The day Vali Höll shook up the women’s downhill mountain bike scene
© Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool
How the teenage Austrian MTB star made history with a Les Gets masterclass in 2019, which showed the elite women she was a force to be reckoned with in 2020.
Saturday, July 13, 2019. Les Gets in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of south-eastern France. Vali Höll explodes from the starting gate in the fifth junior women's round of the 2019 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. Three minutes and 26.218 seconds later, she'd banked an incredible time that even the elite women couldn't match later that afternoon.
Austrian Höll grew up in Saalbach, where her father built a mountain bike trail around their house, encouraging her to ride very fast downhill. She became so good, so quickly that she began beating boys in iXS Rookies Cup junior races before travelling over the Atlantic to win the 2014 Crankworx Whistler junior race, which put her firmly on the global map.
The perfect season
After being tipped for greatness from an early age, Höll finally got the chance to tackle a junior World Cup course in Lošinj, Croatia at the first 2018 UCI stop, where her winning time would have placed her in the elite women's top 10. Six further victories – to complete a perfect World Cup junior debut season – plus her first junior gold at the 2018 UCI World Championships in Lenzerheide, Switzerland ensured that all eyes were on her ahead of the 2019 season.
Höll accelerated down the starting ramp on to the dusty track with her split times going from +2.933s up at the first, to +5.402s at the second, +7.164s at the third and +9.894s at the fourth with an incredible +12.778s winning margin over American Anna Newkirk, seeing her beat her qualifying run by five seconds.
The history lesson
Confirming her special talent, the winning time would have even been enough to beat that of Australian Tracey Hannah, who won the elite race. When the 2020 season finally gets underway, she'll step up to the elite field and race against her idols like Rachel Atherton and Tahneé Seagrave. And with her final school exams behind her by the 2020 UCI World Championships in Leogang, Austria in September, the world's best riders will need to keep a close eye on the 18-year-old sensation on home soil.