Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable Podcast

Sunday 15th September 2019


Carlton downhilling in The Epic Bikepark Leogang.

HOST: Carlton Reid


Katharina Auer, downhill mountain biker and marketing for Saalfelden Leogang tourist board, Austria

Nico helped me nail some berm-riding techniques

Nicolas Wegs, downhill racer and mountain bike instructor, The Epic Bikepark Leogang

TOPIC: Riding–and learning–in The Epic Bikepark Leogang, Austria, venue for the 2020 UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Championships.


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 225 of the Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable Podcast. This show was recorded on Sunday 15th of September 2019.

David Bernstein 0:23
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Jensonusa.com/the spokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at www.theFredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable Podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the- spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
Hi there. I’m Carlton Reid. And this show is a mountain bike special recorded last week in the Epic Bikepark Leogang, Austria. I scared myself witless tearing down some world class downhill trails. But at least my technique was a little bit better than usual. Because I had some pre ride lessons from 20 year old Nico, one of the bike parks full time instructors. I mentioned Nico’s age, because I’ve been mountain biking for the best part of 35 years. That’s a long time. But you’re never too old to learn new stuff. And Nico taught me how to ride berms higher and faster than I’m used to. And instead of slinking back on the bike during a root- strewn descent, he showed me how I’d have more control of the front wheel by keeping my centre of balance over the bottom bracket.

This episode of the Spokesman Cycling Roundtable podcast is brought to you from Leogang in Austria, which is mountain bike Mecca, and I’ve been riding in the Epic Bikepark, but right now I’ve just had breakfast at the Mama Thresl hotel, which is a boutique hotel, wonderful hotel, in Leogang and at the back of the balcony here at the hotel are a bunch of cows because they are munching on grass right in front of me. You might be able to hear the sound of cows moving and munching and right up above them are the Steinberg mountains, so Stein/stone, Berg/mountains, and that’s the foreground really to all the mountain biking that you do in this area. So this is the Saalfelden-Leogang area. And I can see the cow is actually quite full of milk. Local milk. So the breakfast I had today was said it was all local and you couldn’t get much more local than these cows. Anyway, the Saalfelden-Leogang area is as I said before a mountain bike Mecca. Now I’ve been a mountain biker since 1984. Yesterday, I had my first ever bike lesson. And Nico, who’s not a local downhiller, but he’s from Germany, but he is an expert downhiller and he took me out on some of the amazing trails here at in The Leogaqng Bike Park, the Epic Bike Park has been renamed that and I can I can see why it’s called that it’s pretty steep. So it was it was very much out of my comfort zone on many of the steeps, so Nico taught me some stuff that I probably will have never been taught before. Especially on berms, and how to ride berms, and there are a tonne of berms here in Leogang. And he then took me out on the on the trails. And I didn’t crash, I didn’t kill myself. I survived much to my surprise on a on a rental bike from the resort. And even though I’ve been riding for the best part of 35 years, I learned loads. So after yesterday’s wonderful day in the Leogang Bike Park, I came back to the hotel and went in Mama Thresl’s unbelievably scenic spa I’ve ever been in – that’s a car leaving the hotel, there’s not cows – the most scenic spa I’ve ever been in. So the sauna is just got this amazing vista of the surrounding mountains. Incredibly hot sauna. And what a great way to to unwind after a hard session on the Leogang Bike Park. But now right now, I’m off to meet Katharina Auer who is the Saalfelden-Leogang bike expert. And she is at the Bike Festival, which is an annual event here and I’m going to chat to her there.

Katharina Auer 5:44
I’m Katharina Auer, marketing manager at the Tourism Board Saalfelden-Leogang.

Carlton Reid 5:50
Okay. Well, thank you for meeting me

today. Because we are sitting in the stands we can hear

the gondola

Carlton Reid 5:57
going over mountain bikers coming back, and then some bike washing in the background. And also across the road there. You’ve got a bike festival going on. So tell me first about the bike festival. what’s what’s happening there?

Katharina Auer 6:11
The Bike Festival is taking place the second time this year. And there are about 80 exhibitors who present the bikes from next year already. And you can actually also test them. So this is kind of the big thing here. You can just come around, test the new bikes from next year and then ride them next year.

Carlton Reid 6:32
Eurobike has just finished. So bikes from there have come

here and now you can test them. Yeah,

perfect. And that

costs or that people just come along and

Katharina Auer 6:46
just come along. They can test bikes, they can test backpacks, they can take part in enduro races, or pumptrack races – its festival for the whole family.

Carlton Reid 6:59
Now, tell me your background. So you, you are from promoting the mountain biking here and you also a mountain bike yourself?

Katharina Auer 7:06
Yeah. Well,

I’ve worked in tourism boards for seven years now. And taking over the mountain bike marketing and also product development in the region for a couple of years. And I’m a biker myself. So basically, just perfect job.

Carlton Reid 7:25
Wonderful. And do you get out on the trails? Like at the end of the day? How do you or do you like you’re always in the office, you can never get out.

Katharina Auer 7:32
Now? Well, I try to get out as often as possible. So just catching the last gondola up on the mountain and then doing for example, the new Steinberg Line by Fox, which is a really nice flow line. And a long run so good run in the evening and or in the afternoon after work.

Carlton Reid 7:51
So how long is that particular trail, how long is that from the top?

Katharina Auer 7:55
It’s 10 kilometres long approximately. So we didn’t finally measured yet because it was just finally opened. A couple of weeks ago. We had a lot of snow this winter. So everything got to be delayed with building all the new trails. But I think everyone loves it. And kids can go on it the whole family can go on it. And even experts are having fun it.

Carlton Reid 8:19
You’d have to be pretty good kid to go down that. But then again, he here, I’m guessing you’re going to have lots of very good kids from a very early age, because you’ve got an amazing world class facilities here.

Katharina Auer 8:31
Yeah, well, we try to instruct kids and beginners of all ages, like you learn skiing in winter. So you start with the carpet, down in the valley, just doing small trails with the bikes cool. Then you go on a T bar. And when you’ve done that, you go up in the mountain. And so it just takes away all your fear. And you can learn downhill biking, safe in safe way.

Carlton Reid 8:58
What about schools, local schools do they have as part of our lessons that they have mointain bike lessons, and then ski lessons later on.

Katharina Auer 9:06
And we are actually developing a bike club right now trying to get more kids into mountain biking just like they do skiing in the winter. It’s kind of a cooperation between the cable car company, the bike school volunteers Tourism Board, trying to motivate kids to go biking.

And one of the big motivating things I guess coming up and I know there’s it’s very big here is what’s happening next year. Yeah. Well, you tell me what’s what’s happening next year?

Well, we are hosting the Downhill Mountain Bike World Championships for the second time next year in September. We’re really looking forward to it. We’ve been hosting loads of World Cup events in last years. So yeah, I’m excited already. To see as many people as possible coming here.

Carlton Reid 10:03
That was my next question. How many people are you expecting to crowd into into Leogang next year?

Katharina Auer 10:09
Well, we had on the World Cup events we had about 25,000 over the whole weekend, in the last years, and I guess it’s World Championship. So it’s going to be even more people being excited about the sport,

Carlton Reid 10:25
There is a very, very extreme World Championship route already out there, which you can you can right now. But that is being changed, you’re going to have a brand new route rail for next year.

Katharina Auer 10:41
It’s going to be probably going to be the same course. We always every year trying to make some adaptations, building new things, changing the route slightly. So we see it’s going to be a surprise for everyone.

Carlton Reid 10:56
And when people who come here when mountain bikers come here for like that week holiday as part of that, the World Championships coming to watch that they can ride all of the trails at the same time, or will there be that that World Championship route will be closed off to them for that week?

Katharina Auer 11:15
Well, the World Championship route of course is closed and couple of trails which cross the World Championship track, of course. But anyway, there are a lot of trails open still. So you can just plan your day go hiking, watch the world championships, go to a concert in the evening. go biking on one of the single trails also which are outside of the bike park or even do yeah, I don’t know, pedal up in the morning, if you want to.

Carlton Reid 11:49
And to tell me about the lift access, so you can hear they get the gondola here behind us. But you’ve got this too. So there’s two lifts up from the from the town.

Katharina Auer 11:57
Yeah, this was one of the innovations this year as well. Well that we opened a second cable car all the way to the top, on the weekends from Thursday to Sunday. And the cable car is actually open from mid May till beginning of November, which is a really long season. So every single day. So yeah, you can go biking and then start skiing right away. Probably we we even had this this Easter because Easter was quite late so people could ski to the middle station and then biking a bike park, from middle station down into the valley.

Carlton Reid 12:35
And you’re already attracting an international audience here. I mean, Leogang is famous around the world. And you see that from your figures, you can see that you’ve got – where’s your biggest overseas markets

Katharina Auer 12:50
Well, it’s actually the UK because of the biking, probably this is one of the main reasons and also when not overseas would be for example, Czech Republic because they are really sports interested. And then of course first places is always Germany and Austria. Those are the main people coming here, but we can see an increasing. Yeah, UK people for example.

Nicolas Wegs 13:21
Just watch where am I going in the berm, most people go straight into it. But we want to go as high as possible. Right in front of the berm. Okay?

Carlton Reid 13:48
Nico? What’s your full name?

Nicolas Wegs 13:51
I’m Nicolas Wegs . I’m from Germany from West Germany next to the border of the Netherlands.

Carlton Reid 14:01
And you I mean, I’ve been I’ve been mountain biking for Well, I’m not gonna do the arithmetic here. But since 1984. And this is the first time I’ve ever had a lesson on how to mountain bike.

So how old are you?

Nicolas Wegs 14:18
I’m 20 years old.

Carlton Reid 14:19
Okay, so I’ve been mountain biking roughly double your life.

But you know far more than me even though because you’re an instructor Yes,

Nicolas Wegs 14:29
yes, I am a bike guide since for years

and before this for years, I was racing downhill

Carlton Reid 14:37
So describe Nico where where we are right now because we are in a we’re in a little cabin. We’re going up the mountain but behind us describe what what mountains Am I seeing there? Nico, we are in Leogang. Yeah, we’re living in Austria. But what are those mountains there behind us?

Nicolas Wegs 14:53
This mountains right there called the Steinberger. So it’s translated should call stone mountains. Yeah. Just because not necessarily which whether you will always see this big rocks. In the winter, there’s no snow just rocks.

Unknown Speaker 15:14
And this is the the Leogang Epic. Nothing has now been changed. The name has been changed.

Nicolas Wegs 15:19
Since this year. It’s called the Epic Bikepark Leogang.

Carlton Reid 15:22
Yes. And this is going to be the venue in 2020. Of The World Championships. Yeah, right. So that’s what that’s what the leading up to here. Yeah. You said there is a world championship course here, which we’re not going to do Nico,

Nicolas Wegs 15:35
Just over here is the World Cup track, the Downhill World Cup track? Since I think 10 years already. And next year, they are the world championships and the data.

Carlton Reid 15:46
Okay, what’s what’s siren we’re hearing? We’re hearing what’s what’s that?

Nicolas Wegs 15:49
Let’s look on the clock. Okay, it’s thinking, I hope it’s a test alarm, which is

once a month, I think,

Carlton Reid 16:00
telling us telling us what, what if it went normally, what would it be telling us

Nicolas Wegs 16:06
It would tell us that is something wrong, but it would tell the rescue team that they should go somewhere and rescue something. And someone

Carlton Reid 16:19
Describe what we’ve got here in the Bikepark here. And I can describe it. And then there’s lots of North Shore, chicklen wire. These look pretty extreme from my point of view, it would, it would scare me coming down some of these but you’ve got I mean, we have lots of steep ground here. So many of the routes down can be for beginners, or is this all really for experts, and pros?

Nicolas Wegs 16:42
Much tracks are already for beginners. So we got I think 13 tracks in Leogang. For from the top to the middle station. And from the middle station to the bottom, we got all the rest of the tracks. From the top station to the middle station, we got the Steinbeck line, which is the first track we’re riding with beginners. And then the Hotshots line is, which is the flow line with big tables, big jumps, big berms, and the Hangman I, which is by technical step downs, many rocks many roots. And from the middle stage, and we got the Flying Gangster and the World Cup track, which this one we can see from the gondola

Carlton Reid 17:22
And you’re not going to take me on those, no?

where you get it where you gonna take me because I’m, I’ve been doing it for a long time. But as you can see, because you were teaching me today, I’m not the best mountain biker in the world. So where you going to take me?

Nicolas Wegs 17:36
We’re going to ride the Steinbeck line from the top station to the middle station. And after this one, we’re going to go to the Flying Gangster, which is this route saw down there. But the other part is not that difficult, like down there. And then I think we’re going to go to the Schwartzleo trail, which is a nature-based trail, and not very much shaped and not this flow line. Like, yeah.

Carlton Reid 18:04
And how much is it costing people to get into the bike park and then rent a bike and then then and then rent somebody like you? What do people would have to pay for that?

Nicolas Wegs 18:14
Okay, in the beginning, we need a lift ticket, which is around about 30 euros per day. And if we want to go with the downhill bike, so not this bike not this bike, but the downhill bike will cost you around 100 euros a day. And private lessons at the bike school costs 65 euros per hour. And 20 euro plus if you want to get a friend into it or something if you if you’re more people than one it’s 20 euro more

Carlton Reid 18:49
per person. Is that normal for you than to do what you’re doing because you got your day, Nico. I’m very lucky. Is that normal? Or do you just literally go out for some day?

Nicolas Wegs 18:59
Mostly we got bigger groups like group training, which is not this expensive. So you’re paying like the same price for the whole day. But you have a group of six to eight people. And yeah, just private lessons over the whole days. Not the usual day for me.

Carlton Reid 19:18
And then we have got some events happening this weekend. So there’s a there’s a bike festivals and more. More mountain bikers are expected to come in this weekend. Yeah,

Nicolas Wegs 19:29
There are really two big events in Leogang. The first one in June is the World Cup of the Downhill and now this event is the Bike Festival which is with was already in Ria del Garda and Wlling in Germany now it’s the last stop and we got enduro races, mountain bike races since until two years ago, there was a European downhillcup here too, theere are kids’ races, theres an Expo area so quite big event. Yeah,

Carlton Reid 20:03
Because I can’t see many mountain bikers here now because we are we are midweek but also it’s a huge, huge area. So I guess mountain bikers will be spread everywhere.

Nicolas Wegs 20:14
Yeah, if you go down to the gondola station, you will see okay, now today, many people on the track. But on the track itself, you won’t see this much biker because we have 13 tracks and split up quite well.

Carlton Reid 20:28
So we’re now going through the mittel station, mid station. And we are going to go all the way to the top. Yes, yes.

Nicolas Wegs 20:36
Right. So we could go out here and ride the Hangman to the downhill track and many other tracks but we going up just because we have much more fun and much more to ride if we go all the way to the top. And what

Carlton Reid 20:51
are they cabins do we have here was this this is we now have the cabin. That’s it for the bike park or there are other means of getting up to the top?

The Asitz gondola was until last year the only way to go up the hill. And since last year, you can go up the hill from Thursday to Sunday on the Steinbeck vantu. It starts one kilometre down the road and ends up on the same level and it’s the same point as this one. So it’s not not important if you take this one or the other one you will get up to the same point.

And why are you here? What are you doing? Because you were telling me before that you’re a student, you’re doing mechanical engineering, but this is something that you do in the holidays, you you you you’re qualified by guide and then you come and do this in your in your holidays.

Nicolas Wegs 21:44
Yes, just because I love to teach something I can do and I love to see it if people get what I want them to do. So have a smile after the lesson I’ve done wanting to do

Carlton Reid 22:02
And have you mountain biked in many places in the world?

Nicolas Wegs 22:05
Yeah, just as I said just before I started guiding here leaving I raced for three or four years and raced European downhill cups, German downhill cups, and local downhill cups …

All over Europe to race my bike. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 22:28
And now we’re getting very steep again here. So this is the mid station and then it’s basically from the bottom it’s 16 and a half minutes all the way to the top. What kind of height are we going up to?

Nicolas Wegs 22:41
We start around 800 metres of height down there and we’ll end up at under 2000 metre height

Carlton Reid 22:53
Okay, and what is the season here when when does it start and when does it finish?

Nicolas Wegs 22:58
You can ride your bike here in Leogang from May to the end of October. And it depends on how much snow days and if there’s much snow in October they close up earlier if there are no snow in October maybe you can go and ride your bike until November.

Carlton Reid 23:16
So just describe this compared to other places where you have mountain biked What is special about here?

Nicolas Wegs 23:26
I think the most special part of Leogang is that you only have this one gondola and have this much tracks for example in comparison to Saalbach which is on the other side of the hill, you have five or six gondolas and less drag so you going around the city all the time to go into the gondola and here in Leoganf you can go with a gondala and you have all these tracks right in front of you.

Carlton Reid 23:51
And then if you are much more sedate mountain biker and not a downhiller roundabout you have many many trails for just cross country cycling you don’t have to come into the into the park you can go on the trails which are free.

Nicolas Wegs 24:08
Yeah, for example, you can just get one ride with the gondola and many many trails around Leogang and many many tours. Even for beginners you can do like the panorama trail panorama to which is mostly on forest streets. And it’s getting difficult more difficult and more difficult until you doing for example the big five so you can get your big five ticket go up this gondola and too big to around this five highest mountains around and you’ll end up here again.

Carlton Reid 24:48
You saying before that you like these conditions because we’ve had some rain overnight. So it’s it’s stickier, it’s less dusty so this is what you prefer these are the conditions for you ideal conditions

Nicolas Wegs 24:59
Yeah, I love these conditions firstly because there are no people in the Bikepark so you have the tracks for your own and if there’s rain overnight and it’s dry over the day there’s not this loose gravel in the berms so it’s much more grippy, the roots starts to dry so you have enough grip to read over roots and yeah, just I said by focus for your own know people out there and you’re the best conditions to ride.

Carlton Reid 25:28
And a bit of a pro tip there is don’t touch any of the wires because they are electrified day I presume with me because this is a very agricultural area so to keep the cows out and I’m I can see that as we’re just going over some sheep. Yeah. So the wires are to keep the livestock in not to stop the mountain bikers going off-piste.

Nicolas Wegs 25:49
Yeah, right, the wires up just for keeping the the animals inside the area. So some of the tracks for example, Hangman 1 is going through areas through the area of animals. So is it possible to drive over the track and at any point there is a cow in the middle of the track. So on top of the hill, there’s a sign Be careful of animals, Be careful of cows or sheeps, or even horses or something. So

yeah, you have to give way for animals.

Carlton Reid 26:22
Thanks to Nico and Katharina there of the epic Bike Park, Leogang in Austria. You can find out how and when to get there at www.BikePark-Leogang.com and Nico’s photos of me nailing if you can say that way – nailing some downhills can be found at the same place where you can access this podcast’s shownotes, which is, as always, at www.the-spokesmen.com Now, the next episode of the Spokesmen Roundtable Cycling podcast is road-bike themed as I ride – I’m a lucky guy- as I ride the Bartali 180, a 125-mile ride from Florence in Italy to the hilltown of Assisi.

This was the first of an annual pilgrimage ride celebrating the World War Two heroism of Tour de France winner Gino Bartali. Meanwhile, get out there and ride …

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