June 15, 2015 (Leogang, Austria) – Aaron Gwin (USA) Specialized and Rachel Atherton (Gbr) GT Factory Racing took home the elite men’s and women’s wins, respectively, on the weekend in Leogang, Austria World Cup for round three of the series.
The track in Austria has never been a rider favourite, but changes were made for the World Cup and brand new sections were taped in making for an interesting first practice session. As the dirt rutted up and the roots came up, lines started to appear with viable options all over the place. After rain of biblical proportions on Thursday, the sun and came out and baked the track solid in time for racing on Sunday.
After snapping his chain exiting the start gate, Gwin cased the first jump, put his head down and pumped his way to victory in what may be regarded as one of the top rides of all time.
“I lost my chain in the start gate, unfortunately. I went from 3rd to 4th gear and it’s almost like an instant shift. As soon as I shifted and put the power to the pedal it blew off. It was wild, I was just thankful it finally fell off. It held onto my bike for the first minute or so and it finally fell off. I was waiting for it to go into my rear wheel and send me into the weeds. It finally fell off and it was game on from there.”
He went on to applaud the changes that were recently made to the track here in Austria. “The track has always been fun, but it’s been hard to separate times because it’s been a bit of a motorway. I am thankful for those guys and their hard work. They took our advice and ran with it.
“I have no idea how I did it today. It wasn’t ideal, but the rain held off and the woods stayed dry, so I took the high line in the roots and got backside. I put my chin on the stem and just tucked. It was slow going for a little bit, but I was pumping those tables for all I was worth! I felt like I was back up to speed halfway down and it was game on!”
Gwin now extends his lead in the overall standings with 624 points.
Canadian Steve Smith (Can) Devinci Global Racing had a rough afternoon with a crash mid-course. “It was shocking, to be honest, I was feeling good. Normally, you know why you crashed and what happened, but I straight up just went down. I didn’t think I was braking, but my rear wheel came out of the rut and I spun around. My knee just hit the ground and gave me a dead knee. I didn’t feel the rush to get up and pin it! One of those days, I guess. I felt good today and all weekend, those crashes just happen once in a while.”
Teammate Mark Wallace (Can) Devinci Global Racing was top Canadian on the day: “I had a crash on Friday and hurt my finger, but I taped it up. It was okay for finals. I ended up 32nd and, as far as previous years have gone, that’s okay, but not as good as I was hoping. It was a good and bad sort of thing. Two weeks here in Europe and then off to Lenzerheide!”
Women’s champ Atherton said: “I’m pretty stoked, I’m kinda tired. It’s hard to race Fort William and then here. It’s just so physical. It’s hard to practice in the woods in fresh sections like that and we have to clear it out for the elite men.
“It started off wet, but it’s dried up now and it threw me for a bit. I like it with more rain and a bit wet. I’m glad to have a win on a dry track. The changes were really good. I appreciate that they tried to make it more technical, everyone was choosing lines, and in the race, people were all over. It’s pretty cool, it’s good – well done!”
Atherton, with two wins and a second place, leads the standings with 670 points.
Miranda Miller (Can) was the top Canadian woman, claiming 8th.
Canada’s Henry Fitzgerald (Can) Steve Peat Syndicate Global put in a solid run to finish sixth in the Junior Men’s race, which was won by Andrew Crimmins (Aus) Kona Factory Team.
The World Cup now has two weeks off before resuming in Switzerland on a brand new track.
Find full results here.