Finn Iles is sitting third after Friday’s Downhill Qualifying at 2020 UCI mountain bike world championships in Leogang, Austria. The Canadian sits 4.78 seconds back from Loris Vergier, who set the days fastest time. Reigning world champ Loïc Bruni sits second. After that, the challenging track threw plenty of favorites for a loop.
Canada’s elite riders fared well overall in the sloppy conditions, posting four times in the top 40.
In the women’s race, Valentina Höll looked comfortable on the Leogang course, and in her first elite world champs. Höll edged out Tracey Hannah by 2.65 seconds in Qualifying.
While Qualifying is normally a chance for riders to show their speed on course and put down a full race run, Friday’s results could become much more significant. Leogang organizers have confirmed that if Sunday’s forecasted snow makes racing unsafe, results will be taken from Qualifying time.
Elite Men – Bruni chases fifth elite title
The elite men’s race is looking to be another showdown between two French riders. Even with Amaury Pierron absent due to injury, the tricolour dominated the top rankings. Loris Vergier leads going into finals, but with the ominous figure of Loïc Bruni looming in second.
Finn Iles, Bruni’s Specialized teammate, is the fastest of a big group of Canadian’s looking to upset the French in the finals. After his first elite world champs top-10 last year in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Iles set a blistering pace for third-fastest time on Friday. Last year at MSA, Iles had the weight of expectations and the pressure of a home crowd on his shoulders. In a very weird 2020, the lack of any normal could work to the Canadian’s benefit. The very west coast-like conditions in Austria could also play in Iles’s favour.
Mark Wallace is the next fastest Canuck, in 22nd after Friday. Lucas Cruz, Norco’s first-year elite, is just six spots back in 28th. Cruz missed the junior men’s podium at MSA by 0.01 seconds. The Pemberton, B.C.-based racer is already looking on form in Austria. Henry Fitzgerald is 40th after qualifying, wth Eliot Jamieson in 51st going into Sunday’s finals.
Canada’s only junior men’s entry, Seth Sherlock is 47th after Friday. The young Squamish rider already has a junior World Cup win under his belt, and will be looking for more Sunday.
The elite men’s field is so crowded that even little mistakes can push a rider well down the standings. A little mistake on this Leogang course, though, looks costly. Aaron Gwin is in 43rd after qualifying, 27 seconds back. Laurie Greenland and Brook Macdonald both DNF’d their run’s Friday, and will have to hope weather allows them a second chance Sunday.
A generational battle is brewing in the elite women’s race, one that fans have been waiting for years to see. Austrian phenom Vali Höll finally has her chance to race the elite women after a dominant junior career. On home turf, Höll wasted no time making her mark. She sets the fastest elite women’s time Friday. Only Tracey Hannah was able to ride within ten seconds of the speedy Austrian.
Myriam Nicole, the reigning world champ, qualifies third. Tahnee Seagrave is fourth, more than 15 seconds back of the fastest time.
Rachel Atherton is not contesting 2020 worlds in Austria. The long-dominant U.K. rider is still recovering from a serious Achilles injury sustained in training at Les Gets World Cup in 2019.
Downhill Qualifying Results: 2020 UCI mountain bike world championships – Leogang, Austria
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