Kicking off the World Cup DH season in Leogang
Words By: Bernard Kerr
Photos By: Boris Beyer
After a strange 2020 season and tough winter, all the riders were super excited to get the team back together and racing at the highest level. Riders were feeling strong and fresh 2021 bikes were looking fast.
Track walk saw a few subtle changes from the 2020 World Championships track, classic fast and flat out Leogang upper section and motorway giving way to the super steep woods, with roots, drops and off camber sections. The lower half of the track was holding in the moisture and with a mixed weather forecast the track was likely to change from day to day.
The team also welcomed the young New Zealander Sam Gale to the team. With some impressive results and riding back home everyone was excited to see what he was capable of at his first World Cup events.
The first training session of the 2021 season was a challenge for everyone involved! All weather conditions from bright sunshine, dull clouds and torrential rain occurred throughout the day.
Tyre choice was the talk of the pit but soon the weather made the decision for everyone; hard rain mid-way through the training session turning the already muddy track to a quagmire.
Timed training was a soggy affair, with not much to learn from the times. Most riders were looking at lines and using the session as a longer training opportunity.
Emilie was loving her Phoenix 29 DH bike that she has been testing over the off season and feeling fast on the big wheels and feeling its speed advantage particularly on the fast upper sections.
Bernard was confident on a track where he has good history and memories. Getting up to speed quickly, Bernard was one of many riders to have a few crashes in the lower woods section. No major damage done but a dead leg remained for the next few days and wasn’t welcome.
The drying track was welcomed by riders and mechanics alike for qualification but the rain had done its damage. With ruts and holes everywhere and the woods section gaining some speed, timed runs were going to be fast and furious.
Emilie was feeling the pressure of a high race number and no qualifying protection. Using her experience and turning the emotional energy into a positive, she sprinted out the gate and straight into the choppy open pasture. A tentative but clean run was enough to keep her rolling and limiting mistakes through the tough lower woods. Finishing in 12th Emilie was relieved and excited to put a stressful qualification behind her and push on for finals.
Eddie was the first of the men’s team to drop in. Knowing the track was drying he started fast and pushed harder and harder. A great run from Eddie saw him sitting in the top qualification spot for a long time eventually finishing in a fantastic 9th place.
Bernard felt a little deflated after an average run and 17th qualification. Making it onto the live steam he was keen to let loose and give it 100% for finals.
After missing the 2020 season due to injury, Matt was sharing the nerves with Emilie for qualification. A crash in morning training left Matt with a suspected dislocated shoulder but with some quick physio work and painkillers he was straight back up the hill for qualification.
A good run from Matt, hitting his lines and carrying speed where he could, saw him slot into 56th. A nerve-racking wait saw Matt qualify in the top 60 for the main event despite a heavy injury. Tough stuff.
Sam was feeling the pressure of his first elite World Cup. With a late start time he was super unlucky to get a rain shower during his qualification run. Battling the fastest in the world and on slower track conditions is always going to be a tough ask and unfortunately, Sam missed the cut for the finals. A lot was learnt and he was already excited for the next event.
Hot Austrian sun was drying the track fast throughout race day training with open sections becoming rougher and faster by the hour while the lower wooded sections remained damp and slick.
As usual Emilie was the first of the Pivot Factory Racing Team to take on the track. After riding well all weekend and getting back into the swing of things after a long time off racing, Emilie slotted into the hot seat with a fast, solid, clean run. Finishing in 7th she was happy with a strong start to the year and a good position to build from.
Matt was battling his qualification injury and was one of the few riders for whom a dryer, faster track was not welcome. Battling the pain and another dislocation during morning training, Matt made it down the hill to take some series points but wasn’t in a position to attack as he would have liked.
A fast and neat start from Bernard had him posting green splits and was 0.5 seconds up at the first three splits. Coming into the woods he was hitting the tricky but fast high lines when his feet blew off the pedals costing him some time. Scrubbing the last jump, he crossed the line 4th with a run he felt was too safe for the drying track.
A predictable wild start to Eddie’s run had everyone gasping as he saved a big slide on the first off camber piste section. Composing himself, Eddie came into the wooded section with a 0.2 advantage. Eddie was another rider being caught out with the damp roots in the woods and it meant he lost some time. Finishing in 11th Eddie was stoked with how he rode and happy the speed was there at the first race of the season.
Bernard finished off in 16th; he was hoping for more but was happy to have a solid result in the ever more competitive World Cup series. Only 2 seconds off a podium finish had him hungry for more.
With Eddie’s, Bernard’s and Emilie’s results, the Pivot Factory Racing came 5th in the team rankings for round one! A great result for the team and an exciting weekend racing all round had everyone buzzing for the rest of the season.