Switzerland's Camille Balanche and Australian Troy Brosnan came out on top as the 2021 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup downhill season started in style at Leogang in Austria. After a wet start to practice, many thought we might see a repeat of the apocalyptic conditions of the 2020 World Championships. But come race day things were more tacky than sloppy.

Still, the infamous woods section remained the crunch point and delivered an unpredictable and exciting season-opener.

In the elite women's race, Balanche did the rainbow stripes proud with a tidy but quick run to win her first ever World Cup race and prove that her 2020 World title victory was much more than luck. Balanche's run bumped Monica Hrastnik off the hot seat after the Slovenian rider, who claimed bronze at the Worlds last year, once again showed her attacking style and increasing consistency.

Reigning World Cup champion Marine Cabirou had a huge nose dive over the jumps, then a series of mistakes in the woods section while compatriot Myriam Nicole had a similarly chaotic run with two crashes.


Leogang local Vali Höll was last woman down and she flew through the motorway sector as well as navigating the tricky woods, only to crash on the final corner to slip second behind winner Balanche.

Balanche, 31, said: "I had a a really good run and I could keep my foot on the pedal the whole run. I knew Vali was really fast and I guess I was lucky that she crashed. I had a really good feeling in training. I was so confident coming to Leogang because I love this track."

Höll, 19, added: "It is my first elite World Cup so second is sick, but I messed it up so bad the last corner before the finish. Last year as well I crashed out (World Championships). Maybe it is a good sign and I need to wait a bit. I am just going to work harder and harder until it is done."

Brosnan wins Men's World Cup

On his return to World Cup racing after nearly two years sidelined by injury, 2018 World Cup champion Amaury Pierron of France was solid through the first splits but sensational into the woods section.



2020 World Champion Reece Wilson returned to the scene of his triumph with confidence and made it count with a super clean run that fell just short of Pierron as Benoit Coulanges moved into third. France's Thibaut Dapréla turned the splits green finally and, despite a massive stall that put him 0.131 down at split four, he threw everything at the final sectors with insane energy to go fastest.

Brosnan, though, recovered from a nervous start to build momentum in the woods section and turned on the speed in the final sector to edge out Dapréla for his first World Cup victory since 2017.

Brosnan said: "It was so dry and the wind was insane at the top. So stoked. Probably 65 kilos of me floating over the holes (in the woods)!"

Two-time junior world champion Dapréla added: "I did a good top section and then I jumped the wrong jump. In the woods, I was so fast but not enough. I am so young, so it is so good to be second."



Men's Leogang downhill result
1. Troy Brosnan AUS 3:26.019
2. Thibaut Dapréla FRA +1.235
3. Amaury Pierron FRA +1.478
4. Reece Wilson GBR +1.898
5. Benoit Coulanges FRA +2.234

UCI MTB World Cup men's DH standings
1. Troy Brosnan AUS 250 points
2. Thibaut Dapréla FRA 190
3. Amaury Pierron FRA 140
4. Reece Wilson GBR 137
5. Danny Hart GBR 135

Women's Leogang downhill result
1. Camille Balanche SUI 4:07.850
2. Valentina Höll AUT +1.412
3. Monika Hrastnik SLO +1.471
4. Marine Cabirou FRA +5.878
5. Tahnée Seagrave GBR +8.680

UCI MTB World Cup women's DH standings
1. Camille Balanche SUI 220 points
2. Valentina Höll AUT 210
3. Monika Hrastnik SLO 156
4. Marine Cabirou FRA 155
5. Tahnée Seagrave GBR 122