With the mighty Bura wind billowing through the start shoot, nerves were palpable ahead of the 71km stage facing the teams.
Luckily, the forest through which the opening 4.5km climb ascended offered protection from the icy wind and allowed body temperatures to rise with the increase in elevation. To add further relief, once riders emerged from the towering pines, they were rewarded with spectacular views of the glistening Kvarner Bay and a tailwind that pushed them through the Moon Plateau. From a barren rocky landscape to vineyards, the ever-changing scenery made every kilometre more enthraling than the last.
Martin Frey and Simon Stiebjahn of Singer Racing Team showed their cards today as they made their intention to control the race clear.
“Wearing the yellow jersey is an extra motivation for us, and yesterday I said to Stiebie, I don’t feel extra pressure of the jerseys, it’s like our wings.” Frey enthused.
“Today's win feels even better than yesterday, as we proved we deserve to be wearing the yellow leader jerseys after a long solo ride. It makes us very happy.” Stiebjahn continued, “...the plan was to stay in the front group for as long as possible and then gain as much time as we could in the downhill. It’s incredible to wear the yellow jersey - sure, it was a risk to go out alone with the wind today, but it worked out for us.”
Singer Racing Team crossed the finish line with a convincing four-minute and thirty-second lead ahead of Wilier Pirelli 2’s Wout Alleman and Gioele De Cosmo, with Daniel Geismayr and Fabian Rabensteiner of Wilier Pirelli a further one minute and forty-four seconds back, rounding off the men’s podium.
Unlike the Men’s category race, the first of the marathon stages resulted in a change of teams donning the Ciovita Women's leader jerseys. Allebike Canyon Northwave’s Lejla Tanovic and Stefanie Dohrn stormed to a convincing victory in a time of 3:30:41, more than nine minutes ahead of Greete Steinburg and Janina Wüst of MTB Pro Merchandising Racing with Ariane Lüthi and Faranak Partoazar of Pump for Peace - Velosolutions Racing taking the third step on the podium.
“From the start, we went full gas because we both felt very strong today, so we were in the front from the beginning. We are now in the leader jerseys, and it feels super special because it’s the first time in the Epic Series that we have won a stage and have been able to wear the leader jerseys; so it will let us fly tomorrow.” Dohrn revealed.
When asked whether the pressure of the leader jerseys would change how they approach Stage 2, Tanovic replied, “we won’t change our tactics, we were first today, so our tactics work. The key is to ride as though we don’t have the jersey, so that is exactly what we will do.”
Tomorrow’s Stage 2 introduces one of the unique features of 4Islands, a transfer by ferry to Lopar on the Island of Rab, the second island to be visited over the course of the four stages.
With a rolling start from the hull of a ferry, riders will be treated to a memorable stage of 76km and 1250m of climbing. From a 100-year-old masterpiece of dry-stone architecture, views of the Adriatic Sea, rolling meadows, and the Velebit mountain range, Stage 2 is sure to stand out as the most diverse.