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HÖLL AND KOLB DREAM OF RECREATING AUSTRIAN NATIONAL HOLIDAY AT UCI DOWNHILL WORLD CUP ROUND IN SAALFELDEN LEOGANG – SALZBURGERLAND

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HÖLL AND KOLB DREAM OF RECREATING AUSTRIAN NATIONAL HOLIDAY AT UCI DOWNHILL WORLD CUP ROUND IN SAALFELDEN LEOGANG – SALZBURGERLAND

1 month ago

Valentina Höll and Andreas Kolb are aiming to reproduce a UCI Downhill World Cup home sweep in Saalfelden Leogang - Salzburgerland. The WHOOP UCI Mountain Bike World Series returns to Austria with the stars of the UCI Downhill, Enduro and E-Enduro World Cups on show across three action-packed days of racing.

Höll (YT Mob) and Kolb (Continental Atherton) took victory on these slopes last year and the Women’s 2023 UCI Downhill World Champion credited that magical day with kickstarting a mountain biking revolution in the country and likened it to an Austrian national holiday in the 2024 pre-race press conference.

It’s nice to come back to a home World Cup, I crashed in Poland and that definitely gives me a bit of fire to come back and do well here, Höll said. 

Andy and I had an amazing race here last year, it felt like a new Austrian national holiday to be honest.

The respect for our sport just grew a lot more in Austria. Skiing is so big and biking is more of a side-product but I feel like all the tourism places realised they can make really good profit with mountain bikers, we’re friends. As an Austrian racer, it just felt amazing that we made it happen, it is possible.

We have the best infrastructure in Austria to get more good racers, look at all the Kiwis, Australians, and British riders, they’re so quick and there are so many but what’s the reason it’s working in Austria? I feel like Andy and I maybe make a little change and the kids are stoked to get on their bikes.

 

KOLB MUST SEE OFF SURGING DUNNE

Kolb has finished eighth and nine so far in 2024 battling illness and injury but there’d be no better place to rise back up the order and delight the partisan crowd in the same memorable manner as last year, as he echoed Höll’s feeling about how mountain biking has changed in the country following those victories:

A lot of party first, but I hope it’s a bit of a change for the future of our sport in Austria, kids hopefully are inspired by our results and just want to do racing. I think we can already see it’s moving up a little bit better, kids having fun about racing, so I hope it’s moving in the right direction.

He’ll have plenty of competition though, with leader Loïc Bruni (Specialized Gravity) aiming to get back on track after being pipped in Poland and the five riders behind him separated by just 30 points.

That quintet includes Ronan Dunne (Mondraker Factory Racing), who took his first World Cup win last time out in Bielsko-Biała and has since also won the Red Bull Hardline. Dunne finished eighth here last year, two seconds behind Kolb, and believes he’s arrived in Austria ready to continue his streak of success.

However, Kolb is relishing the chance to take on a stacked field and was unequivocal when asked whether he’s feeling extra pressure on home trails.

I wouldn’t say so, firstly it’s cool to see everybody healthy except Jackson Goldstone, I think he’s the only guy in our category, Kolb added.

 But if I think about last year and about my win, sometimes I say to myself ‘oh Pierron wasn’t there’, and Pierron’s one of the boys I want to beat when he had a good day as well so it’s good to see everybody healthy nearly, and if you win it’s just the best feeling when you beat everybody.

STEINTHALER TAKING EACH DAY AS IT COMES

With Enduro and E-Enduro also returning to Saalfelden Leogang - Salzburgerland, Hanna Steinthaler (CUBE Action Team) is also hoping to add another home win this time around, and believes lessons from 2023 give her a better chance this weekend after finishing ninth in Bielsko-Biała:

I hope they’ll cheer my name, but last year I think I did the mistake to put too much pressure on myself and it didn’t work out and I was just not feeling good, I think I don’t want to put too much pressure on me, I just want to take the day as it comes tomorrow. Training today was very nice, it will be spicy tomorrow for sure but I’m just stoked to ride at home and have my friends here.

Now I know I can be there. Of course it’s making a bit of pressure but I just want to handle it.

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