The 4Islands MTB Croatia is the newest edition in the Epic Series, offering an experience like no other, boasting spectacular scenery, unique ferry transfers and the opportunity for professionals and amateurs to Conquer The Rocks.
More than 230 teams of two from over 35 nations rolled down the start ramp to take on the 13-kilometre-long, lactate inducing Prologue, which featured 300 metres of climbing on the rocky trails surrounding Baška in Kvarner Bay.
Current World Marathon Champion Andreas Seewald and his Canyon Northwave MTB partner, Martin Stošek, looked “all business” as they headed out onto the course with the number one number board. However, the short course did not favour Canyon Northwave MTB, and their best efforts had them finishing in fifth position as one of 15 teams to break the 30-minute mark.
Martin Frey and Simon Stiebjahn of Singer Racing Team topped the field with the fastest time of 0:27:10. Wilier Pirelli 2’s Wout Alleman and Gioele De Cosmo placed second in 0:27:23, and BUFF MEGAMO’s Hugo Drechou and Peeter Pruus secured the final spot on the men’s podium in 0:27:42.
“This is our first time in Croatia and at 4Islands, and we loved the Prologue route; it was technical in the beginning with some fast parts and steep climbing – a good combination,” said Stiebjahn. “Wearing the yellow jersey is great as we can mark others and react to their moves as they try to close the gap to us. Fortunately, the climbs aren’t too long, so we’ll ride at our own pace, but when it gets technical, we’ll take our chance to increase our gap.”
The Women’s category race saw Costanza Fasolis and Claudia Peretti of Olympia – RDR Italia secure the Prologue win and the Ciovita 4Islands leader jerseys when they crossed the finish line in a time of 0:34:13. Trailing 43 seconds behind them were Team Allebike Canyon Northwave’s Lejla Tanovic and Stefanie Dohrn. MTB Pro Merchandising Racing wrapped up the women’s category podium in 0:37:05.
“Croatia is such a beautiful place to race”, explained Peretti. “The trails and the rocks are just perfect for us as we love the technical sections; we knew the Prologue route well, which helped us today.”
With the Prologue complete and the Ciovita category jerseys on the shoulders of the leaders, the true racing begins with the upcoming marathon stages promising to pull no punches. Stage 1 will have the blood pumping during the initial climb into the “Moon Plateau”, aptly named for its moon-like appearance.
Breathtaking scenery showcasing Croatian landscapes and villages awaits the riders along the 71km stage with 1750m climbing, but it is doubtful that the sharp end of the field will have a moment to look up to take in the breathtaking scenery.
Stay tuned to the 4Islands Facebook and Instagram accounts for racing updates throughout the week and the Absa Cape Epic YouTube channel for daily highlights videos of the racing in Kvarner Bay, Croatia.