The predictions for Sunday were wet and gloomy, but the sun came out, the track dried, and we all were a little more red by day’s end. With the constantly changing track conditions, and some contentious track tape alterations coming into play, the mood at the race was one of subdued concern and excitement.
In the Junior field, a new winner emerged in the form of Gaetan Vige; It’s going to be a good battle between him, Finn Iles, and Matt Walker for the second half of the season – it’s been a while since we’ve had a really good battle going on in Junior Men.
Finn Iles was quickly called out as a favorite to win the overall in 2016, and he’s showed great maturity and form so far. 2nd place in Leogang, but he’s already won before, and this one is about the long haul.
Elite Women seems to almost be a bit predictable in terms of the winner (but that doesn’t take away from Rachel Atherton’s efforts in the least!), but the rest of the field is chasing hard and putting in some amazing riding. Tahnée Seagrave rode smart, but fast, and with a less-than-healed elbow. She still managed to put in a mega race run for 2nd place though, closing in on Rachel. With three weeks off, the women’s category is going to come back rested, trained up, and ready for the final three races of the year.
Elite Men saw some big moves up and down the results page, most notably in the case of Loris Vergier, who had an immaculate run. Oddly enough, though, it was only good enough for 2nd, because Aaron Gwin once again showed that he has just a little something extra in his riding, putting a ridiculous 3+ seconds into Vergier. Also of note, was Rupert Chapman in 17th, his highest finish and first entrance into the Top 20. He has come a long way from Privateer Of The Year in 2014.
We are now at the middle-point of the season, and we have already seen amazing riding, big shake ups in the rankings, and some break-through results. With a short hiatus, riders are heading home, or off onto training holidays, what is to come in Lenzerheide remains to be seen. All we do know, is with three monster tracks still to come (Lenzerheide, Mont Sainte Anne, and Vallnord), it’s only going to get more wild!
The craggy peaks were in and out of cloud cover during finals, making for a seriously moody backdrop to the race action.
Aaron Gwin had us all wondering if we'd see a new winner in Leogang after going red at the first two sectors. But, ridng like he stole it, he pulled back nearly 4 seconds from his deficit, to go up 3.131 seconds into 1st across the line. Insanity.
And the crowd goes wild.
Come Race Day morning, we were all feeling a bit sluggish - back to back World Cup rounds and long tracks make for some tired legs and minds.
Never having even graced the Top 30, Joe Smith had a mega result with 9th! He's one rider to watch when the conditions go out the door and ruts are deep.
Remi Thirion was in his element in the wild and loose conditions this weekend. He's back on form and firing - 10th place.
Not quite his weekend, Matt Walker "only" finished in 7th - it's wild to think that we've come to expect an On-The-Box finish from the first year Junior.
Visibly less-than-pleased with her performance in Finals, Tracey Hannah will be riding with some fire come Lenzerheide, and be sure she'll be training hard in the meantime.
He's come a long way from Privateer Of The Year in 2014! Rupert, Kiwi National Champion, blitzed into 17th this weekend, his highest World Cup finish to date.
After qualifying inside the Top 10, Brendan Fairclough ended up crashing out of contention. Despite being down about the result, he still managed to get sideways for the crowd at the bottom.
Elliot Heap turned heads all weekend and qualified in 1st. He didn't quite have the same pace for Finals, but 5th place is still a great result for the #7 plate.
It was all about the cut spike in Leogang, even when it got a little drier for Finals.
The fastest speed trap in Junior Men, Nikolas Nestoroff finished in 4th, but had splits that had him potentially on the box. Let's see what a few weeks off can add to his season.
Every so often, there is a particularly cool result of note in Finals, and Sandra Rubesam delivered for us in Leogang. Making the cut for Finals with an 8th, she backed up that up with a 9th place finish - a Top 10 result in her first World Cup final. Keep on eye on the German National Champ!
With the fastest top split, Sylvian Cougoureux was putting in the hard yards in Leogang. 3rd place Junior.
I think everyone wanted to see Loris Vergier win on Sunday, and he did his absolute best to try; he went quickest in the first two splits, and was perfect to the bottom. 2nd on the day, and looking primed to win sooner than later.
There was a lot of speculation about whether or not Tahnée Seagrave would be healed up and ready to race for Leogang. She showed us all that she was able to ride, and then some! The first woman to jump the finishline table (to about the 25m mark in Qualies!), and 2nd on the day, shows she is on top form at the moment. With some time off to let the elbow rest, we look forward to seeing how she goes in Lenzerheide.
6th for #6, Greg Williamson is showing that he has what it takes to be at the top of the sport.
What a run from the young Frenchman! Gaetan Vige took his first World Cup win, by .6 25seconds. He's building great momentum heading into the second half of the season.
Veronika Widmann is having a breakout season in 2016, making strong progress through the ranks. 8th place and only getting faster.
Riding with classic style, Sam Blenkisop is back closer to where he should be in the results standings after some unusual results this season. 21st.
A crash up top took Josh Bryceland out of the running for a good result, but that didn't stop him from sending it to the moon on the finishline jump.
Landing at about 27 meters from the height of a lift tower, the bike went into emergency reserve mode, trying to find extra travel to cope with the compression.
Troy Brosnan was pushing hard all week, trying to find all the time he could - more successful at times than others. He sat in the Hot Seat, with a time that was looking like it could be a winner, but in the end would have to settle for 3rd. However, he said he feels like he's back to his old self, and is excited to build on the momentum he has, as the season crests to the mid-point.
Crossing the line into first is always the goal, and for Troy Brosnan, it was a great moment indeed!
Fans come in all shapes and sized. Ratboy meets Dog, Dog gets selfie.
Admitting he is just trying to find the line in 2016, after a fair few checkers-or-wreckers runs in 2015, Connor Fearon's pace is still unreal. 8th place, and clearly capable of going even faster.
Greg Minnaar was on a 5th place pace all weekend: plate number, qualifying position, and finals result.
This was the weekend of Plate Number Pace. Emilie Steigenthaler rode strong and consistently all weekend to finish in 6th in Finals.
The young Aussie, Remy Morton is finding his stride in 2016, riding consistently and confidently. Finishing 8th, his splits were 6th in 2/3/4 ,after a slow first sector. Lenzerheide would be a break-out track for the big lad.
It's all about the top step of the podium, and sometimes, nothing less is acceptable. Danny Hart, 4th place, but frustrated.
It is no longer a surprise to Eddie Masters inside the Top 20, as he's proven he has pace to be inside the Top 10. 20th this weekend, too easy.
Two-Tenths from his usual position, Benoit Coulanges made it into 21st this weekend. He rode well, and seems to have recovered from being ill leading up to the race.
What a legend! Mick Hannah, en route to finishing 11th, decided to take his hands off heading into the finish. Radical.
Once again, Miranda Miller comes out of seemingly nowhere to have a big result at a World Cup - 3rd place, her best finish yet for the national champion.
Swarmed by the media after the race Loris Vergier was enjoying the limelight, and rightfully so.
Freight train, a-rollin', Rachel Atherton's 2016 season has been a tour de force so far. With massive winning margins, and exempilary rides, she is on a whole other level at the moment; your winner for the weekend!
They say winning never gets old, and I think Aaron Gwin would agree.