Slipping and sliding at the Leogang World Cup

June 21 2010

The World Cup scene is all about the videos, the sponsors and the glamour...not exactly. Just over a week ago we went riding with Joe Barnes from MTBcut, when Joe rolls up you don't hear the sound of a plush tour bus, no, for Joe you hear the sound of a finely tuned Transit gunning up the fire-road with a stack of bikes and mates crammed between as packing. Joe left us last Friday, went and cleaned up at the Innerleithen SDA, then got on a ferry and rolled up in Leogang. With a van full of bikes and four guys crammed in the back things are pretty cosy, and when you're living on a soaking Austrian mountain side things are going to get grim. But when practise comes, the guys are out on their bikes sliding around and having fun. The travelling life of a World Cup rider isn't  a salubrious one, but these guys know how to enjoy themselves and get maximum ride time for minimum cost. That's why they can turn up at a World Cup and compete at the highest level.

Amongst the Orange crew this week were Joe Barnes, Ben Cathro and Chris Hutchens. After a mixed second round at Fort William all three were hoping to be back on the gas on a popular track. Joe had a solid second round, Ben was absolutely destroying the track before disaster spoilt his fun, and Chris got a confidence boost knocking loads of time out of his qualifying run. So all three had lots to ride for and lots to prove.

the Leogang track is a mixture of steep rocky and technical sections with pedally sections in-between, littered with rollers, berms and jumps. There were plenty of difficult sections at the top, and when the rain came it was all greasy and sloppy. Have a look at pre-rain pictures on Pinkbike, with lots of exposed roots, it was clear to see that full commitment and a whole heap of confidence was the only thing that would keep riders from flying off into the trees when the inevitable showers came.

Practise on Friday started in the sunshine, the riders were looking fast and the pedally sections which would soon be a relief from the roots were raising some eyebrows. As practice went on, torrential rain started and people hid from the storm as the track changed completely. Transcend boss man and photographer Fraser Britton took some snaps. Day two saw more rain, with the track beat up the riders looked raggy. MTBcut team rider Ben Cathro practiced hard and threatened to "chokeslam" the difficult track and make up for his mechanical at Fort William. Watch the vid below, he gives a shout out to all you "superfans".

Saturday's qualifying was going to be a battle of the mud surfers, surviving the difficult conditions and getting down the hill smooth enough to make the finals. The usual guys dominated with Blenkinsop, Minaar and Gwin coming down fastest. From the Orange contingent, Joe Barnes qualified in 35th, one place behind Steve Peat himself. Ben Cathro wasn't far behind in 46th, and Chris Hutchens slid through by the skin of his teeth with a 79th. Chris consistently sneaks through, and if Fort William was anything to go by, we expected him to up his game for the finals.

The MTBcut guys avoided the video lenses during practice, but distilledmag caught this great picture of Ben whipping his way down the track.

As race day came the clouds still hung ominously over the Leogang mountains and a steady drizzle kept the track spicy and the vision short. The track was now so wet that it went from slidy to actually keeping traction as the surface water covered the packed down dirt below. As riders came down the hill everyone had similar conditions so although the rain came and went the conditions were pretty much the same for everyone.

From the MTBcut crowd Ben Cathro had a dissapointing run, at the first split he was well on the pace, but it looks like the second half of the track had the better of him as he came down in 66th. We're not totally sure on what happened but it looks like he pushed it past ragged and took a slide down the Austrian hillside. At the bottom he was 28 seconds down on the leader and despite everything not coming together this weekend, he looks pretty wild on the highlights video below. Ben can now concentrate on looking forward to the Champery World Cup with a new physical track. Ben will be ready to get the "chokeslam" going and proove he's up there with the fast boys this season.

Chris Hutchens from Transcend Orange again slashed his time and came down the hill in 56th. It looked like he had a pretty clean run as he maintains his form this season. Chris is working full time over the summer on an engineering placement, so the advice from Orange? The day job can wait, get on your bike and keep up the good work, if his speed ups to match his consistency, he should really come on over the season.

Finally, Joe Barnes absolutely killed it and despite apparently cruising his way down came in 30th, 15 seconds down on the winner and putting in an awesome run in hard conditions. Looks like all the riding in Scotland is paying off as Joe heads towards the Mega and Champery for more Euro adventures. Watch the highlights video below, as Ben and the other riders slide around, watch the clip of Joe straight-line the roots and keeping it clean, dialled.

So another World Cup round down and the overalls are shaping up. Despite a couple of hiccups, Ben Cathro isn't giving up and he's in a respectable 29th place, the 8th most successful Brit so far this season. Joe Barnes isn't far behind in 41st. Chris Hutchens has only raced two rounds so is doing a good job in 69th. As the World Cup heads towards Champery we'll be following the guys' adventures and as Joe heads towards the MegaAvalanche we'll be running stories on their Euro exploits. Stay tuned.

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