By Chris Armstrong •
Thursday mornings don’t often begin with a trip across the Adriatic Sea in a ferry with a new island as the destination, though that’s exactly how the day started for Stage 2 of the 2023 4Islands MTB Croatia.
Rab, the Happy Island of Kvarner, was the playground for day’s 76 kilometres and 1300 metres of climbing from Lopar to the city of Rab.
The highlights of the route included racing off the hull of the Jadrolinija ferry and into Lopar, Paradise Beach, Fruga, Beach Mel, Kalifront, and a charge to the finish through the old city of Rab.
Men’s Category Racing:
Orbea x Leatt x Speed Company attacked the stage from the horn in a manner that has become synonymous with their style of racing at every Epic Series event they enter.
As the horn of the gigantic Jadrolinija ferry sounded, the race was on, with Egger flying out the hull as if the day was a short track race rather than a 76-kilometre race across the island. Gaps opened immediately and only BUFF MEGAMO could follow the pace.
After Becking and Drechou, of BUFF MEGAMO, suffered a flat in the early climb, it was a one-horse race for Orbea x Leatt x Speed Company as they continued to ratchet up the pace through the stage.
“Today was the best day so far for me and I wasn’t complaining with the speed,” smiled Baum. “It was a pity that BUFF MEGAMO had a flat, but that’s racing, and we had to push on and keep going hard.”
With two stages left to race, Orbea x Leatt x Speed Company hold an 8 minute 45 second gap that offers them the luxury of not being required to make the racing, however fans have been treated to a masterclass of racing and there’s no evidence to suggest they’d approach Stage 3 in any manner other than full tilt. Egger and Baum will start Stage 3, on island Cres, in the yellow CIOVITA leader jerseys once again and move ever closer to adding another Epic Series title to their ever-growing palmares.
“This race fits so well into the Epic Series,” explained Egger. “This is event is so well organised and that can’t be easy. There’s hotels, boats, transfers, and ferries. I’m having a great time because it’s so different to everything else!”
“Each Epic Series race has unique features and attractions. Here has the islands, the rocks, and the terrain,” said Baum. “I’ve never experienced anything quite like this and I think it’s a really great way to experience Croatia.”
Women’s Category Racing:
The 76 kilometres of racing, from Lopar to the city of Rab, saw a new team claim the top step of the podium as Alessia Nay and Liisa Ehrberg, of Velohut/Veloflütsch won the stage.
The stage was filled with drama as sportograf.com – Bike Aid MTB punctured on the first climb, were forced to stop, and plug the tyre, and eventually required to change the entire wheel at the first tech zone. Though that wasn’t the end of it for the team in orange; they managed to catch Nay and Ehrberg as they entered the city of Rab before dropping a chain on one of the many steps in the city streets. After quickly detangling and remounting the chain, the chase resumed, though Nay and Ehrberg managed to hold off the charging Janas and Ames until the end to claim the stage honours.
“I have to say that luck was on our side today,” said Ehrberg, in reference to sportograf.com – Bike Aid MTB’s misfortune. “The route was great and fast and it suited us well; that combined with luck was good for us.”
Though Janas and Ames didn’t win Stage 2, they began the day with a 5 minute 47 second lead in the Women’s category and managed to extend that lead to 6 minutes 59 seconds over their nearest rivals, TRISCELION | SRT-Protective Factory’s Tanja Priller and Greta Karasiovaité.
“Team racing is really interesting; it’s a great format to test limits as it means that you need to learn from, care for, and think about your partner all the time,” explained Ames. “We are really happy to hang onto the leader jerseys going into Stage 3. It’s another new island and another adventure. We can’t wait.”
2023 4Islands MTB Croatia – Stage 2 Results
1. Orbea x Leatt x Speed Company: Georg Egger, Lukas Baum – 02:41:02
2. BUFF MEGAMO: Hugo Drechou, Hans Becking – 02:45:08(+00:04:06)
3. Team BULLS: Alban Lakata, Simon Schneller – 02:45:53 (+00:04:51)
1. Velohunt/VeloFlütsch: Alessia Nay, Liisa Ehrberg– 03:31:02
2. Sportograf.com – Bike Aid MTB: Bettina Janas, Kim Ames – 03:31:13 (+00:00:11)
3. TRISCELION | SRT-Protective Factory: Tanja Priller, Greta Karasiovaité – 03:41:52 (+00:10:50)
2023 4Islands MTB Croatia – General Classification After Stage 2
1. Orbea x Leatt x Speed Compay: Georg Egger, Lukas Baum – 06:04:36
2. BUFF MEGAMO: Hugo Drechou, Hans Becking – 06:13:21 (+00:08:45)
3. KTM Alchemist Brenta Brakes: Lorenzo Samparsi, Dario Cherchi – 06:14:45 (+00:10:09)
1. Sportograf.com – Bike Aid MTB: Bettina Janas, Kim Ames – 07:55:01
2. Velohunt/VeloFlütsch: Alessia Nay, Liisa Ehrberg – 08:02:00 (+00:06:59)
3. TRISCELION | SRT-Protective Factory: Tanja Priller, Greta Karasiovaité – 08:11:27 (+00:16:26)