The slopes of Saalfelden Leogang in Salzburgerland are amongst the most famous in mountain bike racing. The merest mention of the famous venue can spark hours' worth of conversation amongst mountain bike race fans regarding their favourite moments to have transpired in that particular corner of Austria.
It offers one of the biggest juxtapositions of breath-taking scenery coupled to bike breaking high speeds found anywhere. Saalfelden Leogang always delivers a thrilling race, without fail. Here’s everything that you need to know:
Where is it?
Based at the heart of the state of Salzburg, Leogang is a municipality in the district of Zell am See. It is just over an hour southwest of the city of Salzburg and nestles amidst the stunning surroundings of the Southern Limestone Alps which are part of the Eastern Alps. In short, it’s beautiful and every year does a thorough job of putting the ‘mountain’ into ‘mountain biking.’
The area is extremely popular in terms of winter sports and then hiking and mountain biking in the summer. The result is a busy event full of hardcore race fans and inquisitive tourists alike.
Has there been racing here before?
Outside of the twin bastions of Fort William in Scotland and Mont-Saint-Anne in Canada, Saalfelden Leogang in Austria is one of the longest serving venues on the UCI World Cup calendar having hosted racing every season since 2010. This includes two sets of UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in 2012 and 2020.
Enduro was a new addition to the roster at a busy Leogang in 2023 and it will return once again in 2024 on the 07 – 09 June. Those who want to look further into the future can look forward to the third UCI Mountain Bike World Championships. From the 30 August to the 03 September 2028, Saalfelden Leogang will once again become the global centre of mountain bike sports.
What’s the course like?
The downhill course in the Epic Bike Park Leogang has constantly evolved since its international debut over a decade ago. The bones of the track remain the same even though just about every part of it has been massaged or altered through the years.
Once upon a time the Leogang track would receive criticism for being ‘too bike park’ and not technically challenging enough. The organisers listened and managed the highly commendable balancing act of doubling down on the extremely high-speed nature of the track whilst also adding in high-risk root and rock gardens alongside some of the biggest jumps on the calendar. The track in Leogang is now as close to motorsport as downhill mountain biking really comes – every fraction of a second counts and any mistake comes at a high price. Year on year, it delivers one of the tightest spreads of podium times.
The Epic Bike Park Leogang also features a famous stump garden carved with the names of past winners including Stevie Smith as tribute to his iconic 2013 UCI World Cup overall title.
The enduro course in 2023 was chunky. Some 71km of high alpine action across Austria’s largest bike region Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn, on six stages dropped the racers over 4500 vertical meters. It’s a high alpine test that instantly established itself as a bike and body breaker.
What else can we expect?
Huge home support. Last season, Saalbach resident Vali Höll and Andreas Kolb (Continental Atherton MTB Race Team) brought home historic double wins. It was the first time that Austria had done so in a UCI Downhill World Cup and the reaction of the home crowd was huge. Not only is this an area full of people passionate about their outdoor sports but it is near a couple of big cities, and you can bet that those wins are still resonating and will result in a huge turnout come race day in 2024.
Who are the favourites?
How can we not say Höll and Kolb?! The Saalbach riders future remains slightly mired in the mists of the transfer market after comments she made about moving teams at the end of the 2023 season, but the latter spent the rest of that season backing up his newfound credentials as one of the fastest in the world. Whoever Vali signs for, she will, if fully fit, arrive in Leogang as one of the favourites.
Only Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) and Aaron Gwin have won more than one elite men’s DHI race at the Austrian venue. They share six between them between the years 2010 and 2017. It has had a different winner for the last six editions. Eight different elite women have won in Leogang, the best recent record belonging to Camille Balanche (Dorval AM Commencal) who won three on the bounce between 2020 and 2022.
Saalfelden Leogang-Salzburgerland will be back in 2024 on the 07 – 09 June, you can find out more here.