Race Report: Italian Double in Abetone
After a long 8-week break, the iXS European Downhill Cup finally returned with its third race out of six. 200 riders from 30 different nations made their way to Abetone in Italy and the weather was simply perfect – welcome to Tuscany!
For most participants this was probably the longest journey to be made this season, but looking back at an incredible weekend it was definitely worth the extra mile. And everyone who already attended one knows that Italian races are always special – be it in Val di Sol, Pila or Abetone. As usual the weekend started with the track walk on Friday.
One thing that is special about Italian races is always their race tracks, which are longer and even more demanding than usual. But of course security is always on point and the organizers obviously also focus on the overall appearance. For its iXS debut last season, the downhill track in Abetone‘s Gravity Park was especially modified and there have also been some more changes for 2019. The result was a track that offered a wide variety of everything our riders can possibly desire.
With an overall length of 2.5 kilometers the track is rather long and offers a total descend of 450 meters. The upper section is a mixture of alpine terrain with some off-camper turns and jumps. This section is all about keeping up momentum either by trying to be as aerodynamic as possible or with some extra fast pedaling. After that the track gets a little steeper with some nice banked curves before it enters the woods for some roots and rocks. After more than 5 minutes the riders finally cross the finish line after what might well be the toughest run of the season.
Saturday - Qualification
After a long six-hour training session on Friday, Saturday started with one more chance to finalize the lines and increase speed. The overall conditions were perfect, but the enormous length of the track took its toll stamina-wise and so it was extremely important not to waste every last bit of energy already during training.
In the afternoon it was time for the qualifications, which would set the stage (and the starting order) for Sunday’s race and at the same time decide who would take part in the Elite Men‘s Super Final. At the end of the day Christopher Philogene (RSA - 2 Bros Racing) and Veronika Widmann (ITA - Insync Racing) delivered the best times of the Elite categories.
Christopher Philogene - iXS EDC #3 Abetone 2019 © Rick Schubert
Luka Berginc (SLO - KK Crn Trn) came in second place with only split seconds towards Philogene, while Widmann finished with a rather clear 6-second gap after Eleonora Farina (ITA - MS Mondraker Team) crashed right before the finish line and had to go back to get her bike to cross it. So one thing was clear: it was going to be an exciting race with some real competition on Sunday!
On Sunday the overall conditions had slightly shifted as the track was rather rutted and the high temperatures added to the overall strain as the air got thinner towards the top in 1.8 km height. But at least the conditions were the same for everyone and the stage was set for an exciting race!
The Pro Masters opened the race and once more Benjamin Herold (GER - Giant Germany) delivered the best time of 5.02,914 minutes, proving that last year‘s result was no one-hit-wonder! He finished 2 seconds faster than Benny Strasser (GER - Magura Santa Cruz) in second place, followed by Fabrizio Dragoni (ITA - Alessi Racing Team) in third.
Benjamin Herold & Racement Crew - iXS EDC #3 Abetone 2019 © Marcus Müller
In the U17 female category Kine Haugom (NOR - Drammen Cykleklubb) finished fastest, while Nuno Zuzarte Reis (POR - Commencal) succeeded in the U17 male with 5.00,892 minutes. Oisin O’Callaghan (IRL - Trek Ireland Racing), who finished fastest during qualification, ended up in second place, leaving David Cvinger (CZE - Ore MTB Racing Team) in third.
Nuno Zuzarte Reis - iXS EDC #3 Abetone 2019 © Rick Schubert
In the U19 male Zak Gomilscek (SLO - Sinter Brakes Team) finished with an incredibly fast 4.54,705 minutes, beating his own best time from Saturday and a 6.5 second-gap towards second place Tarmo Ryynänen (FIN - Team Mountain Bike Shop). Onni Rainio (FIN - Saracen SportSource) completed the podium in third place.
Among the Elite Women the competition was on between Widmann and Farina, again, after their fight for the Italian Championships last week. This time, however, Veronika Widmann succeeded with a time of 5.21,114 and a huge 12-second gap towards Farina, almost making up for the lost title.
Veronika Widmann - iXS EDC #3 Abetone 2019 © Rick Schubert
Janine Hübscher (SUI - JC Racing Verbier) finished in third place again and also fourth and fifth place were the same as on Saturday with Abigail Hogie (USA - Pivot Cycles Devo Team) and Lea Rutz (SUI - iXS Gravity Union).
The Super Final of the Elite men provided the crowd with quite a show, as the times kept getting faster. While only 15 riders cracked the 5-minute mark on Saturday, it became clear that they all would this time already early on in the race. The first rider to beat Saturday‘s best time, however, was Harry Molloy (GBR - Insync Racing), but Davide Palazzari (ITA - Scout Nukeproof) was up next and finished even two seconds faster, making this his first appearance on an international podium.
Davide Palazzari - iXS EDC #3 Abetone 2019 © Rick Schubert
After that all eyes were on the two remaining favorites Berginc and Philogene. Berginc came close to Molloy’s time, but ended up in third place in the end. And also Philogene, who has proven to be always one for the podium on various occasions, could not beat Palazzari’s time and missed the title by 6 seconds, finishing in fourth place. This was it: Palazzari made it an Italian double, while Molloy defended last year’s second place. Berginc completed the podium in third, followed by Christopher Philogene and Felix Klee (SUI - ZHDH).
Podium Elite Men - iXS EDC #3 Abetone 2019 © Rick Schubert
After the EDC‘s second visit to Abetone, it already feels like home! With a track that stands out among international downhill venues, it is definitely worth the trip and those riders, whoused this weekend in Abetone to prepare for the World Cup in Andorra, should feel well prepared. The next stop of the iXS European Downhill Cups takes the riders to Italy one more time in only four weeks‘ time. See you all in Pila!