Kranjska Gora already hosted its fifth iXS European Donwhill Cup in a row this year and again more than 200 riders from 25 nations made their way to Slovenia for the second of the six EDC races in 2019. They were provided with all of Kranjska Gora’s familiar flair, breathtaking views and some high-class racing.
However, the weather forecast had been far from perfect right from the start and predicted rain for all three days paired with really low temperatures on Sunday. Everyone who is familiar with the track immediately knew that conditions like these would complicate things immensely. While the last preparations fortunately took place under more suitable conditions, the weather got worse and worse during the week so that the riders were already confronted with the full extent of what was waiting for them this weekend in Friday’s track walk.
Compared to 2018 there have been only a few smaller changes to the track with a new stone field. But after its complete makeover last year the stage was still set for an exciting and demanding race – especially under the current weather situation: the surface was slippery, the roots downright evil and most of the people involved probably had rather spent their weekend somewhere inside. But nonetheless the first training session was scheduled for Friday, so everyone was trying hard to adjust to the overall conditions and find themselves some fast but steady lines.
As the weather and the forecast for the next two days kept getting worse the organizers finally decided to push the race forward to Saturday, before it would start snowing and temperatures would get lower still. And since it is always ‘safety first’, it was the right – and the only – decision to be made. This left Saturday with a really packed schedule, starting with an early training session, immediately followed by the qualifications and the finals in the afternoon.
Saturday confronted the riders with cold and wet conditions, but with this schedule there was simply no time to complain. At least St. Peter seemed to be a little more sympathetic towards the riders and so it stopped raining at 8 am for the time being. After one last short training session the qualifications started, leaving Lea Rutz (SUI - iXS Gravity Union) and Matthias Hafner (GER - Bikepark Albstadt) as the fastest riders of the Elite categories.
After a short break it was already time for the finals, opened by the Masters category in which Frank Hedwig (GER - RAD-ART) delivered the best time of 3.20,282 minutes, followed by Tomás Brozik (CZE - TJ Dobrany) and Willi Lützeler (GER - Cube).
Kine Haugom (NOR - Drammen Cykleklubb), who had just arrived late the night before, dominated the U17 female category despite missing out on Friday’s training session. In the U17 male category Nuno Zuzarte Reis (POR - Commençal) set the fastest time with 3.20,432 minutes, which already brought him his second title after he succeeded in Maribor two weeks ago. Actually he can look back on several successful races during the last few years, especially in the Specialized Rookies Cup and the iXS International Rookies Championships – so this is obviously a name to remember. While Nicolas Baechler (SUI - Idirt Racing Team) finished in second, Robin Novotny (Ofbike Scott Team) completed the podium in third place. After this weekend it is safe to say that if you can cope with conditions like these, you don’t have to be afraid of other tracks in the future, so this weekend’s efforts really payed off especially for the youngest athletes!
In the Elite Women category Lea Rutz confirmed her result of the qualification run and won the race with a time of 4.05,850 and a more than clear 26-second gap towards second place Alessia Messiaggia (ITA - Team Zanolini Bike). Silja Fröhlich (GER - RC 50 Erlangen) finished in third place which is her first Elite podium – congratulations!
The U19 category delivered some real racing action: more than 30 riders fought for the title and with a track that got drier by the minute, the times got faster respectively. At the end of the day it was Onni Rainio (FIN - Saracen SportSource) who finished the 2 kilometers fastest, setting a time of 3.08,543 minutes that would even have landed him in third place on the Elite Men podium, while Hannes Lehmann (GER - MRC Saracen Racing Team) and Marko Niemiz (SLO -Sinter Brakes Team) completed the U19 podium in second and third place.
By the time the Superfinal were about to begin, it had started raining again and it got harder and harder to see amid the clouds especially on the upper section of the track. The Elite Men riders one after the other failed to reach the U19 best time, until Brage Vestavik (NOR - MS Mondraker) came close. Finally it was Kevin Maderegger who finished with a time of 3.04,926 minutes, 5 seconds faster than Vestavik and setting a new best time of the day.
In the meantime, the clouds seemed to get lower still, slowly but surely closing in on the finish line, but by then there were only six more riders to go. But it was not until the second but last one, that someone came close to Maderegger’s best time again. Constantin Ruetsch (SUI - iXS Gravity Union) finished in 3.06,642 minutes, placing himself between Maderegger and Vestavik. After that, all eyes were on Hafner, who had finished fastest in the qualifications but ended up in fourth place in the finals. So at the end of the day, Kevin Maderegger took the title, with Constantin Ruetsch in second and Brage Vestavik in third place.
Despite the bad weather, we will miss Kranjska Gora, but we are also looking forward to the next two stops of the iXS Downhill Cups on German ground that will take us to the Bike Festival in Willingen first, before we make our way to the iXS Dirt Masters Festival in Winterberg. The EDC won’t continue until the end of June, when we will meet again (in a hopefully sunnier setting) in Italy in Abetone.