After a scorching hot start to the season in Albstadt, Germany, and Nové Město, Czech Republic, World Cup cross-country mountain bike racing is back on tap for this weekend in Leogang, Austria.
It’s also a doubleheader, with downhill action on Saturday on the newly-built world championship track.
With some of the XC favorites out of contention due to injury (Kate Courtney) or conflicting races (Mathieu van der Poel), for other riders, this is one of two final tune-ups ahead of the Tokyo Games. Expect the racing to be fast, furious, and steep.
The race takes place at Leogang Bike Park in the district of Salzburg, towards the western end of Austria. The Northern Limestone Alps dominate the landscape around the area.
The cross-country course in Leogang debuted at the 2020 World Championships. It’s 3.6km in length and features two long main climbs. The track dips in and out of the forest, and the descents are punishing — steep and challenging. The course also contains a few technical elements like gaps and rooty sections.
Riders to watch
In women’s racing, one name has become synonymous with World Cup racing in 2021. French sensation Loana Lecomte has been absolutely unstoppable with wins at both Albstadt and Nové Město. Whether on a ‘climber’s course’ like Albstadt or a more technical track like Nové Město, Lecomte has been riding in a league of her own. The long, steep climbs of Leogang shouldn’t present any problems to the 21-year old.
Kate Courtney and Haley Batten celebrate Batten’s third-place finish in Albstadt, Germany. Photo: Bartek Wolinski
Hot on her heels, however, is American rider Haley Batten. With two podium finishes in the last two rounds of XCO racing, plus a win on the Nové Město short track, Batten is quickly proving herself a favorite in every race she starts as a first-year elite.
World champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot will be hungry for a win in Austria, as the Frenchwoman has come in second and fourth in Albstadt and Nové Město, respectively. She’s as dominant in the short track as on the longer distance, and Leogang could be the weekend that she comes out on top in both.
Other riders to watch include Evie Richards, Swiss racers Linda Indergand and Sina Frei, as well as Dutch veterans Anne Tauber and Anne Terpstra.
On the men’s side, the absence of WorldTour pros Mathieu van der Poel and Tom Pidcock will allow for some shifting of the podium.
Neither world champ Jordan Sarrou nor European champ Nino Shurter have seen the results we’d expect so far this season, with Shurter’s second place in Alsbstadt the best result between them. The Swissman’s seventh-place finish in Nové Město was his only time outside the top five at that venue.
After this win in Albstadt, Frenchman Victor Koretzky is one to watch, as is Mathias Flückiger, whose two third-place finishes so far this season show his excellent form.
Czech rider Ondrej Cink has ridden into fourth place at both Albstadt and Nové Město and will be a contender in Leogang; also keep an eye on Kiwi Anton Cooper, who has two solid top ten finishes going into the next round of racing.
When to watch
The XC action begins with the women’s short track race at 11:20 a.m. EDT on Friday, June 11.
On Sunday June 13, the women’s elite XCO race begins at 6:00 a.m. EDT, and the men’s kicks off two and a half hours later at 8:30 a.m.
And, downhill fans can celebrate the return to racing on Saturday; the downhill final women’s race begins at 6:00 a.m. EDT on Saturday, June 12 followed by the men’s race at 7:45 a.m.
As with all UCI World Cup racing, the event will be streamed live on RedBull TV.