Fischbach and Widmann win in Kranjska Gora
Johannes Fischbach and Veronika Widmann won the first round of the iXS European Cup 2016. 400 riders from 32 different nations made their way to Kranjska Gora this weekend, to celebrate the opening of the season and to collect some first important points for the rankings.
This past weekend the iXS European Downhill Cup hosted its first race of the season in Kranjska Gora – the race for the European title has officially begun! This year’s cup consists of 6 different – but equally demanding – races in Slovenia, Germany, Austria, France and the Czech Republic.
The first points for the rankings are now in the books and it was a hard piece of work for the riders. After the debut for Kranjska Gora in 2015, some of them were already familiar with the “old school“ character of the 2000-meter track, but some new sections and lots of smaller modifications still bore a surprise or two.
Even if the season already started months ago in some regions, it was the first appearance on stage for what we like to call the protagonists of the European Cup. And as usual the first competition was also one of the most interesting ones, as it usually sets the scene for the whole season. During the off-season nearly everything can change and in the first race everybody wants to check out their competitors for the season to come. After all, there are new teams and sponsors, riders come and go, everyone is training hard and some riders need to adjust to a completely new situation.
If we take our two odds-on favorites Johannes Fischbach (GER), last year’s winner of the EDC, and Markus Pekoll (AUT) for example: Fischbach switched teams to the Radon Magura Factory Team after more than a decade, finally leaving his comfort zone. Pekoll hasn’t switched teams and continues to be part of the MS Mondraker Team, however, he has to face some crucial changes on his bike with new tires, new protectors and a different chassis, after a change in his sponsors. One could assume that this situation makes it far from easy for both of them, however, a look at their results in their first two World Cup races tells a different story!
The weather was at its best when the qualification runs started on Saturday under a bright and shining sun. In the Elite Women category Italian Champion Veronika Widmann (ITA – Bike Club Egna Neumarkt) seized the chance to prove her skills and set a best time with a 3-second gap towards Carina Cappellari (SUI – Radon Magura Factory Team) followed by European champion Jana Bartova (CZE – RRP). During the Elite Men runs, however, the weather seemed to change for the worse for quite some time, but fortunately it did not start to rain and the conditions were equally good for all the riders. At the end of the day Slawomir Lukasik (POL – NS Bikes FroPro) went fastest. Markus Pekoll (AUT – MS Mondraker) followed suit, while Johannes Fischbach (GER – Radon Magura Factory) took a preliminary third place.
As usual the Masters category opened Sunday’s race and was dominated by Michal Sliwa (POL – Myslenice-Top Riders), followed by Rowan Sorrell (GBR – Bikepark Wales) and Frank Hedwig (GER – RAD-ART). The U17 female category consisted of four young ladies this weekend—which should definitely be mentioned, even if might seem very small at first—every single one of them representing a bright and promising future for the female side of the scene. For three of these riders it was their first international race after some successful seasons in the iXS Rookies Cup. In the end, Valentina Höll (AUT – YT Industries) set the best time in her category and Anna Newkirk (USA – Team Project) and Paula Zibassa (LAT – M9 Racing) completed the podium.
The male U17 category was as packed as ever, crowning Marcel Merkeli (GER – Solid National Racing) as fastest, followed by Giacomo Masiero (ITA – 3Stars) and Balazs Muszula (HUN – LiMiT Racing Team).
In the U19 category Sylvain Cougoureux set a best time of 2:32.382 minutes and would even have reached the 25th place in the Super Final. Jannik Abbou (GER – Sports Nut DH Team) finished in second place, followed by Moritz Ribarich (AUT – Swiss Downhill Syndicate) in third.
The Elite Women category included more than 20 riders, but at the end of the day Veronika Widmann succeeded again with a time of 2:51.762 minutes and a 4.6-second gap towards Carina Cappellari. Monika Hrastnik (SLO – Blackthorn) completed the podium.
The last run of every race in the European Cup is the Elite Men Super Final. This weekend, 32 riders managed to qualify and fought for some first points in the rankings. Already early on the Italian Champion 2014 Johannes von Klebelsberg (ITA – ASC Tiroler Radler DH Team) crossed the finish line after only 2:25.767 minutes, which turned out to be faster than most of his competitors. His lead still lasted when the race reached the Top 5. Faustin Figaret (FRA – Radon Magura Factory), who already proved his skills at the World Cup in Lourdes, also delivered a very fast run, but did not reach von Klebelsberg’s time. Also Jure Zabjek (SLO – Unior Tools Team) missed the lead only by a second. After that, all eyes were on the Top 3. Markus Pekoll came even closer but then missed the best time by split seconds. Finally, Fischbach took the lead when he finished 2,5 seconds faster than von Klegelsberg and after that, not even seeding run fastest Slawomir Lukasik could beat this result. Fischbach took the first victory of the EDC 2016, followed by Lukasik and von Klebelsberg, while Pekoll and Zabjek finished in fourth and fifth place.
The first race of the EDC 2016 is in the books and the stage has officially been set for the season to come.
For more information, visit www.ixsdownhillcup.com.
Photos: © extreme-pics / Benjamin Prescher