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Finn Iles battles through injury and onto podium at Leogang World Cup

A huge display of speed and self-confidence from the Canadian in Austria

Photo by: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

In a sensational display of skill and self-confidence, Finn Iles managed an injury in practice perfectly to earn a World Cup podium on Sunday in Leogang, Austria. After crashing in practice on Friday, Iles strategically opted to save himself for Sunday’s finals, doing the minimum he needed to get through Saturday’s qualification and semi-finals.

The gamble paid off. While the Canadian had less time on track than his competitors, he also spent less time on track than most on Sunday in his final’s run. Iles somehow finessed the greasy roots and mud in Leogang better than all but one other rider. That rider, his Specialized teammate Loic Bruni, is proving to be nearly unstoppable this season. With one hand bandaged and a chainsaw in his other hand, Iles stepped up the highest on the podium he has yet this year, finishing second in Austria.

Vali Höll floated through Leogang’s tech. Photo:  Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

Elite Women: Höll rules on home turf

Greasy conditions from overnight rain were proving treacherous in the steep woods, for the elite women and, later, the men. Both Tahnée Seagrave and Marine Cabirou went down on different lines in the same corner while Nina Hoffmann crashed on the opening sections of track.

Myriam Nicole (Commencal Muc-Off) returned to her impressive form, riding clean to take third.  Young U.S. racer Anna Newkirk (Beyond Racing) does an incredible job backing up her second place in qualifying, beating most of the big names on a sweet steel bike to take her first elite podium in second place.

Myriam Nicole was thrilled to be back up to podium pace in Austria. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

But there’s no stopping Vali Höll. The young Austrian’s home track hasn’t always been kind to her, YT’s star pulls out a clean run to win in Leogang. It’s her second win in three starts this year.


For Nicole, it concludes a long road back from injury. The Commencal racer was sidelined all 2023 with a concussion that took a long time to recover from.

“My last podium was in 2022 and I had a nightmare year last year. I’m trying not to be too emotional but everything just comes flooding back,” Nicole said after the finish. “Vali killed it, but she’s going so fast, so I’m OK with that. I’m not at that level,” Nicole said, adding with a wink, “Yet.”

Vali Höll and Anna Newkirk celebrate with shoeys on Sunday. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

Lisa Bzaumann (Commencal Les Orres) also returns to an elite podium in fourth with Marine Cabirou (Scott) taking fifth.

For Höll, the victory at home is sweet.

“I don’t think anyone expected Leogang to be that technical,” Höll said of Leogang’s evolving reputation after the race. “All the riders were complaining it was too easy but man, this track is not easy at all. It’s so rough and hard to find a fine line. I’m just happy to secure it at home. I love it.”

Finn Iles didn’t go much further than the start hut on Saturday. On Sunday, he soared. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

Elite Men: Iles’ patience pays off

Jakob Jewett (Pivot Factory Racing) starts things off early for the Canadians. One of the first elite men to test out constantly changing track conditions in Leogang, Jewett has a couple big saves in the woods to make it down cleanly in 21st.

Bodhi Kuhn (Trek Factory Racing) is the next out of the start gates for Canada and pushes the grip a little further. The Rossland, B.C. racer stays on course, with a bit of assistance from a tree pad, safely crossing the line to take 23rd.

Iles goes next, early in the line after sitting out the qualifiers and semi finals. He sets a fast time and takes the hot seat, revealing a bandaged left hand.

Finn Iles with one hand bandaged and a chainsaw in the other. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

“On Friday, I hit a soft spot in the woods and fell backwards and just slapped my hand on the ground. The pad here on my thumb really swole up,” Iles said, explaining his DNF’s in Saturday’s qualifiers and semis. With a tidy run, Iles is in the top 10 when it matters in Leogang. “I’m really happy the team listened to me and to my physio and let me do what I needed to get on the start line today. I don’t think it’s a winning run, it didn’t have that “finals run” feeling, but I’m happy.”

But as rider after rider struggled to keep their run clean in the stumps and steep woods, Iles time stood. Finally, only Iles’  teammate and current World Cup leader, Loic Bruni, remained at the top of the mountain. It was back and forth, but Bruni pulls ahead in the final woods section.

Loic Bruni and his prototype Specialized are near-unstoppable in 2024. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

Loic Bruni takes the win in Leogang, his second of the 2024 season. That extends his lead in the overall race.

“I really thought I didn’t have it today. I was banking on the track drying up a bit. I was visualizing the first turn so much, then I blew it,” Bruni said, still breathing hard after his race. “The conditions changed so much today compared to yesterday which was more my style. I tried everything I had – I was betting on the track drying up a bit. I was glad to start last. I pushed so much and made little mistakes at the top…. I finally got going after the motorway. I’m really proud of Finn. Big props to him for riding so fast after sitting out yesterday.”

Finn Iles does a sensational job to take second, his best result this year. The only rider within three seconds of Bruni’s winning time. It’s a 1-2 finish for Specialized Gravity Racing.

2024 Elite Men's World Cup podium in Leogang, Austria
2024 Elite Men’s World Cup podium in Leogang, Austria. Photo: WHOOP UCI Mountain Bike World Series

“I’m really proud of this weekend, I fought through a lot of things yesterday,” Iles said again after Bruni’s run, and just before bringing a chainsaw with him up onto the podium. “I’m really happy with my team, trusting me to go out today and put in a result.”

Lachlan Stevens-Mcnab (Union) delivers on the speed he showed at the first two rounds, finally getting a clean run and his first elite podium. Oisin O’Callaghan (YT Mob) takes fourth with Benoit Coulanges (Dorval AM) rounding out the podium in fifth.