Last updated on June 18th, 2023 at 09:07 AM
In an awe-inspiring display of skill and determination, Vali Höll, the Austrian mountain bike prodigy, left spectators astounded at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Leogang.
Höll, who had struggled to find her form in her home race since transitioning to the Elite class, finally broke through with a jaw-dropping performance, leaving her nearest rival trailing by a remarkable four seconds. Meanwhile, Loïc Bruni, the Frenchman, secured an impressive second-place finish in the men’s Elite race.
The stage was set in the semi-finals as Höll laid down an emphatic marker, delivering a blisteringly fast time that announced her arrival in style.
However, it was 18-year-old Gracey Hemstreet who initially set the benchmark in the finals, quickly followed by the sensational junior rider Phoebe Gale, who surpassed Hemstreet’s time. The experienced Rachel Atherton then seized the lead, showcasing her mastery of the course.
With only three riders left to make their descent, Atherton maintained her lead, but the Swiss star Camille Balanche, renowned for her prowess in Leogang, produced an awe-inspiring run, leaving Atherton three seconds adrift.
Nina Hoffmann seemed poised to claim the top spot as she navigated the treacherous track with incredible speed, only to have her hopes dashed by a mistake in the woods.
Finally, it was Höll’s turn, and she attacked the course with ferocity, delivering an authoritative performance that secured her victory by a commanding margin of over four seconds.
Reflecting on her triumph, the 21-year-old Höll exclaimed, “Leogang is such a tough race for me. Last year was a complete disaster, and I’ve never felt so low and uncertain of myself.
After Lenzerheide, I was utterly lost, unsure of what to do. However, everything fell into place this week. To finally emerge victorious here feels incredibly gratifying.”
In the men’s race, Canada’s Finn Iles showcased his talent in the semi-finals, aiming to improve upon his fifth-place finish in Lenzerheide.
As the finals unfolded, the home crowd rallied behind their favourite, Andreas Kolb, as he became the first rider to break the three-minute barrier, seizing the lead with an impressive 2.313-second advantage.
With six riders still vying for the top spot, neither Thibaut Daprela nor Luca Shaw managed to challenge the Austrian’s commanding time. Jackson Goldstone of Canada appeared poised to take the lead, skillfully conquering the initial sections of his run.
However, a loss of time in the final split relegated him to second place, with two riders still awaiting their turn at the top.
Bruni, the penultimate rider, burst out of the gate with lightning speed, but as the race progressed, he slipped behind in the final sector, settling for a commendable second-place finish.
Iles, aware that he needed an extraordinary effort to claim victory, pushed hard but paid the price for a few minor errors, ultimately missing out on the podium with a fourth-place finish.
Vali Höll’s triumph and Loïc Bruni’s exceptional performance in Leogang will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, solidifying their positions as top contenders in the world of mountain biking.
Women’s DH result
1. Vali Höll: AUT 3:23.222
2. Camille Balanche SUI +4.303
3. Rachel Atherton GBR +7.334
4. Monika Hrastnik SLO +7.603
5. Phoebe Gale GBR +7.852
Men’s DH result
1. Andreas Kolb AUT 2:59.335
2. Loïc Bruni FRA +0.680
3. Jackson Goldstone CAN +0.911
4. Finn Iles CAN +1.451
5. Luca Shaw USA +1.713
2023 UCI MTB World Cup women’s DH standings
1. Camille Balanche SUI 680 points
2. Rachel Atherton GBR 616
3. Valentina Höll AUT 592
4. Nina Hofman GER 430
5. Monika Hrastnik SLO 380
2023 UCI MTB World Cup men’s DH standings
1. Loïc Bruni FRA 595 points
2. Finn Illes CAN 494
3. Loris Vergier FRA 486
4. Andreas Kolb AUT 476
5. Jackson Goldstone CAN 441