David Trummer and Zarja Cernilogar succeed in Maribor
The first round of the iXS European Downhill Cup 2014 is in the books. This weekend, about 380 riders from 27 different nations made their way to Maribor (Slovenia) to take part in a race on one of the world’s most popular tracks.
Maribor is special in more than just one way: Already since the end of the ’90s, Maribor has been a traditional venue for international races and despite some longer breaks in the big racing business, it never stopped being present in the scene. There is hardly another track that has been referred to as the favorite track of the downhill elite more often. And it’s even more than this – every single race is special: The course is situated directly above the city with its 100 000 inhabitants and provides the riders not only with a perfect track, but also with a huge number of visitors and spectators – two ingredients that are essential for big events in the sport. The final ingredient for a perfect weekend would have been the sun shining from a blue sky – but what’s really perfect? At least on Sunday, the rain stopped for a few hours.
It has been a tough weekend, especially for the organizers. Already on Thursday, the weather put up a first obstacle: a heavy storm caused quite a few damaged passages of the track that had to be mended on Friday in the early morning. Just in time for the track walk, numerous helping hands were able to fix the track until 10:00 a.m. After this, the riders started their first training sessions of the weekend. Despite the rather bad weather conditions, the 2,6 km track with its 450 m difference in altitude was in nearly perfect shape again. Therefore, the first enthusiastic candidates, like Markus Pekoll (AUT – MS Mondraker) already proved their ambitions in the first training sessions.
On Saturday, the choice of tires was an easy one: after heavy rainfall all night long, there was basically no choice left. Even the fact that the rainfall stopped around noon did not help very much: the overall conditions for the Seeding Run were still far from easy. They were, however, the same for all the participants, but some of the riders seemed to be more used to them than others. Pekoll, for example, can be counted to the “rain-riders”, although he definitely prefers dryer conditions in general. David Trummer (AUT – RRP Ghost) also seemed to be not too challenged by the weather and succeeded in Saturday’s Seeding Run. The former Junior vice champion already proved his skills under similar conditions in Champéry and after a spectacular second place in Maribor last season he is eager to reach the first place this time. With 20 years he belongs to the youngest favourites of the season. In the Elite Women category, Zarja Cernilogar (SLO – Blackthorn-GT) put up the fight where she left off: With a ten-second lead in her Seeding Run, she set the bar already quite high on Saturday.
On Sunday, the weather showed some sympathy with the riders – or maybe it just ran out of water for a while. It stayed relatively dry all day and even the sun came out for the finals. As always, the Masters went first: last year’s winner Rostislav Stencel (CZE – Bikeplac Racing Team) put up a real fight against his strongest competitor Frank Hedwig (GER – RAD-ART). At the end, he was able to defend his title while Hedwig went second, followed by Christian Voigt (GER – Reichmann Engineering) in third.
The U17 category was dominated by Till Ulmenschneider (GER – Youngguns), followed by Mirko Manazzale (ITA – Airoh Axo SantaCruz) and Filip Zeman (SVK – CTM Racing Team).
In the Elite Women category, Jirková Simona (CZE – Giant Cycling Team) set a real fast split time, before Mariana Slazar (ESP – MC RACING) took over her lead. In the meantime, Harriet Ruecknagel (GER – RAD-ART) failed to keep up her result of the seeding run and finished in twelfth place in her final run. Also the Seeding Run second Janá Bartova (CZE – Bikeplac Racing Team) did not reach Slazar’s time. However, Zarja Cernilogar was the last woman to ride down the track and she definitely delivered some high-class racing. With a best time of 4:22.645 minutes and an eight-second lead, she succeeded and took the first title of the European Cup in 2014.
The Elite Men category also provided the spectators with some real action. The 16-year old Loris Rivelli (ITA – Argentina Bikes) was the first to ride down the hill and already set a time that would have saved him a place in the top 6 in the Seeding Run. Even Joe Connell (GBR – SC-Intense) did not reach this time and so Rivelli occupied the Red Bull Hot Seat for quite some time. After 45 minutes, another Italian rider took over his lead, when Simone Medici (ITA – Pedroni Cycles Racing Team) set a new best time with 3:38.221 minutes. Another 60 minutes later, Martin Lebl (CZE – Krabcycles Trek) took over with 3:35.813 minutes. From now on, the Red Bull Hot Seat was occupied by a lot of different riders in a row: first, Maxime Chapuis (SUI – Specialized) took the lead, then he was edged out by Robin Wallner (SWE – Team W-Racing), who gave way to Slawomir Lukasik (POL – NSbikes FroPro) shortly after. Cameron Cole (NZL – Rinding Addiction) set a very fast split time, but finished only in seventh in the end. Seeding Run second Markus Pekoll finished in ninth place, while David Trummer was able to keep up his lead in the end with an incredible best time of 3:30.148 minutes. Trummer took the first EDC title of his category in 2014, followed by Lukasik in second and Wallner, who completed the podium and took his 5th podium of the iXS EDC. Only five minutes after Trummer crossing the finish line, heaven opened its gates and it started raining again.
The first round of the iXS European Downhill Cup is in the books, the season has started and the first points for the overall rankings have been collected. One race done – six to go. In five week’s time, riders and spectators will make their way to Schladming in Austria, when it is time for some more high-class downhill in the second round of the EDC 2014. We’re looking forward to it