June 10, 2011 (Leogang, Austria) – One week after racing at Fort William in the Scottish Highlands, the gravity specialists meet again in Leogang, Austria, for round three of the Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano. It is the second consecutive year that the Gravity events return to Leogang, which next year will host the UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships.
First up this weekend will be the four-cross qualification and seeding runs on Friday evening, followed by the downhill qualifications on Saturday afternoon and the four-cross final on Saturday evening. The weekend wraps up on Sunday with the downhill final.
The tracks are already wet and muddy, and the expected rain will keep them that way, providing additional challenges for the 412 riders from 31 nations taking part in the competition.
Four-cross: obstacle-filled course
The 450 metre four-cross track was designed by World Cup pro Guido Tschugg, and features enough obstacles to challenge any rider. After a step down from the start gate and two sweeping banked curves, the riders hit a series of jumps, followed by a rock garden and wooden bridge, before a final corner and the sprint to the finish line.
Anneke Beerten (Milka-Trek) is the overwhelming favourite for the women’s race, coming off two straight wins. However, Great Britain’s Joey Gough showed in Fort William that she is fast enough to challenge Beerten out of the start gate.
Men’s World Cup leader Jared Graves (Yeti Fox Shox) is always a favourite, but he is not unbeatable: last week it was Roger Rinderknecht (SUI) who took the honours, capitalizing on Graves’ mistakes to move to within 25 points of the lead. Another Swiss rider, David Graf, is tied with Rinderknecht, and former World Cup Champion Michal Prokop is only ten points further back.
Downhill: one of the steepest
The downhill course drops 524 metres in just 2.6 kilometres, for an average of 20%, making this one of the steeper runs on the World Cup circuit. After traversing the side of the mountain out of the start gate, the riders drop straight down for nearly a third of the course before another traverse back across the ski slope and into a long technical wooded section full of roots and mud. This course will require both strong technical skills and power to do well.
World Champion Tracy Moseley (Trek World Racing) is having a strong start to the season, with two straight victories giving her a commanding lead in the World Cup standings over Floriane Pugin (Scott 11). However, Moseley’s British compatriot and close rival Rachel Atherton (Commençal) returned to competition at Fort William and, while finishing second to Moseley in the final, beat her in the qualification round.
The men’s competition is much closer. Defending World Cup Champion Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) took over the lead in the standings by winning last weekend, but round one winner Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing) is only 47 points back. It will also be interesting to see if the two young newcomers to the podium last week – Danny Hart (Giant Factory Off-Road Team) and Brook MacDonald (MS Evil Racing) can repeat their breakthrough performances.