Matt Walker won his first UCI Mountain Bike World Cup race at Leogang on Saturday to make it a British 1-2 in the men’s event as Switzerland’s Camille Balanche maintained her great record down the Austrian course with victory in the women’s race.
Frenchman Amaury Pierron was looking to become the first man to win the first three races of a World Cup downhill season and he weaved his way down the course to take an early lead.
Unfortunately for him, Spaniard Angel Suarez Alonso put in a tremendous run to pip him for the lead with Austrian Andreas Kolb also excelling down the tricky track to put himself in third place as it stood.
Two-time downhill world champion Danny Hart was next man down and he put together an excellent run to go green down the mountain and leave Pierron’s record-breaking hopes in tatters.
Sadly for him, the Briton could not bank his fifth World Cup win as compatriot Walker went up at the second and fourth splits then dug in down the stretch to claim the lead.
The fastest qualifiers Finn Iles of Canada and finally Benoit Coulanges of France could have spoiled the party, however, they both lost control at crucial moments to leave 2020 overall champion Walker celebrating.
Walker, 23, said: “It’s unbelievable. It’s not a track I’ve done particularly well at in the past. I felt really good this morning. I was confident with my lines. I made some bold choices with tyre choice and it paid off.
I can’t thank everyone enough for the support. We worked so hard and it is amazing to actually achieve a goal like this.”
In the women’s race, France’s Myriam Nicole was fourth last out of the gate and, despite coming off her bike, she did enough to get ahead of Italian Eleonora Farina with France’s Marine Cabirou unable to finish.
Despite coming second in qualifying, local Austrian hero Valentina Höll hit the deck early on after starting like a rocket and, after recovering brilliantly, crashed in the wooded section to ruin her chances.
Balanche knew she would have a great chance if she could just stay on her bike and she duly held her nerve to win by a mammoth 11.368s over Nicole to keep her impressive Leogang win run going.
Balanche, 32, said: “I tried not to risk it too much. I am over the moon. I knew it was going to dry, but it was super hard to choose a tyre. Still muddy in the wood and the wood is where you win the race. It was a last-minute change!”
Leogang men’s DH result
1. Matt Walker GBR 3:28.816
2. Danny Hart GBR +0.325
3. Angel Suarez Alonso ESP +1.554
4. Amaury Pierron FRA +1.714
5. Andreas Kolb AUT +2.433
Leogang women’s DH result
1. Camille Balanche SUI 4:08.218
2. Myriam Nicole FRA +11.368
3. Eleonora Farina ITA +16.063
4. Louise-Anna Ferguson GBR +21.658
5. Monika Hrastnik SLO +22.040
2022 UCI MTB World Cup men’s DH standings
1. Amaury Pierron FRA 580 points
2. Matt Walker GBR 443
3. Danny Hart GBR 401
4. Benoit Coulanges FRA 380
5. Laurie Greenland GBR 354
2022 UCI MTB World Cup women’s DH standings
1. Camille Balanche SUI 685 points
2. Myriam Nicole FRA 555
3. Valentina Höll AUT 460
4. Eleonora Farina ITA 395
5. Nina Hoffmann GER 368