This weekend Algarve Bike Challenge takes place, the event is a UCI category 2 marathon stage race taking place over 3 days. It’s the 4th year the event has taken place and I thought it was about time I checked it out. It will be my first visit to southern Portugal, the Algarve is known for its beautiful coastline and sunny climate. Hopefully the trails will be just as good.
This will be my first race since Costa Blanca Bike Race (http://marathonmtb.com/2016/02/01/costa-blanca-bike-race-stage-4/). Costa Blanca was the opening UCI stage of 2016. Since then there’s been numerous UCI stage races.
Salamina Island hosted UCI events throughout February with a mix of individual XC races and XC stage races. (http://marathonmtb.com/2016/02/24/hellas-salamina-greek-mountain-bike-racing/).
Mid February the Tankwa Trek took place in South Africa, although not a UCI event it did see several big guns come out to play testing their form ahead of the Cape Epic. The 260km marathon stage race was dominated by Team Bulls 1 of Urs Huber and Karl Platt taking the win despite several mechanic issues, they’ll be looking to iron out those issues before the Epic. The Investec-Songo-Specialized team of Christophe Sauser and Sam Gaze were a solid second, 6 minutes back on GC. Sauser retired last summer but shows no signs of slowing down. Third place went to USN Purefit’s Waylon Woolcock and Darren Lill. Robyn De Groot and Jennie Stenerhag of Team Ascendis Health won the women’s.
Back in Europe, late February saw the XC riders take on the UCI S1 Cyprus Sunshine Cup. The start sheet looked much like a XC World Cup. The riders had a short 4 km timetrial, 2 point to point stages, and a traditional XC race over 4 days. The men’s race was won by Fabian Giger, Maxime Marrotte was second and Marco Fontana was third. Other notable performances include the CX star Mathieu van Der Poel, taking on his first ever MTB race he finished 4th overall and won the 2nd stage, beating rider like Jose Hermida and Jaroslav Kulhavy! Gunn Rita Dahle took the victory in the women’s race.
Elsewhere many of Europe’s best marathon riders were at Andalucia Bike Race in Spain. The UCI S1 race over 6 days saw some tough competition. Former Marathon World Champion Ilias Periklis and Tiago Ferreira of Team Protek by Marconi won the overall by the tightest of margins beating current Marathon World Champion Alban Lakata and Kristian Hynek. The leaders jersey exchanging shoulders each day and was only decided on the last half of day 6. I’m sure the Topeak Ergon pair will be looking for revenge at the Cape Epic in 2 weeks time. Third place went to MMR Factory Team’s Pablo Rodriguez and David Valero. Team Centurion Vaude’s challenge fell to bits with Team 1 suffering mechanical issues and then a broken collarbone. Team 2 was forced to withdraw with one rider suffering from saddle sores. Hopefully they’ll recover and form a good challenge at the Cape Epic, these guys deserve some good luck. Sally Bigham and Katrin Leumann of Topeak Ergon won the women’s.
Next on the calendar is Algarve Bike Challenge. I’m excited to be racing with Austrian Uwe Hochenwarter from the Craft Rocky Mountain Pro Team. The event lasts 3 days and it includes a night prologue and 2 marathon stages covering a total of 185Km. The event will be hosted in the historical city of Tavira starting with the 3km night prologue taking place around the narrow town centre streets. Saturday’s queen stage will take on some tough climbs through the Serra do Caldeirão. The 100km stage is said to be a mix of rocky singletrack and demanding gravel roads. The Serra offers panoramic views over Algarve’s coast to delight the riders! The final 85km stage will be shorter but apparently no easier. A totally different type of stage with the riders taking on steep climbs and descents. Panoramic views, marvellous landscapes, stream crossings, abandoned traditional villages are promised. This and the downhill from Alcaria do Cume Hill 500 meters above sea level overlooking the coast promise to make for an unforgettable stage.
I’ll be writing reports for MarathonMTB.com after each stage.
More info on the event can be found on the official website http://algarvebikechallenge.com/