355 mountain bikers from 32 countries took on the Alpentour Trophy on Thursday in the Schladming region. Almost 200 kilometres and 8800m of elevation was on the menu over the four days – like riding straight up Mt Everest.
Hot summer days meant a lot of exhausted faces at the finish after the first three stages, however, the last one turned out even more extreme. During the individual time trial onto the Planai mountain, the infamous ski slope of the World Championships in 2013, gale-force winds and rain lashed towards the racers. The last day also meant a huge shake-up in the general classification: the overall leader Daniel Geismayr (AUT) was bereaved of his victory dreams already on the first few kilometres because of a broken bike chain, last year’s defending champion Leonardo Paez (COL) wasn’t at the start because of injuries sustained during crashes on earlier stages. This provided for a dramatic turn of events: The Austrian Alban Lakata already imagined himself on top of the podium, however, was beaten by Tony Longo (ITA) by only one second. Today’s stage win went to fellow Italian rider, Damiano Ferraro.
In the elite women’s field the result was much more predictable: Sally Bigham didn’t get today’s stage win – it was claimed by the Brazilian rider Isabella Lacerda – but the British racer still celebrated her third overall win.
Tony Longo: “This is sports, this time I had luck on my side. I didn’t feel that well today, my legs felt really heavy. I struggled on track, because I’m relatively light and had to fight the strong winds constantly. Even without a stage win this year, I think I deserve the overall victory. Last year I missed it so narrowly and I was second. Now I’m looking forward to a few days off and then preparations start for the World Championships.”
Alban Lakata: “To lose the overall win by one second after four days is really bitter. Of course I could start analysing to try and find that second and I can immediately think of a few spots on track, where I could have lost it. But what for? Generally, I started a bit fatigued, but improved while riding. I’m upset for Daniel Geismayr – that’s not how I planned to win the duel among us Austrians.“
Roel Paulissen: “The rain really impacted the race track a lot – I struggled quite a bit. A third place overall is okay, even though I had higher hopes of the time trial today.”
Damiano Ferraro: “Finally, after three tough days, I had a good one! A huge thanks to my entire team, I’m really happy with my stage win!”
Jonathan Schottler: “I struggled every day, that broken saddle was really bad luck as well. Now I’m happy that it’s all done and dusted, my legs are really tired.”
Sally Bigham: “It’s very special for me to win the Alpentour for the third time and to be the record holder. After the three stage wins I was very tired this morning, now I’m glad that I’ll get a few days rest, before I start the preparations for the World Champs.”
Kate Fluker: “I’m really surprised how well it went. I’m happy that I raced at this awesome event, even though it was very hard. But I’ll be able to tell everyone about it in my home country, New Zealand. Quietly, I have my eyes on the Crocodile Trophy in October as well.”
Isabella Lacerda: “I was actually really tired before today’s stage, on top of it that cool weather. As a South American I much prefer the heat. That’s why I’m even more thrilled that I was able to take out a stage win right away at my first Alpentour Trophy! For me the world ranking points are pure gold, because I want to qualify for the Olympic cross-country and we only have one spot.
Elite Men’s Results
Stage 4 (time trial, 14km):
1. Ferraro (It) 52:51,7
2. Longo (It) +0:01
3. Lakata (Ö) +0:26
Overall result after four stages:
1. Longo (It) 9:14:41
2. Lakata (Ö) +0:01
3. Paulissen (Bel) +1:35
Elite Women’s Results
Stage 4 (time trial, 14km):
1. Lacerda (Bra) 1:06:20,9
2. Bigham (Gb) +0:55
3. Fluker (Nzl) +1:29
1. Bigham 11:05:26
2. Fluker +17:18
3. Kollmann (Ö) +23:56