Words: Mike Rose
Photos: Nathan Hughes
After two days of rain, mud and very testing conditions race day came around with full sun and a quickly drying track. What had been a battle to stay rubber side down had suddenly become an altogether different beast. The upper stump fields were now rideable, with racers able to show off their skills. The fast and open sections of the course were now… fast… very fast (plus there was a strong breeze), making it really difficult for riders to judge their speed, having been used to slow and slippy for practice and qualifying.
But it was the steep and super technical lower woods that would be the defining section of the track. Fifty seconds of torment (depending on how you look at it). Some of the deeper ruts had been taken out overnight by the race organizers, but it was still wet and sticky in there. Roots, ruts and off-camber made it really difficult for riders to know how hard to push. But it was this section where the race was won and lost. You could almost forget about the first two minutes of the track, the woods were the deal breaker. So many riders came into this section looking good on the clock only to come out the other side 3 or 4 seconds down.
With Neko Mulally and Seth Sherlock missing out on qualifying all eyes were on Aaron Gwin. Coming down the mountain as the eighteenth fastest qualifier all was looking good. There was a bit of a ‘heavy pedal’ in one of the stump fields, but he nailed the wooded section. He was close to Pierron’s time (who was in the hot seat at the time) at split 3, but the time drifted away. It was just not to be. Aaron would eventually finish in twenty second place, +6.262 back from the race winner.
And we must mention Troy Brosnan here. As race fans we can’t help but be impressed by his race run. As the fastest qualifier he left the start hut last, and he was down on the clock at the first few splits. Coming into the wood section it looked like he had blown it, but even with a few dabs here and there he came out the other side in the green. It was mightily impressive. Other highlights have to be Thibaut Deprela’s second place and his ‘tagged’ double attempt mid way on the course (insane), Amaury Pierron’s return to the podium, Brook MacDonald’s jump onto the wallride and Camille Balanche’s display of technical, cool and calm riding to take the women’s race. And we mustn’t forget Vali Holl, the race was hers until she lost it on the last corner.
Racing is an absolute rollercoaster of emotion, and that is why we love it. There has never been a time when there have been so many riders that can win, the elite ranks are stacked with amazing riders… quality through and through. ‘Till next time (Les Gets, July 3rd).
LEOGANG FINAL RESULTS
1. Troy Brosnan 3:26.019
2. Thibaut Deprela 3:27.254 +1.235
3. Amaury Pierron 3:27.497 +1.478
4. Reece Wilson 3:27.917 +1.898
5. Benoit Coulanges 3:28.253 +2.234
22. Aaron Gwin 3:32.281 +6.262