back Track Walk Photo Epic: Shock to the System – Leogang DH World Champs 2020 –

Photo Epic presented by Five Ten

It may have taken until October but finally we have ourselves some top-level downhill racing to savour and there’s no easing in… First race back and it’s World Champs in Leogang. Whilst the Austrian venue is a mainstay on the World Cup circuit, it’s often dubbed as a fairly mellow bike park race. That certainly wouldn’t appear to be the case this year. Walking down the track today in some rather foul conditions, it seemed to follow the usual Leogang flavour of high speed and manmade features until we reached the wallrides above the woods. The riders take the left hand wallride as normal but instead of taking the right hander too, they break off the normal track and onto some off-camber grass before diving into the woods on to some oh-so-steep and oh-so-slick fresh cut which will change the complexity of this World Championship massively.

There were mixed feelings from the riders it seemed. Some loved it, some even called it dangerous. For years racers have screamed out for something different from the Leogang track and this year the organisers have certainly delivered that. The bottom woods is unridden, off camber, steep, rooty, and treacherously slick. The first practice session tomorrow will be an eye-opening experience for both those inside and outside of the tape. Should the racers survive the woods, their path will then be blocked by a huge new gap which had people gulping and gasping when they walked the plank to peer over the edge. The track is soft and soaking top to bottom thanks to consistently heavy rain throughout the day. The next 2 days look slightly more favourable weather-wise but then for race day it looks like a whole other kettle of fish… Predictions anyone? We haven’t the faintest.

The mountains were hiding away in a blanket of cloud this morning.

The best view of the pits available to media… Covid restrictions are tight to say the least.

No pass, no entry. The organisers seem to be running a tight ship with different bubbles and regulations in place this weekend to keep everyone safe. You won’t be seeing much from us in the pits this weekend unfortunately.

The Bulldog is back. What a comeback story. A little over a year on from his horrendous World Champs crash in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Brook MacDonald is back in action.

Myriam Nicole didn’t get to wear her World Champs jersey a whole lot this season, so will be hungry to defend it in the hope of more outings next season.

We’ll never tire of the Leogang backdrop.

Troy Brosnan and Loic Bruni check out the first few meters of track.

Trek Factory Racing is 3 strong this weekend with Chilean EWS race Pedro Burns joining Charlie Harrison and Reece Wilson.

The same off-camber start that we’ve been accustomed to over the last few years is back in again this year.

Aaron Gwin knows Leogang and how to win it come what may… But does he know ‘this kind’ of Leogang? The extreme weather is a curveball and the new section, well, you’ll see.

Loony toons Vali Holl and her mechanic, Matt.

Freshly stomped turf… there’s nothing quite like it.

It doesn’t get more scenic that Leogang with a light dusting of powder.

Snow on the peaks, rain on the rooves. World Champs is here with about the best weather conditions we could have hoped for October in the mountains.

A stampede of masked riders with umbrellas covering the track. Take your best guess who’s who and what line might be nice to ride.

We’re used to some thick mud in Leogang but, well… double the usual.

An all-new hip-jump up top should produce some sick moments on camera, unless those damn racers find a way to cut or squash it. Which they surely will.

The herd was here.

A river runs through most it right now.

The steep rock garden before the ‘hall of fame’ is again bypassed, but this time extra slippery.

Troy Brosnan absorbing the World Champ wisdom.

This is normally flat out and high speed but it might roll quite a bit slower this season.

Mark Wallace and his new dentistry.

Weather conditions were foul out there today.

MacDonald and Farina making battle plans for the mud.

Slick as.

Leogang hosts the World Championships for the first time since 2012.

The woman to beat this weekend? Vali Holl lives very close by to Leogang and is finally making the step up to elites.

The track looks like it’ll change a fair amount through the week.

The stump section always gets a lot of attention thanks to its tricky exit which can kill crucial exit speed onto the motorway.

The motorway senders will be especially hard to clear with soggy ground and mud-filled tyres.

AG and John Hall patrolling under grey skies.

Fresh touches have been applied at many points on the way down, but the rain won’t help keep them at there best for long.

Riders normally get a good view of the Leogang mountain range on this takeoff, not so much today.

The long motorway remains unchanged.

The usual route would see riders bank right on the wallride, not this year.

A quick blast of open piste before heading into the dark of the woods.

There’s no easing into it in the woods, straight into the steeps.

When it looks steep on camera you know it’s really rather steep.

This catch netting could have a very busy weekend.

Seth Sherlock skates his way down the woods hoping the BC-like conditions will feel familiar come tomorrow.

IFR manager Todd Schumlick gets Aaron’s take on the steep woods.

The level of anti-traction in the woods is not to be underestimated.

Slip n slide onto the boardwalk, what could go wrong…

No Californian is happy with damp feet and AG was probably struggling to maintain the smile under the mask.

Welcome to the wall. Do try not to brake.

Inside or outside?

They’ve taped it wide which should give riders plenty of line options over the weekend.

B practice tomorrow is going to be wild.

Mark Wallace looks for a line where there isn’t one yet.

A lederhose-clad Bruni slipping down through the forest.

When the ruts form tomorrow afternoon, it’ll be better. Poor women and juniors riding first thing tomorrow.

It might not look like much, but that kicker is one of the bigger jumps we’ve seem at a World Cup or World Champs race.

So again the mind turns to who goes well in the mud. Well, Greenland certainly loves those UK conditions.

Team MS Mondraker scoping out big Bertha.

Some freshly laid, err tarmac following the gap out of the woods. Actually, we could do with a whole lot more of that if anyone plans on riding this track quickly in this kind of weather.

Look before you leap.

After you.

The elevator drop down to the finish arena is not included, just like last year.

The finish area seems to be largely unchanged for this year.

Who will cross this into gold medal position on Sunday?

Not the prettiest picture out there right now, but things might improve! Maybe.

A hint of rainbow to finish the day off in Leogang.

Although mighty damp right now, the forecast looks dry for the next couple of days.