Second Double-Header World Cup in Leogang a resounding success
For the first time this season, the Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Saalfelden Leogang brought together the worlds of Cross-Country and Downhill. The World Cup weekend in Epic Bikepark Leogang impressed with spectacular runs, a large dose of drama and spectators witnessed history in the making. Smiles and pride were seen all across the board, no matter whether they were organisers, race teams, riders or fans.
Following a succesful first edition in 2021, the World Cup returned to the Saalfelden Leogang region in full force, with Cross-Country and Downhill riders descending on the Epic Bikepark Leogang. The quaint Austrian town has an established history in the Downhill world, with spectacular runs throughout the years. Even though Cross-Country has only been on the Leogang race calendar twice, there are already patterns emerging. For example, so far only Loana Lecomte (FRA) and Mathias Flückiger (SUI) have won the Cross-Country races (both Short Track and Olympic distance) and Local Hero Laura Stigger seems to have a subscription to Olympic distance third place finishes on the track with the most meters of climbing.
Another pattern that has emerged over the years is the atmosphere that the amassed spectators bring with them. Over the three days, the 21,500 gathered spectators turned up in great spirits, cheering on more than 800 riders from 40 countries all the way from race start to finish, with fans gathered course-side as well as in the finish area.
Even though bad weather looked to mess with the good spirits, the clouds parted right on time for the Cross-Country Short Track races on Friday evening and the sun would stay in place for the rest of the weekend.
Drama and joy were readily interchanged, especially during the Downhill racing on Saturday. While Vali Höll, racing on her home turf, saw disaster strike during her race run, with two crashes putting her out of podium contention, finishing in sixth place, fellow Austrian Andreas Kolb had a career-best run, finishing on the podium in fifth place, less than a 2.5 seconds behind race winner Matt Walker (GBR) and becoming the first Austrian ever to finish on a World Cup podium.
As usual, the gathered spectators were treated to much more than 'just' spectacular racing.
Ahead of the Downhill finals, fans were treated to an air show, courtesy of the Flying Bulls. Pilot Miguel Hochleitner showed off his aerial acrobatics on board of the Trojan 28B, with the Top Gun soundtrack accompanying him. Meanwhile on Sunday, Senad Grosic hosted a BMX Show, which wowed Cross-Country enthusiasts in between the women's and men's races. Following the race action, fans were able to come face-to-face with some of their heroes and idols at the FOX Racing signing session. The Team Area was also frequently visited as the hunt for more signatures took attendees through the pits, where they could get an exclusive look behind the scenes of a race weekend. Meanwhile, the Expo Area was jam-packed with the latest and greatest of the bike world.
"Thanks to the weather, the weekend didn't start great, but things picked up quickly once the rain stopped and made way for sunshine on Saturday and Sunday, becoming the perfect stage for the weekend's racing. Spectators were amazed by the racing here in Leogang. Andreas Kolb's podium place was the cherry on top for the Austrian fans, and I'm elated because of that. The same goes for Laura Stigger, who had an outstanding race," said Kornel Grundner, World Cup organizer and Director of the Leogang Cable Car.
"After the first few hectic days, also because of the weather, today was the cherry on the cake of an incredible event. The weekend was great, and the racing was sensational. The weather gods played along and thankfully we had perfect weather across all the races, from Friday's Cross-Country Short Track, Saturday's Downhill and Sunday's Cross-Country Olympic racing. The crowd always makes it special and we witnessed history in the making once again. We couldn't be happier," said Marco Pointner, World Cup organizer and CEO of Saalfenden Leogang Touristik GmbH.
The World Cup weekend carried the "Green Event Salzburg" label, which meant a focus on sustainability and environmentally friendly initiatives. The World Cup organizers offered a ticket refund for public transport, free regional shuttles, motivated teams and spectators to separate their trash and use recycling bins where possible, launched the MTB World Cup app in order to limit the use of paper and much more. Another initiative was the "Every Can Contributes", which focussed on the recycling of beverage cans. The free shuttles were a hit as well, covering approximately 1400 kilometres, which is about the distance from Leogang all the way to Barcelona.
For everyone that missed the weekend's race action, replays are available on-demand on Red Bull TV.