Bright blue skies and picture-book conditions were present in the UNESCO World Heritage Dolomites: organisers and participants of the BMW HERO Südtirol Dolomites could not have asked for more. The hugely popular race still presents an immense challenge in fine weather and the 4018 starters had to give it their all on 86 kilometres and 4500 vertical metres around the Sella mountain group, the Sassolungo and the Alpe di Siusi.
The men’s record winner Leonardo Paez was unbeatable today, able to pull away in the first climb on Dantercepies together with last year’s winner Yuri Ragnoli from a field that included three world champions and afterwards a fall almost dashed his hopes. “I lost a few precious seconds to Yuri, but gradually made them up again” said the HERO record winner. After that, Paez proved again that the HERO is like his home race: “For me this is a very special race, even if it is hard from the beginning to the end” said the Colombian, for whom former World Champion Massimo Debertolis found the right description: “Paez is otherwise incredibly strong, but at the HERO simply great.”
While Leonardo Paez was the top favorite to win, Martino Tronconi’s second place is a tangible surprise. The 22-year-old from Faenza in the province of Ravenna (ITA) could not challenge Paez today, but he left the rest of the field more than a minute and a half behind: “I was hoping for a top 10 result, but this is just unbelievable” so Tronconi after the finish line in Selva. He had first stuck to the group of top riders behind Paez and Ragnoli, but then realized that he still had energy: “So I thought: you are 22 years old and have nothing to lose!” Tronconi said.
There was a tough battle for third place in the last few kilometers, which the Swiss Urs Huber finally secured for himself. “A podium finish today was my goal and it feels sensational that it worked” said the 33-year-old from Mettmenstetten in the canton of Zurich (SUI). He had a precise plan for today’s race and didn’t push too hard on the first uphills. “That’s why I still had reserves and finally made it from eighth to third” said Huber, who in 2016 captured the overall victory in the Cape Epic in South Africa, the hardest stage race in the world.
The women’s Hero
While the men compete on longer 86 km distance for the UCI Marathon World Cup, it is the “short” variant over 60 km and 3200 vertical meters for the ladies. Schladming’s Christina Kollmann-Forstner (AUT) made the leap from last year’s silver to the top of the podium: “This victory means so much to me, it’s the one I still missed” said the 30-year-old reigning European champion. The HERO was indeed a “very, very difficult race, but today everything worked perfectly from the beginning to the end” said the winner. She looked around the Sella Pass and said, “There was no one behind me, so I could just enjoy the last few kilometres of the race” said Kollmann.
The Lithuanian Katazina Sosna rode through the finish in Selva with more than 3.16 minutes behind Kollmann: “This second place feels like a victory” said Sosna, who could not even be stopped by a fall today. “The race was incredibly hard, but I kept my excellence and was able to keep the rhythm” said the 28-year-old, who rides for the Torpado-Südtirol team. “This success means a lot to me, also because it is the home race of our sponsor” says Sosna.
The best Italian, Mara Fumagalli from Lecco, came in third after Kollmann and Sosna today. “It was very important to be the first Italian to finish today, also because I was able to leave an impression for the World Cup” said the 30-year-old. Today she was in very good shape after missing a few races this season “although the HERO is always extremely difficult – not least because of the altitude” said Fumagalli.
An old acquaintance finally prevailed on the men’s 60 km track: Klaus Fontana from nearby Olang (ITA) after winning the first HERO in 2010 on the long track and also the 60 km last year. “The HERO is the most important race of the year for me” says Fontana, “and a win here is the best thing ever.”
The head of the Organizing Committee Gerhard Vanzi, was able to experience a perfect HERO today: “A race with this weather and in these conditions is a dream” says Vanzi: “For the riders, the organizers and for the whole Dolomite area, showing off its most beautiful side.“ Today Vanzi also recalled the rapid development of the HERO since its first edition in 2010, the annual novelties and the international network that has been built around the race. “All this creates those emotions every year that keep the interest in the HERO so strong” said the OC head. And even if the HERO 2018 has just concluded, Vanzi is already looking ahead to 2019. “Next year we celebrate our 10th anniversary and we have already a lot in store for the event” said Vanzi who also thanked the hundreds of volunteers today. “You can not emphasise this often enough” says Vanzi, “without the diligence, dedication and expertise of our volunteers, such an event would never be possible.”
Results HERO Südtirol Dolomites Men (86 km)
Hector Leonardo Paez Leon (COL) 4:28.45,1
Martino Tronconi (ITA) 4:34.33,2
Urs Huber (SUI) 4:36.05,6
Samuele Porro (ITA) 4:36.38,1
Alban Lakata (AUT) 4:37.31,2
Diego Alfonso Arias Cuervo (COL) 4:38.41,0
Roel Tony Paulissen (BEL) 4:42.07,4
Periklis Ilias (GRE) 4:43.38,8
Riccardo Chiarini (ITA) 4:43.39,7
Juri Ragnoli (ITA) 4:44.45,0
Results BMW HERO Südtirol Dolomites Ladies (60 km)
Christina Kollmann-Forstner (AUT) 3:50.01,4
Katazina Sosna (LTU) 3:53.17,8
Mara Fumagalli (ITA) 3:54.49,9
Blaza Pintaric (SLO) 3:58.02,7
Elena Gaddoni (ITA) 3:58.48,4
Angela Carolina Parra Sierra (COL) 4:01. 56,0
Sally Bigham (GBR) 4:05.19,4
Jessica Pellizzaro (ITA) 4:05.23,9
Gaia Ravaioli (ITA) 4:05.45,2
Costanza Fasolis (ITA) 4:06.43,0