Photos: Nathan Hughes
Leogang 2022 will go down as a successful weekend for the INTENSE Factory Racing (IFR) team. After the wild weather, and even wilder terrain, at round 2 in Fort William (Scotland) racers were hoping for beautiful early summer alpine weather… dry, dusty, with plenty of grip... but Leogang had other ideas. You can never be too sure what the mountains will throw up at this time of year, and the rain came down… hard. What was already a tricky track in the dry became a bit of a nightmare in the wet, with huge holes and ruts appearing, and the racing line changing almost every run.
The track in Leogang has changed little over the years, but the introduction of the new lower wooded section a few years ago at the World Champs has mixed things up. The track can basically be split into two halves. The first includes the open upper sections, with its off-camber transverses, ghostly tree stump fields, and then of course the long flatish jump section, where carrying you speed is key. Then the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the course shows itself. Taking the long rutted right hander riders enter the steep wooded section, just under one minute of tech and treachery! And for most of the weekend this section was a ‘slop-fest’, with a tangle of roots around every corner.
After Joe Breeden’s crash in Fort William the IFR team were down a man, but all of the remaining riders were up for the challenge. As the saturated and slick track turned into sticky, gloopy peanut butter the team attacked Friday’s qualifying race. None of them were protected, meaning that they had to qualify in the top 60 to make it through to the main event on Saturday. And it was good news. Aaron qualified in 12th, Dak in 21st and Seth in 35th… they were all in.
As race day came around the sun began to beat down, baking the exposed upper sections, but not really having much effect on the heavily shaded wooded part of the track… it still wasn’t nice in there. This of course made tire choice a difficult decision. Riders needed fast rolling speed for the long jump section, but on the flip side they needed aggressive grip for the lower sections. A hard choice to make, but everyone was in the same boat.
Come finals the whole team had a good day on the hill. Seth would have his best ever World Cup finish in 31st. Confidence is high with young Canadian, especially after his second place finish at the Enduro World Series the week previously.
“I’m very happy with my result, it’s my best elite World Cup result to date! The track was super hard to ride, so I tried to push where I could and play it safe down at the bottom where I felt like I was more likely to make mistakes. I’m happy with how I executed it and managed to walk away with a solid result. I feel like I'm building some good confidence and momentum so let's keep it going into the upcoming EWS and World Cup rounds!” Seth Sherlock
Aaron was back on pace, finishing up in eleventh place, just a fraction of a second off the top ten.
“I’m stoked on a solid weekend for myself and the entire team. We’ve had some big set backs recently and I’m proud of my guys for how hard they’ve continued to work. This weekend was a big step in the right direction and I firmly believe the best is yet to come. I can’t wait for the next race.” Aaron Gwin
And Dak? Well he got the team’s best result, slotting in nicely into ninth position. Who knows, without the slight ‘tree glance’ and a bit of a bobble in the lower woods he maybe could have made into the top five. Solid points means that he is a protected rider and automatically qualifies for the next round in Switzerland.
“Racing in these conditions is always a bit stressful and inconsistent. I think overall I adapted well and executed each time the clock was running, both in qualifying and the race run. I dug a bit of a hole at Fort William World Cup, so I’m happy to collect some points, and lay down a solid run. Onward and upward.” Dakotah Norton
“Overall, amazing results. Aaron’s best World Cup result since 2020, Dakotah’s best World Cup result since 2021 (and joining the team), Seth’s best elite World Cup result to date, and the best overall team result to date! Hard not to be STOKED! I truly believe you can expect more of the same from this squad.” Todd Schumlick, Team Manager (above)
All eyes will now be on Seth at the second round of this year’s Enduro World Series in Slovenia this weekend, and Dak at Crankworx in Innsbruck, Austria. Then after a short break it’s onto the next round of the Downhill World Cup from Lenzerheide in Switzerland on the weekend of July 8-10.