It was the first time for Kranjska Gora to host a race of the iXS European Downhill Cup, but it seemed to be a perfect fit! In the end, Johannes Fischbach und Carina Cappellari dominated the field of more than 400 riders from 24 different countries.
Actually the first EDC race of the season was scheduled to take place in Maribor. However, after some organizational and economic problems, a worthy substitute for the all-time venue had to be found very quickly. Fortunately, Kranjska Gora presented itself as the perfect fit for a downhill race. Up to now, it was mostly famous for winter sport events, but now Kranjska Gora is a new and official member of the iXS family.
On Friday the riders still had to cope with rather unfortunate conditions: permanent rainfall had turned the track into a real trap with lots of roots and a slippery surface, especially in the steep sections. Some of the riders tried to avoid the worst by waiting right until the end of the training session to, at least, ride on a track that was already prepared by their fellow riders to some extent. But one thing was clear right from the start: no one would leave the track without getting themselves dirty.
This time, the Course Check was provided by two Scotts: Lewis Buchanan (GBR – Banshee Bikes Factory Team) and Innes Graham (GBR – MS Mondraker Team). And it definitely seemed like they were already used to such conditions. Another Scotsman even joked: “In Scotland, we’re dreaming of nice summer days like this!” But what seemed to be their advantage faded fast, when the weather cleared on Saturday, allowing the track to dry.
The qualifying was scheduled for the afternoon and for the first time the Elite Men category had already to fight for a seat in the Super Final, including only the Top 30 riders who would then have the chance to fight for the day’s victory and the first points for the rankings on Sunday. Although some of the riders were marked as “protected” due to their rankings in both World Cup and European Cup, they all seemed to give it all. Fastest rider of the day was Johannes Fischbach (GER – Ghost RRP) with a best time of 2:47.540 minutes and a 6-second gap to his strongest competitor and he definitely seemed to be eager to take the title on Sunday as well. In the Elite Women category South American Champ Mariana Salazar (ESA – Commencal) went faster than all the others and set the bar for Sunday’s race.
Sunday’s race started as usual with the Pro Masters category. Michal Sliwa (POL – Myslenice) went fastest with a time of 2:50.780 minutes, followed by Vlastimil Hyncica (CZE – Specialized CZ) and Frank Hedwig (GER – Rad-Art).
In the Youth U17 category Andrea Bianciotto (ITA – ASD Sestriere Bike Club) succeeded in both qualifying and race run. Sylvain Cougoureux (FRA – Les Gets Bikepark) went second, while Ribarich Moritz (AUT – Sports Nut DH Team) finished in third place. The U17 female category had only one participant with Alessia Missiaggia (ITA – Jump DH Team), who nevertheless should be mentioned here as well.
This season, the EDC added a Junior U19 category and it seems to be a complete success as far as numbers and skill levels are concerned. Benoit Cougoureux (FRA – Les Gets Bikepark) set a best time of 2:48.489 minutes which even would have qualified for the Elite Men Super Final at the end of the day. He was followed by Revelli (ITA – Argentina Bike) in second and Silas Grandy (GER – Gates Nicolai) in third place.
In the Elite Women category, Carina Cappellari (SUI – Radon Magura Factory) succeeded, which came as a mild surprise. Of course it was clear that she belongs to the fastest riders of her category, but after all it was her first title in an iXS EDC race. Maybe the new team and the new season finally broke the spell and we are looking forward to hearing more about her in the future. With 3:16.913 minutes Jana Bartova (CZE – Ghost RRP) finished in second, while the winner of the seeding run Mariana Salazar ended up in third.
After the Elite Women Finals the time had finally come for the first ever Elite Men Super Final. The Small Final was already finished and held a surprise as well: One rider who got lots of attention was Miran Vauh (SLO – Blackthorn) who set a pretty good time already early in the competition and therefore set the bar very high. Even though his seeding did not suffice for the Super Final, he would have ended up in second place with the time he set in Sunday’s race.
This weekend’s Super Final included 31, not 30 riders, due to Johannes von Klebelsberg’s (ITA – Ghost RRP) status as “protected”. The overall conditions were simply perfect and set the base for some fast results. Klebelsberg started first and finished with 2:45.460 minutes which already nearly reached Fischbach’s seeding result. Most of the other riders failed to beat this time, until Lutz Weber (SUI – Swiss Downhill Syndicate) took the lead – but not for long: Rastislav Baranek (SLV – Lapierre-CMS) went faster, but was almost immediately edged out by Slawomir Lukasik (POL – NSbikes FroPro) who set a new best time of 2:40.592 minutes. While Lukasik took some time to relax in the Red Bull Hot Seat, the other riders, one by one, failed to reach his time. Neither Wyn Masters (NZL – Team Bulls), David Trummer (AUT – Ghost RRP), Nick Beer (SUI – Radon Magura Factory), nor Jure Zabjek (SLO – Unior Tools Team) managed to take the lead and in the end it was only Fischbach who was able to alter the final result. And at the end he did it, but only by split seconds! With a gap of only 0,877 seconds he set the best time of the day with 2:39.715 minutes and collected his first points for the rankings.
The race in Kranjska Gora opened the season with a rather demanding race on a difficult track. The season has officially begun and the first of five races is already in the books. The next date on the EDC agenda will be 20th/21st of June, when the second round will take us to Schladming as one of the highlights of the season. However, most of the riders will probably already meet again next weekend, when the iXS Dirt Masters Festival in Winterberg (Germany) will open its gates once again. For more information, visit www.ixsdownhillcup.com
Photos: © extreme-pics.de / Thomas Dietze