Now in its sixth successful year of delivering a mountain bike festival aimed at all the family and putting the stars of tomorrow into the limelight today. The Specialized Rookies Cup and the iXS Rookies Championships traditionally takes place on the first weekend of August in Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis.
After introducing the Rookies Championships six years ago, the event now has become an established and fixed part of the annual iXS agenda. Focused on the Juvenile/Cadets up to the Junior aged riders, this event gives them the experience of a lifetime racing in front of the cameras and spectators. Similar to the proceedings of the international UCI World Championships, the iXS International Rookies Championships open the international stage to the younger categories U13, U15 and U17. As well as replicating a full-blown iXS level event with over 300 riders signed on from 27 countries, making this a truly international affair. And as this is the only event of its kind, it annually lures young riders from all over Europe and even from other continents to Austria.
Unlike the traditional races that usually start on Friday, the Rookies Festival already started a week early with the Rookies Camp. With only 30 seats the camp was fully booked in nearly no time and the 30 riders who made it into the camp were provided with the full downhill rookie package, including different courses and workshops.
Practice started early on Friday morning with riders coming to grips with a wet and greasy course after a night of thunderstorms and torrential rain. The trail fairies had a few surprises for the racers with a number of subtle track changes, none more so than the first corner which saw all the action and crashes! Then, all eyes were on the youngest riders of the U13 and U15 categories that included 120 riders who are not yet allowed to participate in other international races.
At the end of the day Till Alran (FRA - X1 Racing) won the Boys U13 class by almost 9-seconds over Lorenzo Mascherini (ITA - Tribe team). In the U15 class the duel between Mike Huter (SUI - Bikecorner Baar) and Henri Kiefer (GER - SRAM Young Guns) entered the next round. This time the swiss boy was the fastest of the seeding.
Like with many a recent event, the weather threw a spanner in the works as halfway through the seeding run, a monstrous thunderstorm landed. The decision was made to cancel the rest of seeding and transfer over to Saturday those that never had the opportunity to get a timed run.
On Saturday the weather was more favourable and greeted the riders with dry conditions and a bright sun shining from a blue sky, so it was finally time for some downhill action. In the morning the riders tried to adjust to the drying track during their training session. Afterwards the finals of the Specialized Rookies Cup showed great racing. But, there was one special feature: This race accounted as the Seeding Run for the iXS International Rookies Championships. Due to its great importance, both the Specialized Rookies Cup and the iXS Rookies Champs were broadcasted live. Even the commentators were well known: Si Patton himself for the English channel and Guido Heuber for the German version.
The winners of the youngest categories were Till Alran (Boys U13) and Henri Kiefer (Boys U15). Fastest of the Girls U13/U15 was Vanesa Petrovska (SVK - Deem Racing Team).
Thomas Shakespeare (GBR - Firecrest lovelo) confirmed his form with an emphatic win in the Youth U17 class. And what else can you say about Jackson Goldstone (CAN - Trek Fox Oakley)? Another race and another big victory for the Canadian, but this one was hard-fought and definitely did not come easy. Izabela Yankova (BUL - Riders United) took the prestigious win of the Girls U17/U19.
Die Klasse Youth U17 gewann Thomas Shakespeare (GBR - Firecrest lovelo) wobei bei dem lizenzierten Pendant Pro U17 male Jackson Goldstone (CAN - Trek Fox Oakley) mit der Tagesbestzeit von 3:00.468 Minuten den obersten Podestplatz einfahren konnte. Bei den Girls U17/U19 ließ Izabela Yankova (BUL - Riders United) nichts anbrennen. Bester U19 Fahrer war am Ende Jonas Göweil (AUT - Bike Republic Gravity Team).
The last day of the festival started dry and greeted the riders and their families with sunny skies and dusty conditions. Practice kicked off at 09:00 giving the rider's two hours to dial their lines and improve on yesterday's race runs. The Girls U13 opened the race and as the overall conditions improved also the times got faster. Rosa Zierl (AUT - Downhill Team Tirol) succeeded with a 7-second lead towards Anouk Reiner (AUT - Downhill Team Tirol).
In the Boys U13 category Till Alran set a best time of 3:17.229 minutes which brought him the title at the end of the day. After running into some serious problems in the seeding, George Madley (GBR - Brink) was the first rider down the hill and occupied the Red Bull Hot Seat for for what felt like an eternity. His fellow-countryman Tom Westgate (GBR) crossed the finish line in second place, pushing Madley to third.
In the Girls U15 category Slovanian Vanesa Petrovska set the best time of 3:36.540 minutes, leaving Marie Aichner (ITA - ASV St. Lorenzen) in second and Melina Bast (GER - Propain Talent Factory) in third place.
What a surprise! In the Boys U15 category Henri Kiefer was the clear favourite after a great performance in the whole season, but then was beat by Mike Huter who set the best time with 3:05.796 minutes.
In the Girls U17 category Izabela Yankova once more delivered the best time of 3:27071 minutes and took the title as iXS Rookies Champion. This seems to be a name to remember! Anastasia Thiele (GER - BSS Youth Syndicate) came in second, Phoebe Gale (GBR - Tweedlove Collective) in third.
Last but not least, the Boys U17 category was up. Jackson Goldstone finished with an incredibly fast 2:57.885 minutes, beating his own best time from Saturday and a one second-gap towards second place Nuno Zuzarte Reis (POR - Commençal). Loic Martin (FRA - Commencal/100%) completed the podium in third place.
Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis is the place where we set the stage for our youngest riders and talents to open the gates to a promising career. The whole weekend is centered on you - the downhill youth - and covered by live footage to spread the word. The iXS Rookies Championships will return next year – same place, same time: Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis at the first weekend in August and it’s always worth a trip for your whole family – that’s a promise! Just make sure to save the date!