The Alpentour Trophy is a four day mountain bike stage race that calls the Schladming-Dachstein region home. Known for demanding climbs, the racing is pretty hot at the front, given how close the stage race sits to the XCO World Cup. The 2019 edition has attracted a strong line-up with many defending champions putting a number on their handlebars.
On the first climb Paez accelerated and rode a lonesome day in the front. After three hours he arrived at the finish line at the bottom station of Planai mountain railway. “I was feeling awesome and it was a perfect day. My legs were in shape and I’m totally glad”, explained the overall winner of 2014. Second place went to Italian Daniele Mensi, with a gap of 2:27 minutes to Paez: “It was a good day. I’m happy with my second place as I know that Leonardo is a tough climber and I couldn’t keep up with his pace”.
The two riders attacked their opponents on the way up to Dachstein. At the last kilometres Mensi wasn’t able to follow the pace of Paez. Behind them three athletes fought for the last spot on the podium, which was later occupied by German Markus Kaufmann. “Wow, that was tough today. Maybe it was a little bit too slow for Leonardo at the beginning, that’s why he attacked, while we were on the edge. We struggled to get some time back and at the end we nearly were catched by our chasers”, reported the 38-Year-Old.
At the second climb he was able to outpace Austrian Daniel Geismayr, who won the Trophy in 2017. The Austrian was racing again for the first time since his wrist injury: “I suffered extremely today. It was getting hotter and hotter on the second climb and I didn’t feel well anymore. So I had do ride my own pace and had to let Markus go. After a break of six weeks I’m still not race-hardened”. German Jochen Käß and Austrian Alban Lakata finished 7th and 8th.
At the elite women Belgian Githa Michiels celebrated an unchallenged victory after she rode away on the first climb. She won with an advantage of 10:25 Minutes ahead of Italian Maria Nisi and Estonian Greete Steinburg (+ 11:10). “Surprisingly I felt really good. I wasn’t sure before the start because I was having some knee problems in the last weeks. On the second climb I felt some pain, but at the end it was okay and now I’m enjoying my win”, explained Michiels at the finish line.
Fourth and fifth place went to Germany. 24-year-old Janine Schneider finished ahead of the Olympic Champion of 2008, Sabine Spitz, who is debuting at the Trophy at the age of 47. “It is steep uphill and it is steep downhill”, Spitz smiled, after getting ask how she enjoyed her first day: “The pace was very high. On the second part I was feeling better, got a better rhythm and gained some positions”.
Second stage on Friday is 61 Kilometres long. There are again two climbs to ride. After the start in Schladming the athletes have to go up Reiteralm and Hochwurzen, before coming back to the finish line. Instead of the technical part at Giglach Lakes there is a new route because of the snowy conditions up there.
STAGE 1: Elite Men:
1. Leonardo PAEZ (COL) / Giant Polimedical / 3:00:56
2. Daniele MENSI (ITA) / Soudal Leecougan / + 2:27
3. Markus KAUFMANN (GER) / Texpa – Simplon / + 3:08
4. Daniel GEISMAYR (AUT) / Centurion – Vaude / + 3:27
5. Diego CUERVO (COL) / Giant Polimedical / + 3:29
6. Cristian COMINELLI (ITA) / Soudal Leecougan / 3:37
STAGE 1: Elite Women:
1. Githa MICHIELS (BEL) / Primaflor – Mondraker / 3:36:27
2. Maria NISI (ITA) / New Bike 2008 / + 10:25
3. Greete STEINBURG (EST) / Spordiklubi Rakke / + 11:10
4. Janine SCHNEIDER (GER) / German Technology / + 11:34
5. Sabine SPITZ (GER) / WIAWIS Bikes Pro / + 13:21
6. Angelika TAZREITER (AUT) / KTM Factory Team / + 14:15