UCI World Championships: Vali Höll takes back-to-back downhill rainbow jerseys

Austrian defends title in Fort William ahead of Camille Balanche and Marine Cabirou

Clock13:00, Saturday 5th August 2023
Vali Höll tackling the rocky top section of the Fort William course

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Vali Höll tackling the rocky top section of the Fort William course

Vali Höll (Austria) conquered the long and difficult course at Fort William to become downhill world champion for the second year in a row, successfully defending the title she first earnt in 2022.

Camille Balanche (Switzerland) took the silver medal, two seconds down on Höll, whilst Marine Cabirou (France) rounded out the podium just a fraction of a second slower than Balanche.

Despite the added pressure of a title defence on her shoulders, Höll arrived in Scotland as the hot favourite, and duly delivered, setting the fastest time in both qualifying and her final run. She becomes the first rider since Rachel Atherton in 2016 to win back-to-back rainbow jerseys.

“Honestly I had no idea how this was going to go,” Höll said. “I was so tired. I had no energy and then I messed up a really important corner just before the pedalling section. I was like ‘oh my god, that was it’, so stupid. Then I just tried to battle but I was so tired and somehow I rode it out, I have no idea.

“To win on this track, and to back up the world title, like I’m two-time elite champion, it’s insane.”

Setting off in reverse-ranking order, the early riders set off without causing much alarm to the benchmark best times set in qualifying. Tahnée Seagrave (Great Britain) was the first to put down a podium-challenging time, despite racing with injuries from a crash in qualifying. Seagrave was then bettered by a succession of her compatriots, with Phoebe Gale and Louise Ferguson both spending time in the hot seat.

For a long time, Ferguson’s time looked hard to beat, but she was eventually dethroned when the final six riders dropped in. Marine Cabirou set the time that would eventually see her take second, beaten into runner-up by a tiny margin by Camille Balanche, but the race would come down to the final two riders.

Fort William winner in 2022, there was a lot of attention on Nina Hoffmann (Germany) who would be the penultimate rider on track. However, after a crash in qualifying, Hoffmann’s bad luck continued into the final, as another crash put an end to her medal hopes, relegating her to 19th at the end of proceedings.

As the last rider down, it was then just up to Vali Höll to produce another faultless run, smashing her qualifying run by three seconds and becoming the first female rider to go sub-five minutes on the Fort William course to defend her rainbow jersey in spectacular fashion.

Race Results

1

at flag

HÖLL Valentina

4' 58"

2

ch flag

BALANCHE Camille

+ 2"

3

fr flag

CABIROU Marine

"

4

gb flag

FERGUSON Louise-Anna

+ 9"

5

gb flag

GALE Phoebe

+ 10"

6

gb flag

SEAGRAVE Tahnee

"

7

it flag

SCARSI Gloria

+ 11"

8

gb flag

ATHERTON Rachel

+ 13"

9

it flag

FARINA Eleonora

+ 14"

10

us flag

NEWKIRK Anna

"

Provided by FirstCycling

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