Troy Brosnan (AUS) prevents French party with scorching run, Camille Balanche (SUI) masters “Vali’s Hölle” to take first place

Saturday, 12.06.2021

Troy Brosnan (AUS) prevents French party with scorching run, Camille Balanche (SUI) masters “Vali’s Hölle” to take first place

It’s been a day full of exciting racing in Leogang at Day Two of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.

It’s been a day full of exciting racing in Leogang at Day Two of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. Serving as the kick-off of the 2021 Downhill racing season, Leogang delivered in droves, with flawless runs through treacherous woods, big jumps on the motorway section and edge-of-your-seat action in both Men and Women Elite. The season opener was spiced up by an air show courtesy of the Flying Bulls, showing some amazing aerial acrobatics, with the gathered spectators snapping photos and videos gleefully. 

Riders in Leogang were greeted with sunshine on Saturday morning, and found themselves looking at rapidly changing track conditions. A dry and fast top section gave riders the possibility to go flat-out, pedal to the metal, with tricky conditions in the woods and an unpredictable mixture of wet and dry roots, deep ruts and flurries of sunlight awaiting them on the most critical section of the track. The stage was set for an unforgettable day of racing, which has become tradition in Leogang by now. 

Troy Brosnan pulled off the seemingly impossible. Fueled by his strong qualifying run and as the last rider down the mountain, the Australian knew what was at stake. Showcasing his extreme control on the bike, Brosnan fought hard to stay in touch at the top section of the track and pinned it through the woods, hoping to turn splits green. Attacking the steep roots and ruts of “Vali’s Hölle” with fierce speed and tactical precision, Brosnan seemingly floated over the roots that challenged riders all week long. Finishing the race in 3:26.019, the Australian completed a perfect weekend in the idyllic Austrian town, taking home his first World Cup win since 2017. 

“It’s honestly so crazy. After qualifying I felt so confident and happy. It’s good to be back on the pace. That run felt so good, I was just so pinned and trying to attack the bottom. I’m so stoked, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. There’s a little bit more on the line now, I guess,” said a visibly euphoric Brosnan. 

Thibaut Daprela (FRA) is known for his all-or-nothing approach, and it showed. Just in the top section, he gained over 3 seconds on teammate Pierron. Daprela bulldozed the first section of the woods, but a slight mistake made him take his foot off the pedal and for a moment it looked like he would miss the podium. Not letting his mistake get the best of him, the Frenchman worked hard to keep his advantage in the green. Hanging on to his green split by a hair, the French rider went flat out, maintaining his lead over Amaury Pierron (FRA) by less than half a second.  

In his first World Cup race since Snowshoe in 2019, Pierron (FRA) made the most out of the dry track and rode on the edge throughout his entire race. The furiously fast Frenchie found crucial split seconds on the most decisive part of the track and kept his speed throughout. His blazing run put him into the hot seat for well over an hour, racing to a 3:27.497 finish, a time that would remain unchallenged until Brosnan (AUS) and Daprela came down the mountain. 

In the Women Elite race, Camille Balanche (SUI) showed the world just why she has the rainbow stripes on her jersey. Flying down the track and coming through the woods of “Vali’s Hölle” flawlessly, the Swiss speedster made light work of the entire Leogang track, just like she did during the 2020 World Championships. Her time of 4:07.850 would prove untouchable, not even by Vali Höll, who was on a mission on her home turf. 

With the leader’s jersey on her back thanks to a stellar qualifying run, Valentina Höll (AUT) sped out of the start gate. With a ecstatic crowd waiting for her in the finish area, she looked smooth and fast through the treacherous wooded section named after her. As she was coming into the home stretch with all splits in the green, disaster struck. Vali got caught out by the track at the wrong time, sending her to the ground and costing her valuable seconds in her pursuit of her first ever Elite win. Despite the crash, Vali put in a time of 4:09.262, good enough for second place.

Monika Hrastnik (SLO), who came down the mountain in the middle of the pack, hit the track running with a clean top section and came into Vali’s Hell slightly ahead of Tahnée Seagrave (GBR), who had put in the first competitive time of the day. Leogang’s most technical and tricky section was no issue for the Slovenian, finishing with a time of 4:09,321, rewarding her with third place in the first race of the season. 

“I had a really, really good run. I could keep my foot on the pedal the entire run and there was nothing I could have done better. Vali is incredibly fast though, so I was very lucky that she crashed. I felt really good in training, felt confident and this week has been incredibly cool,” said an elated Balanche right after the race. 

In the Junior division, all eyes were on Junior World Champion Oisin O’Callaghan (IRL) and, with defending champion Lauryne Chappaz (FRA) out of action due to a sprained thumb, on Austrian rider Sophie Gütohrle, who was 2nd at the World Championships last year. 
O’Callaghan couldn’t back up his 2020 Leogang performance and had to be content with 8th place, seeing Pau Menoyo Busquets (ESP), Jackson Goldstone (CAN) and Dennis Luffman (GBR) complete the Top 3 in the Men Junior field. 

Meanwhile, as the last Junior down the mountain in the women’s division, Gütohrle found the fastest line through the woods, finishing a whopping 10.555 seconds before Leona Pierrini (FRA), with Izabela Yankova (BUL) rounding out the Top 3. 

Men Elite DH Top 3:
1.    Troy Brosnan (AUS) – 3:26.019
2.    Thibaut Daprela (FRA) – 3:27.254 (+1.235)
3.    Amaury Pierron (FRA) – 3:27.497 (+1.478)

Women Elite DH Top 3:
1.    Camille Balanche (SUI) - 4:07.850
2.    Valentina Höll (AUT) – 4:09.262 (+1.412)
3.    Monika Hrastnik (SLO) – 4:09.321 (+1.471)