Earlier this week, the record for entries at the prestigious Dolomiti Superbike was broke, and 5509 riders will contest the classic marathon in the Sudtirol.
Both routes, the long distance of 113 km with 3,357m climbing and the short distance of 60 km with 1,785m climbing are running clockwise through five villages in Alta Pusteria: Villabassa, Braies, Sesto, San Candido and Dobbiaco. Since 2006 the race has been carried out in alternating directions, one year clockwise, the following year anticlockwise.
In the elite category nine top racers of the UCI Marathon Word Championships are to start at the Dolomiti Superbike. The start list shows well known names, such as the recent World Champion Alban Lakata from Lienz (AUT), who won the long distance race in 2012; or the double World Champion Roel Paulissen from Belgium (2008,2009), now living in South Tyrol.
Periklis Ilias from Greece, Marathon World Champion of 2012 and winner of the Dolomiti Superbike in 2014, as well as Kristian Hynek from the Czech Republic, who won in 2013 are also racing. The Columbian Hector Leonardo Paez, third place at the world championship and winner of the Dolomiti Superbike in 2006, is to start disadvantaged due to his finger injury. Italy is represented by the winner of the Alpentour Trophy Tony Longo, Four Peaks winner Juri Ragnoli, as well as Damiano Ferraro and Samuele Porro, fifth and seventh place at the world championship.
The strongest participants from South Tyrol are Hannes Pallhuber and Franz Hofer. Of course German MTB Marathon Champion of 2013 and Absa Cape Epic-Winner Robert Mennen must also be listed, as well as his compatriate and German MTB Marathon Champion Markus Kaufmann. Switzerland is represented by three times winner Urs Huber (2008, 2010, 2011) and Lukas Büchli, ninth place at the world championships, whereas for Spain Ivan Alvarez Gutierrez takes the start, who twice won the MTB race in Nals. Nine of the top ten racers of the World Championship will be also participating in the Dolomiti Superbike, the only exception is silver medalist Christoph Sauser from Switzerland.
The favourites in the ladies elite category are Sally Bigham (GBR), Elena Gaddoni (ITA), Silke Keinath and Katrin Schweig (GER), as well as Verena Krenslehner and Christina Kollmann (AUT). Bigham has won the Dolomiti Superbike three times in a row, Katrin Schweig one time.
The Dolomiti Superbike is fast and hard. While it’s not quite as high as the recent World Champs in the Val Gardena, or as steep, those who rode well there should have had great recovery for another marathon. Let’s look at Alban Lakata in-particular. He’s one of the strongest riders on the circuit, but still a big and strong rider. But barely two weeks ago, he rode away from all the race favourites at the Worlds, and stayed away on gruelling climbs, open trail, and steep descents to win alone. There’s every chance that Alban may put a lrager chain ring on and do the same this weekend, riding solo to the win.
That said, the gentler (in gradient) climbs of the Superbike might mean that riding away on sheer strength is less of a possibility. Lakat will still have Mennen as a handy wingman, but bunch dynamics can change the race outcome. Paulissen shipped himself to the area, maybe his popularity dipped in Belgium a few years ago, and has been in great shape earlier in summer. But Lakata is still the outright favourite.
In the women’s, although there are some excellent women lining up for the race, Sally Bigham stands above the rest, if not literally, figuratively. Bigham is a consumate professional and prepares for races like no other. Having won three times on the course before, she knows what to do, and is clearly in great form this summer.