Baranek and Rübesam are the Winners
Although it is only just July the iXS European Downhill Cup 2017 is already closing in on its last round. The fourth of five races took the riders to Spicak in the Czech Republic this weekend. The small bike park in the heart of the Bohemian Forest is well-known and has been an established part of the European series for a long time. This year, however, the famous Struggle Trail had been almost completely transformed in a recent makeover before the race and, thus, held some surprises for everyone.
Measuring 1800 meters in length and covering a 320-meter descend, Spicak’s race track does, of course, not belong to the world’s longest ones, but the constant mix of rough and stony ground with lots of great rocks, taking turns with smoother sections in the forest with lots of roots definitely increases the level of difficulty and makes it worthy of the European Downhill elite! After some changes in the overall layout during the past few years, it was time for a little makeover adding even more obstacles to the mix and increasing the overall flow.
On Friday the overall conditions couldn’t have been better: sunshine and mild temperatures made it the perfect training day. The riders seized the chance to check out the new track and to find the best and fastest lines. According to the forecast, however, this would change soon enough.
Fortunately, Saturday’s weather proved the forecast wrong and the sun was right where it belongs, shining bright again. After a last training session in the morning EDC #4 started with the qualification runs. And since the qualification determines who enters Sunday’s Super Final it was no surprise that the speed was sky high right from the start and it almost seemed like the race was already on. At the end of the day Matthew Walker (NZL - Cube Global Squad) set the bar quite high with his best time of 3.04,671 minutes, while Jure Zabjek (SLO - Unior Tools Team), who currently holds the first place of the rankings, finished in second place. Sandra Rübesam (GER - Nukeproof Factory) set the best time among the Elite Women category with 3.34,064 minutes.
Sunday morning brought some rainfall, but just in time for the last training session before the race the rain seemed to stop. However, that turned out to be only the calm before the storm and it started pouring again soon. Fortunately, the sun came out again during the race and the stage was set for the final runs!
The Pro Masters category opened the race. For the first time in a European Downhill Cup Frank Hedwig (GER - Rad-Art) finished fastest, followed by reigning German Champion Dominik Dierich (GER - Trek AmperRad) in second place and Fabian Buschor (SUI - RSF) in third.
In the U17 category Blake Ross (NZL - Revolution Products NZ) took yet another title, after winning both the Rookies Cup in Saalbach and the German Cup in Ilmenau. Three titles in three weeks? Sounds like the start of a promising career! Martin Brza (CZE - Banshee Bikes) finished in second place and Anton Metsärinta (FIN - Specialized) completed the podium in third. Valentina Höll (AUT - Sram TLD Racing) was once again crowned the fastest female U17 rider.
Valentin Ricca (ARG - Argenteam) succeeded in the U19 category when he crossed the finish line only split seconds faster than second place Rudi Pintar (SLO - Sinter Brakes Team). Pascal Reusser (SUI - Hot-Trail Racing) finished in third place.
The Elite Women category ended with a German double this weekend: while the German champion herself could not attend the race this past weekend, vice champion Sandra Rübesam delivered the best time in both her qualification and her race run with a 5-second gap towards Nina Hoffmann (GER - ERST Racing Team) in second place.
It was the best result in a European Cup in both of their careers! Jana Bartova (CZE - Bikeplac racing) completed the podium in third, while Monika Hrastnik (SLO - Blackthorn) finished in fourth, which makes her the clear leader of the rankings and next week’s odds-on favorite.
In the Elite Men category this weekend brought a rather surprising result after Walker and Zabjek - both favorites - failed to take the title. Instead, Rastislav Baranek (SVK - Kellys Factory Team) finished as fastest rider of the day and thus took his first title in a European Downhill Cup. Of course he already demonstrated his skills with a sixth place in Kranjska Gora and the fourth in Willingen, but this result was a surprise nonetheless!
Unfortunately, 22-year old Baranek could not attend the awards ceremony, after he injured his knee when he crashed right after he had crossed the finish line.
Andreas Kolb (AUT - MRC Saracen Racing Team) finished in second place, while Felix Klee (SUI - Team Project) completed the podium. Joshua Barth (GER - Solid Reverse Factory Racing) was the fastest German rider in his category and took the fourth place.
Although Jure Zabjek (SLO - Unior Tools Team) did not reach the podium this weekend, but ended up in fifth place, he still managed to defend his lead in the rankings and is the clear favorite for the title. With 1035 points in the rankings (263 points more than Baranek) it would take the first place in both qualification and final run in Leogang for Baranek, as well as a complete failure on Zabjek’s side to take that away from him.
Four races in the book, one last race to go! This final round of the iXS European Downhill Cup invites the European Downhill Elite to the former World Cup track in Leogang (Austria) in mid-September. In the meantime, the iXS Downhill Cup continues with the first race of the iXS Swiss Downhill Cup in Schönried.