder, you find a trail for everyone and everyone can learn something new," she says. Her personal highlight was in 2018 at the World Cup in Leogang. "It has always been my dream to start at the start house. So when I stood there for the first time, I realized that my dream came true and that I am allowed to participate in a home World Cup. Eventhough I fell, I won with about 15 seconds lead. I cannot remember how I did this. It was just an incredible race and an unbelievable experience for me."
Lessons from the past and wishes for the future
Without doubt, mountain biking is not only a sport, but also a lifestyle. Community and being a part of something big are essential. Biking is not a sport for lone wolfs. "The most important lesson, which I have learned at the beginning of biking, is that you meet so many good bikers and pros. This is really great at the Bikepark in Leogang, because you can copy them and get some tips. You can really profit from them," tells us Vali. When asking her what her wishes for the future are, she answers: "I hope that biking will be as popular as skiing in the winter."
Pictures: (c) Moritz Ablinger