The fifth edition of the Südtirol Sellaronda HERO is on this Saturday, June 21st, 2014 at 7:10 am with 4,014 participants from 40 nations. The world’s top-ranked long-distance specialists are fighting to be crowned the coveted HERO of the most challenging mountain bike race in the world. This race is the last test for the top contenders ahead of the World Championships in South Africa.
The Südtirol Sellaronda HERO was first held in 2010 and is once again part of the UCI MTB Marathon Series. It runs around the Sella and Sassolungo/Langkofel mountains and through the valleys of Val Gardena/Gröden, Alta Badia, Arabba, and Val di Fassa and the Alpe di Siusi. Start and Finish are located in Selva/Wolkenstein. There are two tracks that are being offered to the racers: 84 km/4,300 m and 62 km/3,300 m altitude change through the provinces of Bolzano/Bozen, Trento and Belluno.
The most successful athletes in the past have been Katrin Schwing from Germany and Leonardo Paez from Colombia. They each won this prestigious marathon twice. Klaus Fontana, Anna Ferrari (2010) and Mirko Celestino (2011) from Italy and Sally Bigham (2013) from Great Britain each stood on the podium once. Italy is leading the nations’ ranking with three victories, Germany and Colombia with two and Great Britain with one victory.
70 Elite riders will be at the Start, counting 50 men and 20 women. Hector Leonardo Paez is leading the group of favorites. The 2013 Bronze World Champion is going for his third win, which is why he trained intensively with former Italian Champion Tony Longo who placed fourth and set the pace for most of last year’s race. Urs Huber from Switzerland and Steffen Thum from Germany will also be at the start with big hopes for gold. They are currently ranked first and second after six races in the UCI Marathon Series. The Italian charge is lead by the newly minted Italian Marathon Champion Samuele Porro who won the Italian Marathon Championships two weeks ago leaving behind Juri Ragnoli, Luca Ronchi and Daniele Mensi. Noteworthy are also 2011 winner Mirko Celestino, 2004 World Champion Massimo Debertolis and Marathon Record Winner Marzio Deho. Locally, it will be Hannes Pallhuber who ranked eighth in the Italian Championships, 2010 winner Klaus Fontana and Franz Hofer who will try to compete with the “big guns”.
On the ladies’ front, it will be double winner Katrin Schwing from Germany who will try to win back the title after handing last year’s to Sally Bigham from Britain who was later crowned Silver World Champion. Also eagerly at the start will be Borghild Loevset from Norway who ranked third in the UCI MTB Marathon Series in France in April and who won the MTB Transalp along with Sally Bigham in 2013. After winning Silver in the Sellaronda HERO 2013, the 2013 Italian Marathon Champion and last year’s second-ranked Elena Gaddoni has also set her heart on the gold. Verena Krenslehner from Austria who was 9th in the UCI Marathon Series and second in 2012 will also be at the Start along with Lorenza Menapace, the marathon specialist from the nearby province of Trentino.
Top ranked riders are expected to arrive mid-week to visit and test the tracks which have been improved significantly from last year. While being “in the best of conditions” according to Race Director Peter Runggaldier, some parts are still not completely freed from snow that fell up to 10 meters in places like Arabba this past winter. This could require some last-minute detours.
The Südtirol Sellaronda HERO will be hosting the 2015 UCI Marathon World Championships. It belongs to the most challenging and spectacular and scenically most beautiful MTB Marathons in the world. Several to racers have also crowned it “the hardest” mountain bike marathon race in the world. Approximately 500 volunteers are helping in the organization of this large event.