Before October, there is Biketember. The Bike Region Saalfelden Leogang once again showed its mountain bike racing expertise this weekend by hosting the Biketember Festival.
For the last time this season, 300 mountain bikers from 26 nations fought for those illusive seconds during the finals of the iXS European Downhill Cup. Ondrej Stephanek (CZE) and European Champion Eleonora Farina (ITA) took the wins in the Elite categories, the Austrian talent Valentina Höll dominated the women’s U17 category.
Leogang’s World Cup track ‘Speedster’ greeted the riders with tough conditions during the season finale of the iXS European Downhill Cup. After nice and sunny weather during practice on Friday, rain and deep, sticky mud made the qualification on Saturday and the final race of the second highest race series after the World Cup on Sunday a slippery affair. Ondrej Stephanek (CZE – CTM Racing Team) handled the conditions best and took the win by nearly 3 seconds. Jure Zabjek (SLO – Unior Tool Team) who burst onto the World Cup scene in June with a 12th place finish at the World Cup in Leogang had another strong race and finished 2nd, taking the iXS European Downhill Cup overall victory in the process. Joshua Barth (GER – Solid Reverse Factory Racing) raced to his first podium with a 3rd-place finish, only 6 hundredths behind Zabjek.
Eleonora Farina (ITA – GB Rifar Mondraker) took the victory in the Women Elite category, beating Sandra Rübesam (GER – Nukeproof Factory Racing) and Monika Hrastnik (SLO – Blackthorn) in the process. The 3rd-place finish of Hrastnik was enough for her to take the overall series title for 2017.
Austrian top-talent Valentina ‘Vali’ Höll (AUT – SRAM TLD Racing) showed an absolutely dominating performance once again and took the victory in the U17 category by nearly 15 seconds, making it a perfect season with 5 out of 5 wins on the European Downhill Cup this season. Incredibly, Vali’s time would have also been good enough to take the win in the Women Elite category by 4 seconds. “Saalfelden Leogang is my living room, I love it here and I know the track by heart. That’s probably what it was. I have now won all 5 stops of the tour in my category and I am absolutely stoked”, said the young athlete who is already looking forward to racing the Junior World Cup next season.
The Biketember festival was also the last race as a professional for Austrian World Cup racer Markus Pekoll (MS Mondraker). Ending a mountain bike career spanning 15 years, Pekoll retired in style by racing in Lederhosen and a ‘Tiroler Hut’ (Tyrolean hat) and finishing 22nd. “The result was not important for me today. I even took the time to say ‘Servus’ to the course marshals on the way down. A lot of friends, my family and my partners from Leogang cheered me on. I am proud that I was able to help to give the sport a platform in Austria and to have given it my all in my career. It feels great to retire feeling like this”, says Pekoll.
Whilst Biketember is over for some, others are just getting started. Young up-and-coming riders can show what they are made of during the course of the Scott Junior Trophy. 60 children between the ages of 3 and 16 will get their first racing experience in multiple categories as they race around the Ritzensee in Saalfelden across a variety of distances ranging from 250m to 12km.
Mountain bike fans can already mark June 7 - 10, 2018 in their calenders as the Out of Bounds Festival will once again bring fantastic racing and breathtaking slopestyle-action to Saalfelden Leogang with the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup and the legendary 26TRIX contest.