Fontana & Dahle on top in Nals.


A circuit like Marlene Südtirol Sunshine Race’s will always divide the riders’ opinions, between those who love it, thriving to push hard on the Nachtegallenweg hairpins, and those who play it on defense, hoping to recover on the roots of the technical descent to Nals. Anyway, there is one thing on which everybody agrees: you don’t win in Nals by case. You need strength, endurance, condition, and a fair deal of tactics.

Marco Aurelio Fontana (Bianchi Countervail) and Gunn-Rita Dahle (Team Merida Gunn-Rita) certainly didn’t miss any of those elements, writing their name on the golden book of Nals’ International Race, a spectacular fourth stage of Internazionali d’Italia Series. It was not the first time for either of the two: Fontana had already won in 2012, the Norwegian in five more occasions. It was the most expected riders who deserved the ovation of the many fans who reached Südtirol to enjoy a major MTB show, in a day in which the weather also contributed in the best of ways.

The day’s balance clearly results from the smile of Florian Pallweber, the president of Sunshine Racers ASV Nals: an event panned out to perfection, and a special atmosphere shared by the over 750 riders who took the start in the various categories.

They were announced among the eve’s favorites, and they paraded under the finish of Marlene Südtirol Sunshine Race. Marco Aurelio Fontana and Stephane Tempier sent Bianchi Countervail and Team Manager Massimo Ghirotto in awe with a beautiful one-two in Nals. But don’t be fooled by the final result: the race certainly wasn’t a monologue of the Celeste color, and Tempier had to fight until the final bends to see off Florian Vogel (Focus XC), who had to stand with third after another solid performance.

The start was very fast, with lots of athletes fighting for the top positions: at the end of the second lap, there were ten athletes in the space of just more than 30 seconds, with Mirko Tabacchi (C.S. Carabinieri) and Andrea Tiberi (NOB Selle Italia) showing up in the lead. Halfway through the race, Fontana and Vogel managed to move away from the rest, with a surprising Andrea Righettini (KTM – Protek – Dama) in third, just a few seconds behind. Fontana took advantage of the technical sections to open a small gap on Vogel while, behind the leaders, Stephane Tempier and Gerhard Kerschbaumer (Torpado – Gabogas) were coming back strong after a slow start.

In the final lap, Fontana managed to control Vogel’s chase, whilst Tempier managed to complete his comeback by surpassing Vogel and reaching back to the teammate just in time for the final celebration. Righettini secured a valuable fourt place ahead of home-favorite Kerschbaumer (Torpado-Gabogas). Rounding out the top-10 were Daniele Braidot (CS Carabinieri), Andrea Tiberi, Mirko Tabacchi, Marcel Guerrini (Focus XC) and Maximilian Foidl (Bike Team Kirchberg). Nadir Colledani (Torpado-Gabogas) closed eleventh, but maintained the lead in the Under 23 standings.

Marco Aurelio Fontana reclaimed the leader’s jersey among Open Men: he has 113 points, 13 more than Tempier, 35 over Marotte and 36 on Vogel. Courmayeur will award double points, so the outcome is still open, but the blue jersey seems to be an all-Celeste affair.

And now they are six. As years pass by, Nalles remains the kingdom of Gunn-Rita Dahle (Team Merida Gunn-Rita). The Norwegian celebrated after five beautiful laps and an intense battle with Linda Indergand (Focus XC), the author of another outstanding performance after Montichiari’s domination.

Dahle took the lead just after the start, and it was immediately clear that it would become a two-way game for the win. In fact, only Indergand could contain the gap within 30 seconds, with the other opponents quickly fading out over two minutes behind. The duel was fought on the most characteristics sections: the Norwegian made her usual show of strenght and resistance uphill, whilst the Swiss was clearly more brilliant downhill. Indergand came back within little distance in the final lap, as she was just 20 seconds behind at the top of the Nachtegallenweg: Dahle took all the risks in the last descent to finally defend her margin and celebrate once more in a place she loves (and that clearly loves her back).

The battle for third was another exciting one: experienced Lisi Osl (Ghost Factory Racing) won it by a few second on Chiara Teocchi (Bianchi Countervail), best Under 23 on the day and more and more comfortable in the battle with the top names in MTB. Tanja Zakelj (Unior Tools), a former winner in Nals, was only fifth on the day, ahead of Serena Calvetti (Damil-GT Trevisan), who managed to keep the Open Women’s lead by only three points on Chiara Teocchi, who reclaimed the Under 23 series jersey.

After Montichiari, Juri Zanotti (Velo Club Monte Tamaro) put his mark on the Junior Men’s race in Nals as well. Racing with the Series leader’s Red Jersey, Zanotti was first in each passage on the finish line, with Filippo Fontana (Gottardo Giochi Caneva) being the only one capable to hold on for a lap, and Nicola Taffarel (Damil-GT Trevisan) consistently sitting in third. The red jersey kept extending his advantage lap after lap, but when the positions looked set in stone, an unfortunate puncture took a deserved second place away from Fontana. Taffarel claimed the runner-up spot, with Alberto Brancati in third.

Zanotti strenghtened his GC lead, as did Marika Tovo (Rudy Project-XCR), who dominated her rivals through the three Junior Women laps. Tovo ended up with 1.51 on her closest rival, Giada Specia (Team Velociraptor), whilst Francesca Baroni (Melavì Focus Bike) took third with a 2.33 delay. Tovo now has 100 points in the GC, and an important 23-point advantage: the double points in Courmayeur, though, can still mix things up for the final outcome.

The day also saw the first ever win by an African rider at Marlene Südtirol Sunshine Race: 14-year-old South African Luke Moir won the 1st year rookies race.