Juri Ragnoli and Elena Gaddoni are now officially “HEROes”. Today, they won the toughest mountain bike marathon in the world, the HERO Südtirol Dolomites. Both were in a class of one’s own on the track around the Sella mountain and the Sassolungo and for both, this victory was a dream come true. OC President Gerhard Vanzi also strives for the concept of “dream”: “The HERO was an ideal calling card for the Dolomites and South Tyrol this year, not least because of the dream weather, the unique scenery and smooth organisation.”
Today’s 8th edition of the HERO Südtirol Dolomites ended with an Italian double and also provided the perfect rehearsal for next week’s World Championships in Singen. These are the first victories for both Juri Ragnoli and Elena Gaddoni. “A win of the HERO is the culmination of my career” said a visibly moved Gaddoni. Ragnoli was also holding back tears: “Strong feelings are surfacing after such a race, it’s like a dream.”
Ragnoli disclosed this morning what he had planned to do on the 86-km circuit with 4,500 m altitude change. He and the Belgian veteran Roel Paulissen were able to pull away from the crowd in the first uphill of Dantercepies increasing their lead to almost three minutes at the second climb of Campolongo. “I noticed at the beginning that my legs are strong” explained Ragnoli after the race. “And I have spread my energy well”.
On the section between the Campolongo and Pordoi passes, which includes also the hardest climb of the race up to the Sourasass, Paulissen had to relent also letting the furiously attacking record holder Paez pass him. The Colombian four-times-winner of the HERO, had an incredible difficult start. “I didn’t feel so well at the start, I had to vomit and even got lost on the way” said Paez. In light of this tough start, he is incredibly pleased with his second place in his favorite race. While Ragnoli rode on his own at the top, last year’s winner Paez was able to keep his lead ahead of third-placed Daniele Mensi.
Mensi who repeated his third place from last year had mixed feelings at the finish. The 28-year-old from Vicenza, Italy had higher hopes for today but lost some time at the beginning of the race. “I was able to catch up on the descent into Canazei, but Ragnoli and Paez were already too far ahead by then” said Mensi who is nevertheless pleased with his result. “To be on the podium in this race is always a good feeling. Also because it confirms that I am in good shape for the World Championships” explains Mensi.
Juri Ragnoli is clearly in top-form. He has been trying to win this race for the last five or six years, but “something had always gone wrong” said Ragnoli. When asked what made the difference this time, the winner grinned and added: “I’m getting married in ten days, maybe that was the energy boost I needed.”
Success at the Sellaronda Hero for Gaddoni
While the 86-km long circuit is rated for the Men’s UCI Marathon World Cup, it is the shorter 60-km long with 3,200 m altitude change that count’s in the women’s category. Nobody dominated it today like Elena Gaddoni who already decided the race in the first kilometers. On Dantercepies, Gaddoni had left behind the field but was still accompanied by Maria Cristina Nisi and by the Pordoi Pass, her lead extended to five minutes. Gaddoni finished with a four minute lead ahead of Austrian Christine Kollman and even almost eight minutes ahead of Carmen Buchacher, also from Austria.
This was a perfect race – “from start to finish” for HERO winner Gaddoni. Although suffering at the end, the lead head been enough to bring a victory to the 37-year-old who considers this the biggest triumph of her career – also given the circumstances. “For me, a race at this altitude is difficult because I live at sea level” said the biker from Romagna, Italy. “But I love the mountains”.
Also second-placed Christina Kollmann confirmed that Gaddoni was in a class of her own. She herself didn’t believe that she could ride so well, because she could still feel the effort she extended to win the Alptentour Trophy. “I was therefore surprised that I got better and better at the end of the race” added Kollmann. She also overtook Nisi, who had been in second place up to then, but was powerless against Gaddoni in the challenging descent of Pordoi Pass.
Third-placed Austrian Carmen Buchacher’s legs were also still suffering from the Alpentour Trophy. She lives and trains in South Africa and is therefore not used to such steep climbs as the HERO. “I always suffer on the uphills and I’m glad if I can find an extra gear” says Buchacher who is particularly comfortable on the downhills of the HERO. “They are versatile and technically sophisticated” said the Austrian who is very satisfied with her result in the race. “It went very well for me, especially considering such a strong field.”
The strength of this field was ultimately also proven by the times set. Average speed was 19 and 15 km/h for Juri Ragnoli and Elena Gaddoni, respectively.
The rest of the HERO was also celebrated today in Selva, albeit some were (a times much) slower. 4017 participants have exhausted this years capacity of the 8th edition of the HERO Südtirol Dolomites. The HERO is thus not only one of the hardest mountain bike marathons of the world, but has become also one of the most coveted. “This more than positive development of the HERO is of course a great pleasure for us organizers” said OC President Gerhard Vanzi. He can take a breather. “An event of this magnitude is associated with many uncertainties, so I am glad that everything went well: most athletes made it to the finish, the weather was good, the spectators got their money’s worth.” adds Vanzi who sees the HERO as an “optimal calling card”. The valleys in the Dolomitesand South Tyrol could show their best side thanks to the cooperation of hundreds of committed volunteers.”
Of notice: Klaus Fontana from nearby Olang, Italy, won the 2010 HERO and with today’s victory of the shorter circuit is thus the first two win both long and short distances.
Ranking HERO Südtirol Dolomites Men (86 km):
1. Juri Ragnoli (ITA) 4:29.30,4
2. Hector Leonardo Paez Leon (COL) 4:36.23,3
3. Daniele Mensi (ITA) 4:41.00,8
4. Uwe Hochenwarter (AUT) 4:42.20,2
5. Tony Longo (ITA) 4:42.48,8
6. Markus Kaufmann (GER) 4:43.59,6
7. Cristian Cominelli (ITA) 4:46.01,0
8. Urs Huber (SUI) 4:51.34,2
9. Luca Ronchi (ITA) 4:52.10,6
10. Cristiano Salerno (ITA) 4:53.20,2
Ranking HERO Südtirol Dolomites 2017 Women (60 Kilometer)
1. Elena Gaddoni (ITA) 4:03.21,8
2. Christina Kollmann (AUT) 4:07.24,4
3. Carmen Buchacher (AUT) 4:11.29,1
4. Maria Cristina Nisi (ITA) 4:14.00,3
5. Costanza Fasolis (ITA) 4:14.19,4
6. Sabine Sommer (AUT) 4:15.40,9
7. Andrea Böttger (AUT) 4:16.24,8
8. Elisa Gastaldi (ITA) 4:22.21,9
9. Elisabeth Steger (ITA) 4:28.57,0
10. Katrin Schwing (GER) 4:33.19,3
The complete ranking list and all times can be found at the race website.