Summer seems to be as good as over, with a thick, black cloud hanging over the whole of Europe. And it wasn’t just at the World Champs in Andorra that the riders sank in a heap of mud, as Northern Italy’s Paganella witnessed not only a ton of riders descending on the valley but also masses of water. Here’s our report from the penultimate round of the European Enduro Series.
By Saturday morning the rain had already been hammering down for an uninterrupted 24 hours and the sun had long hidden itself behind layers of thick fog. With the mercury doing its best to reach 10°C, the organisers of this round of EEC declared training mandatory, requiring each rider to complete the five technical stages at least once prior to the race – although it wasn’t as if any riders were shying away from the added challenge.
Despite the less than ideal conditions, there were 146 riders with ambition etched on their weather-beaten faces. With the region known for its unspoiled natural trails, familiar from last year’s successful Terlago race, the motivation was not surprising.
It seemed as though nothing could put a dampener on the good mood at the race – not the critical sections, the incessant rain nor the countless crashes. The trails quickly became rutted out with more and more berms forming, and many sections had ample grip thanks to the rain impacting on the loose ground. Over the course of the day the roots, the rocks and the off-camber sections got slippier, witnessing some pretty spectacular feats of riding.
Familiar from Riva, the ground’s white rocks in Paganella were now covered in mud, offering little to no grip. With steep sections demanding some considered front-wheel braking action, few riders wanted to risk crashing due to potential crucial time losses. ‘Sketchy’ was certainly the most overheard word of the day…
Race day! With no prologue on the previous day, Sunday’s race start was wide open. With the sun out in force, several riders attempted to assess the ground situation around the start area, reaching the conclusion the sun had so far merely managed to dry the tarmac. Around 8.30 the first wave of riders headed towards Stage 1, enjoying views from the gondola and chairlift as they were transported up the mountain.
Compared to the other stages, the not-overly steep Stage 1 was the best awakener the riders could hope for. The loose pine needle-strewn floor had soaked up the majority of the water, and those taking the main line choices and riding in the previous day’s grooves enjoyed decent grip – ‘at least 100 times more than yesterday’ commented our photographer. For those with their eye on the clock, the main line choice wasn’t an option, and riskier but ultimately faster line choices took in disguised stones and slippery roots.
A short transfer and another gondola ascent took the riders to Stage 2, which grabbed them by the balls from the get-go, demanding unhindered concentration and some serious levels of skill on the bike. Dropping down from the summit, the first section was full of sharp rocks and switchbacks, before an energy-sapping counter climb led you onto a singletrack, reminiscent of the first stage.
The following stages played out in a similar manner, keeping the riders on their toes. Stage 5 necessitated full gas from the riders after a long uphill; with around 100 metres of vertical gain in the stage, they needed not only technical prowess but power for pedaling too.
Clocking an overall time of 34:52 min, Markus Reiser (Focus Trail Team) cinched victory on the day and claimed the top spot in the current standings for the European Enduro Series. His teammate Fabian Scholz (Focus Trail Team) finished second, closely followed by Rudolf Biedermann.
With an advantage of over 2 minutes, Raphaela Richter (Radon Factory Enduro Team) once again led the pro women’s category from the gun, finishing ahead of Lisa Policzka and Monika Büchi in second and third respectively.
In the Masters race Marcin Motyka rode to victory, followed by Jan Vaner and Nicolas Siedel.
For more information and the full results head to: europeanenduroseries.com/paganella
Words: Daniel Schlicke Photos: Ross Bell
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