Friday Wrap-Up: Pidcock Races to Second Gold Medal while Vergier and Höll Dominate Downhill Qualifications

Friday, 09.10.2020

Friday Wrap-Up: Pidcock Races to Second Gold Medal while Vergier and Höll Dominate Downhill Qualifications

A foggy morning made way for a sunny afternoon. With Downhill training starting early, riders struggled to spot the right lines in the lower, new section of the Speedster, a section that would prove to be decisive during qualifications for both Juniors and Elite riders.

While the world’s best Downhill riders put rubber to mud on the Asitz mountain during qualifications, which saw blistering runs by Loris Vergier (FRA) and Valentina Höll (AUT), another spectacular Cross-Country race was shaping up in the valley, with Britain’s Thomas Pidcock in the start gates once again, this time racing in the U-23 Men’s race.  

Pidcock Makes it Two in a Row, adds Another Gold Medal for Great Britain
In a repeat of last week’s Nové Město duel between Thomas Pidcock (GBR) and Christopher Blevins (USA), who finished in 1st and 2nd place respectively, the young Britain put in a dominating performance in the U-23 Cross-Country World Championship to take his second gold medal of the week. Pidcock and Blevins powered away from the pack early, flying to an almost two-minute lead between themselves and the chasers within two laps of the race start. 

The American and the Brit were locked almost wheel to wheel at the beginning of the race, with Blevins leading early and Pidcock close behind. Within two laps however, Thomas was able to overtake the American and build a comfortable lead, making light work of the muddy conditions that were still prevalent across large parts of the track. The Brit showed extremely clever riding throughout the race, seemingly knowing exactly when to stop at the tech zone to hydrate or to clean his bike from the built-up mud.  

Pidcock didn’t let up until the very end of the race. As soon as he crossed the finish line in 1:08:15, he jumped off of his bike, lifted it above his head and celebrated his extraordinary achievement. 

Securing the first silver medal for Team USA this week, Blevins styled it up coming into the final turns of the race. Entertaining the gathered media with a perfectly executed manual on the last set of rollers, he knew that the silver was safe, racing across the finish line in 1:10:07. 

Joel Roth came in third and finished the race in 1:11:20, over 15 seconds faster than his Italian competitor Simone Avondetto, who was in turn another 16 seconds faster than his Canadian rival Sean Fincham.

Christopher Blevins: “To be able to race at a World Championships with everything that’s going on is amazing. I have tons of appreciation for everyone who helps out and the organizers. To be here, to keep the sport alive and to race in beautiful Leogang is for sure very special.”

Fast Downhill Qualifications put Performance in Perspective
At the UCI 2020 Mountain Bike World Championships, the Downhill Qualifying round offered the first real look at the 2020 rivalries – Loic Bruni (FRA), who holds five world titles across Junior and Elite categories, Greg Minnaar (RSA), who won the World Championships here in 2012, and Aaron Gwin (USA), whose chainless win in Leogang entertained the mountain bike, are always among the podium favorites in Leogang. 

How do they stack up against the surge of the young guns, like Laurie Greenland (GBR), Loris Vergier (FRA), David Trummer (AUT) or Finn Iles (CAN)? And what can Men’s Juniors Luke Meier-Smith (AUS), Matthew Sterling (GBR) or Gabriel Wibmer (AUT) achieve? 

Greg Minnaar (19th place in Qualification): “My qualification wasn’t ideal. I felt really good, I rode really nicely up top and as I was coming into the first split, I just fell off a little rut and went off track. I made a few mistakes after that, but I got down in one piece. I think the new sections are really cool so it’s a great addition. They are trying really hard here in Leogang to make a good track and it’s a really good World Champs track. I find it’s got a great variety of terrain, great variety of styles of riding and it could be really hard to pick a winner. My expectation for Sunday is definitely a medal and hopefully the shinier one – that’s what I expect, but it’s going to be a challenge.” 

On the women’s side, Austria’s hope for gold Valentina Höll could shake up the standings on Sunday in her first World Championships in the Elite field, while defending champion Myriam Nicole (FRA) will be aiming to take home another rainbow jersey. Tahnée Seagrave (GBR) will also have her sights set on World Championship gold after taking the silver medal in Mont-Sainte-Anne in 2019. Marine Cabirou (FRA) and Tracey Hannah finished their 2019 seasons with a slew of podiums on their resume and cannot be counted out as podium threats. On the outside looking in is Nina Hoffmann (GER), who finished second in Leogang during the 2019 World Cup and with a Top 10 qualifying result will look to get at least a Top 5 finish. On the Junior’s side, France’s Leona Pierrini and Lauryne Chappaz will be looking to add medals to France’s total this weekend and to hold off the attack from Siel van der Velden (BEL) and Anastasia Thiele (GER).

Nina Hoffmann (9th place in Qualification): “To be honest, I’m not feeling really good after that quali. I started strong, but I crashed once at the end of the motorway section and then again in the new section. However, looking at the track and the split times of everyone, I’m pretty sure that I can get a Top 5 finish on Sunday,” adding that “on Sunday, the most important thing for me will be to stay on my bike and to stay as smooth as possible, picking sure lines and not risking too much. I think that will be key.”