Andreas Seewald and Natalia Fischer Esusquiza are the new European champions after the 2021 Cross Country Marathon (XCM) European Championships. If the Swiss were a bit behind in the men’s category, the Swiss women shon as the Swiss champion Steffi Häberlin finished in second place, ahead of the world champion Ramona Forchini and Ariane Lüthi who had a close race for the bronze.
Samuele Porro was active all race, and tried to make the difference by breaking away on the first climb. The Italian, who had already finished second at the European Championships, also took all the risks in the downhill sections, because he knew that the best climber, Andreas Seewald, was on his heels. But on the last long climb to Beplan, the highest point of the course, the German Seewald managed to catch the Italian and drop him. On the last kilometers of the climb, he managed to make a gap of five minutes, which Seewald managed on the last descent to ride to the title of European champion. Second place went to Porro ahead of the Czech Martin Stosek. Swiss champion Martin Fanger finished as the best Swiss rider, finishing in eighth place.
Seewald, who has a reputation for not being the best descender, was satisfied that his tactics worked: “I wanted to do as much damage as possible on the climb, i.e. to cause a pre-selection. I did that pretty well. But then I fell twice on the slight downhill. I was just too nervous. But on the second climb I was able to show that I was the strongest, which really satisfies me”. The Italian Porro, who finished second for the third time in a row, was quite philosophical: “I tried everything until the end and I have nothing to reproach myself for. I pushed hard on the climbs and risked everything on the descents. But Seewald was simply stronger. A medal is a medal.”
Martin Stosek, in third place, had technical problems right from the start of the race: “I couldn’t change gears properly. This caused me problems on this very demanding course. But I am happy for my teammate Andreas Seewald who was able to win. Considering the situation, I am satisfied with this third place.”
In the women’s race, Steffi Häberlin went in the hunt for the title by breaking away in the first few kilometers of the race. But she also paid a little for her efforts on the last climb. The Spaniard Natalia Fischer Esusquiza was able to overtake the Swiss champion, who was then able to keep this position until the finish line to finish as European vice-champion. World champion Ramona Forchini, who was also aiming for the title, had to settle for the bronze medal.
At the finish, Fischer was overwhelmed by her feelings. Her great-grandfather was originally from Evolène and later emigrated to Spain as a migrant worker. The Swiss woman at heart ran the perfect race to win her first European title.
Steffi Häberlin’s ambitions were thwarted by leg cramps on the last climb: “I had never experienced this before. On the first climb, everything went well. My tactic was not to let anyone go. That’s how I approached the race and I don’t regret it. But on the last climb, I really suffered. On the last run, I had no chance to catch Fischer, so in the end I am very satisfied with the silver medal.”
“The second half of the race was very difficult for me. I had to take all the risks in the last run because Ariane Lüthi was coming back on me. And that’s when I crashed but fortunately I was able to continue.” This is how Ramona Forchini summed up her fight for the title, she who had started to win and had concentrated her tactics on Katazina Sosna, who had won the Dolomiti Hero last week. Despite a difficult day, she was satisfied to have been able to defend her third place until the end.