EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Meet the rising star of downhill MTB Vali Höll

Courtesy of Red Bull Media Service Team

Young Austrian world champion is on top of the world while still studying at school.

Vali Höll is the rising star of downhill mountain bike racing having recently been crowned junior world champion.

It capped a memorable 2018 season for the 16-year-old in which she clinched the junior World Cup title with two races to go leading many to predict she is set to become the new senior star on the MTB scene.



After the year of her life on two wheels, Höll reveals all at Sport und Talk on Servus TV about conquering the world, her idols and keeping up with her school studies:

Congratulations on the recent victory, how does it feel to be a world champion?
I can’t believe it. It maybe takes a few days or weeks until I properly get it that I’m the junior world champion.

You’ve finished the season unbeaten. How do you pull off something like that against such quality opposition and on such demanding tracks?
It’s crazy to think about because, when I came into the season to the first race, my goal was to get some podiums. But it worked out pretty good, and I won and won and won, and I was like, ‘ah, it’s worked out pretty good’. So, I was like, ‘don’t stress too much about the results and just go fast on the track’.

Bearing in mind you only started racing downhill aged 12, how have you learned it so quickly? Did you study particular riders to get a feel for how they tackle courses?
I was always a big fan of Rachel Atherton even when I didn’t do races. So, I always watched her videos, and I didn’t fully understand as I didn’t speak English then, but then I saw her riding and it looked so good. When you watch a rider like that racing hard you want to do the same and you try to do it.

Does Leogang have everything you need to train on with tracks like the Speedster and Hangman or will you seek out other places in future to give you a better chance of UCI World Cup podiums
Leogang is pretty cool, as it’s the nearest bike park to my town. But, I can’t ride my bike in winter time, I can only ride between May to September. So, maybe when I stop school I will go to New Zealand or Australia to train in the European winter.

How difficult is to balance your riding with your school studies?
It’s really hard, because when you have an exam after a race weekend you think about it, or are planning to learn after training. But you are so in your zone after training that you want to chill with the people so you totally forget about your exams and learning your books. I know I have to change over the next years as I have to learn more.

Can you explain the feeling when your Lošinj time placed you in the elite top 10?
It was crazy as it was my first ever World Cup, I was so nervous as all the people, all my heroes, were there. There was Rachel [Atherton] and Tahnée [Seagrave] and everyone started talking to me. I was so excited, I’m still the biggest fan girl. I was more watching their riding than focusing on my riding.

You have talked about how much you like the style Tahnée throws into her runs. Do you think you can achieve her level of success with the same mix of speed and style?
Tahnée is so cool because she is so young and keeps up with Rachel I think. But I have to go faster.

Do you think you can improve enough in the next two years to fight for victory at the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Championships on your precious Leogang course?
Leogang 2020 is the big goal everyone is talking about. I just try to learn as much as possible and get faster and faster. I hope it works out.


 

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