Snow buffetted the start hut in Leogang as the fastest riders in the world lined up to race a very different version of downhill world championships. In very challenging conditions, four first-time world champions emerged on Sunday.
Vancouver Island’s Mark Wallace, no stranger to riding in wet and cold conditions, led the Canadians with an incredible fourth-place finish in Austria.
2020 UCI Downhill World Championships
Elite Men – Wilson wins for Scotland
High up in the Austrian Alps, the days leading to Sunday’s finals had thrown rain, sun, mud and now snow at riders. After two days of somewhat solid mud, the new precipitation made the steep, technical Leogang course wildly greasy, throwing even the fastest qualifiers for a loop.
Scotland’s Reece Wilson came down early on, smashing the Jack Moir’s previous fastest time by a full 7 seconds. The Trek rider’s previous best was a fourth place in Fort William World Cup in very similar conditions. With 30 riders left, it seemed unlikely that Wilson would improve on that placing. As rider after rider crashed, slid out, or played it too safe on the treacherous track, no one was able to come close to the Scottish riders time.
Thirion throws first serious challenge to Wilson’s time
It wasn’t until France’s Remi Thirion that another rider came close. Thirion thrives on the most technical tracks. But, after barely holding together a truly wild run, the Commencal rider still finished a full 5.953 seconds back of Wilson. Several riders later, Austria’s David Trummer rode the home crowd advantage to second, over 3 seconds back.
Mark Wallace put down a big run for Canada, slotting into third before Trummer pushed him off the podium. Finn Iles, third in qualifying, slid off-line and off the podium into 34th.
Iles wasn’t the only favorite to struggle, but the top two qualifiers were still at the top of the mountain. Loris Vergier, fastest on Friday, slid into 10th. Loic Bruni, the four time elite world champion, was the last rider left who could unseat Wilson. Early in his run, it was clear he would not challenge the Scot’s time.
Reece Wilson slays the mud of Leogang to win 2020 downhill world championships.
“I just believed in myself. I needed a year off,” Wilson said at the finish. The Scottish rider was visibly emotional, thrilled with his result. “I can’t believe it. I’ve worked really hard and here we are.”
Canadians in Leogang
Mark Wallace’s fourth, just under one second off the podium, is the standout result for Canada in Leogang. The Vancouver Island rider has been riding consistently faster and faster for years, and delivers an incredible run in truly grim conditions in Austria.
Behind Wallace, Elliot Jamieson and Henry Fitzgerald finished 30th and 31st in a very strong showing from the two Vancouver riders. Finn Iles followed in 34th. Lucas Cruz, in his first year in elite, slots into to 58th in the mud.
In the junior men’s race, Seth Sherlock finished 22nd.
Balanche rides clean to Switzerland’s first elite women’s DH world championships
Sunday’s elite women’s race was shaken up before the first rider dropped in. Vali Höll, fastest qualifier and home country favorite in her first elite world championships, cased the imposing ravine gap in morning practice, breaking her ankle in the process. With Höll out, Tracey Hannah rolled in as the favorite.
Instead, it was Switzerland’s Camille Balanche taking the cleanest lines through thick mud. The Swiss rider takes her countries first elite downhill world championship title.
“It was extreme. The main goal was just to make it to the bottom without crashing, and it paid off,” said Balanche. “I can’t believe it… It’s gonna take some time for me to realise.”
Myriam Nicole, winner in 2019 at Mont-Sainte-Anne, settles for second in Austria. The French rider was just 3.130 seconds from defending her title. Slovenia’s Monika Hrastnik edged out Hannah to take the final podium position.
Junior downhill world champions
With Höll graduating to the elite ranks, it was time for a new world champion in the junior women’s race. Starting under falling snow, the women were the days first racers.
Lauryne Chappaz started Sunday much how Saturday ended, with another world championship title for France.
Next up, the junior men’s race set the tone for much of the day. Favorites faltered as they tried to fight for the win. Instead, Oisin O’Callaghan of Ireland had the cleanest run in Leogang. The 17-year-old from Limerick wins Irelands firts-ever downhill world championships title.