The best riders in the world overcome challenging conditions to showcase their skills in Saalfelden Leogang14 June 2022 | By billy1979
The Downhill in Saalfelden Leogang was packed with great emotions. Especially in the women's competition, luck and drama were very close together: while Camille Balanche secured her third victory in the third race in Leogang, local hero Vali Höll again failed to win in front of her home crowd.
There was still reason to celebrate for the Austrian fans, because Andreas Kolb secured fifth place and the best placement of the Austrian Downhill men to date. Former overall World Cup winner Matt Walker secured the first World Cup race victory of his career in Leogang.
Balanche (SUI) completes the 3-peat in variable conditions
Fortunately for both the riders and the 20,000+ spectators, the rain has finally stopped and the sun is shining, giving the wet and muddy course a chance to dry. However, it’s safe to say that despite a little warm weather, the slippery track and mud that has accumulated is a challenge that every rider will have to face. As was expected coming into this race, the final wood section acted as both the toughest section of the course and a section that would make or break a run.
Coming off her win in Fort William, Nina Hoffman (GER) came into the wood section well into the green but lost it early into the mud. She was able to get moving again only to go back off line shortly after, ending her chance of standing on top of the podium today.
Eleonora Farina (ITA) showcased her skill through the wood section and was able to keep her feet on the pedals and put down a clean run. Hitting the wood gap coming out of the wooded section gained her even more time, crossing the finish line over five seconds up.
Myriam Nicole (FRA) looked to be holding a little back through the motorway. A mistake up top saw her battling to get back into the green which she was able to do before the wooded section. She powered through, finding herself deeper in the green and gaining 4 seconds on the leader by the time she crossed the finish line.
A terrible-looking crash towards the top for Marine Cabirou (FRA) would end her chances. Fortunately, she would be able to ride away and make it to the bottom.
Valentina Holl (AUT) was certainly keen to win on home track and was 7 seconds into the green when a small crash near the top would see her fall back half a second into the red. She was looking strong into her namesake wood section, but lost it again when she went over the bars, ending her chances. A visibly disappointed Vali fell to the ground at the finish line, where she sat in 5th place.
Camille Balanche (SUI), the qualifying winner, rode a clean run from top to bottom. She found herself in the green right away, hitting all of the jumps, clearing the wood section, and hitting the Red Bull drop - all adding to her winning margin. Balanche, the final rider, crossed the finish line 11 seconds in front of second place giving her the hat-trick in Leogang.
"It was way better. I tried not to risk it too much, because now it’s so fast I was not expecting this. I didn’t make the mistakes at the top and then when you start your run without mistakes it’s just better in the head. It felt really good, I’m so stoked. Third time in a row here is a dream, even more in quali and then crossed the line first. I’m on the moon.” said a visibly stoked Camille Balanche
Downhill (DHI) Results Elite Women:
Camille Balanche (SUI) 4:08:218
Myriam Nicole (FRA) 4:19:586
Eleonora Farina (ITA) 4:24:281
Louisa-Anna Ferguson (GBR) 4:29:876
Monika Hrastnik (SLO) 4:30:258
Overall World Cup Standings Top 5:
Camille Balanche (SUI) 685
Myriam Nicole (FRA) 555
Valentina Holl (AUT) 460
Eleonora Farina (ITA) 395
Nina Hoffmann (GER) 368
Matt Walker (GBR) takes home his first World Cup win
A notable absence in the men's category is Scotsman Reece Wilson. Wilson took to social media to let fans know that he has not been feeling himself lately and is taking some time to get back to feeling good. Loic Bruni who injured himself in Fort Williams will also be out for this round.
After a long time off his bike with a severe ankle injury, last year's winner, Troy Brosnan, was able to make a return and qualified in 6th place. Back from recovery as well, six weeks off the bike following a concussion saw Finn Iles back to full strength with a solid 2nd place finish in qualifying.
Amaury Pierron (FRA) was sitting in second place coming into the woods, but was incredibly strong throughout the section, powering over the roots and nailing the corners. A brief foot dab was the only visible fault. Pierron crossed the finish line in first place, over a second up. Pierron would end the day in 4th place.
Angel Suarez Alonso (ESP) was next in the starting gates. His splits bounced back and forth between red and green, always staying close to Pierron’s times. Angel looked strong through the wood section and powered through the final jumps into first place. Angel’s efforts would be enough to finish his day on the podium, in third place.
Thibaut Daprela (FRA) was riding a wild run and was looking like he might be able to challenge the leader board. A crash in the woods would take that chance away.
Starting off the race in the green and looking lightning-fast for the first split, Laurie Greenland (GBR) lost over 8 seconds before the second split. He was able to ride a fast rest of the race and salvage some points but certainly didn’t end up where he wanted to finish, far back on the leaderboard.
Danny Hart (GBR) found himself up by over a second into the motorway. He was able to crush the rest of the run and stay in the green through the wood section and come out a second up. Hart crossed the finish line in first up by over a second with three riders left up top. Danny’s time in the hot seat wouldn't last long as his fellow countrymen was up next and would directly knock him off.
Matt Walker (GBR) found the green by the second split by the narrowest margin. He lost the green for a moment but aggressively attacked the woods and found himself back in first. He was able to hold onto it and crossed the line knocking his fellow Englishman out of first. Two riders to go.
We saw some potentially over-aggressive riding up top, causing Finn Iles (CAN) to fall back a little bit, but the battle was far from over. He worked hard to try and make it back, but it wasn't enough - 6th place with one rider left.
The top qualifier Benoit Coulanges (FRA) looked fast and in control through the top of his run, gaining over a second on Matt Walker. He wasn't able to continue his clean riding, losing a foot and crashing in the woods. A disappointment for Coulanges, putting him in 20th place.
Although Coulanges couldn’t hold on to get his first World Cup win, Walker watched from the hot seat and claimed his. An exciting day for the Englishmen with both 1st and 2nd going to Great Britain. Coulanges’ mishap gave the Austrian fans a reason to celebrate, too, as local hero Andreas Kolb (AUT) remained in fifth place, securing the best Austrian DH World Cup result in history and his first podium.
“Honestly, I can’t put it into words. It's unbelievable just trying to absorb the moment as much as possible. Honestly, I didn’t expect it this week. It’s not a track I’ve done particularly well on in the past. I felt really good in practice this morning. I was confident in my lines, I made some bold choices with tires, and it paid off" beamed an excited Matt Walker.
Downhill (DHI) Results Elite Men:
Matt Walker (GBR) 3:28:816
Danny Hart (GBR) 3:29:141
Angel Suarez (ESP) 3:30:370
Amaury Pierron (FRA) 3:30:530
Andreas Kolb (AUT) 3:31:249
Overall World Cup Standings Top 5:
Amaury Pierron (FRA) 580
Matt Walker (GBR) 443
Danny Hart (GBR) 401
Benoit Coulanges (FRA) 380
Laurie Greenland (GBR) 354
The three resorts of Saalbach Hinterglemm, Saalfelden Leogang and Fieberbrunn joined forces as "The Skicircus" several winters ago. In 2020, they also came closer together for the summer, to offer mountain and gravel bikers almost unlimited possibilities on two-wheels. With over 80 kilometres of lines and trails, 9 lifts between 7 mountains and a joint bike pass offering almost unlimited gravel and asphalt options.
For a "well-rounded bike vacation" there are special bike hotels in Saalfelden Leogang such as the Hotel Bacher, the Lebe Frei Hotel Der Löwe, the mama thresl, the Good Life Resort Riederalm, the Ritzenhof – Hotel and Spa am See, the Biohotel Rupertus, the Hotel Salzburgerhof, the Hotel Krallerhof, the Hotel Stockinggut and the Hotel Puradies, as well as competent bike stores such as Sport Mitterer, Sport 2000 Simon, Bikepalast Saalfelden and the Bikepoint. To improve your own skills, for guided tours or for riding technique training, the Elements Outdoorsports bike school as well as Le-Guide bike school offer a wide range of services. A list of all bike-friendly accommodations in the Saalfelden Leogang region can be found here: saalfelden-leogang.com/en