Regardless of the torrential downpour on the ferry transfer from Rab to Cres, spirits lifted quickly as riders took on the challenge of the Queens stage of the 4Islands MTB Croatia.Singer Racing Team and Olympia RDR – Italia made the most of the challenging conditions and secured the wins in the Men’s and Women’s categories.
Stage 3 of 4Islands took place on the island of Cres and featured 63 kilometres and 1590 metres of climbing after being shortened due to the overnight rain that had flooded certain areas on Cres.
The stage began, once again, from the deck of the ferry and headed immediately into a leg-burning climb that gained 300 metres of elevation within the first three kilometres. Although the climb was brutal, it provided teams with the welcome opportunity to immediately get the blood pumping and body temperatures up.
Singer Racing Team seemed at home in the wet and slippery conditions, and they used it to their advantage as they raced to yet another stage win in 02:45:44. Behind them, BUFF MEGAMO's Huge Drechou and Peter Pruus secured second, and Stop&Go Marderabwehr MTB's Niklas Sell and Vinzent Dorn secured their first podium of the 2022 event.
"It was raining from the start, which wasn't the best, but on the first descent, Martin [Frey] had a gap, and I was stuck in third wheel," explained Simon Stiebjahn of Singer Racing Team. "I then put in a big effort to get back to him, even though there was still around 50 kilometres to go, and we turned it into an advantage to ride our own pace in the tricky conditions. We are happy to have brought it home."
In the Women's category, a major fightback played out on the trails of Cres as Olympia – RDR Italia rode the perfect stage to secure the win on the rocky streets of Osor, with Costanza Fasolis and Claudia Peretti completing the stage in 03:27:17. Second on the day was MTB Pro Merchandising Racing's Greete Steinburg and Janina Wüst, while third place went to Lejla Tanovic and Stefanie Dohrn of Allebike Canyon Northwave.
"We quite enjoyed the rain as it made the racing more technical," explained Costanza Fasolis of Olympia – RDR Italia. "We pushed really hard on the descents and the climbs. Today was the best day for us as it was real mountain biking. Tomorrow will be tough, but we are excited for the final stage!"
Even though Tanovic and Dohrn lost time on today's stage, their lead in the Women's category general classification was never under real threat, thanks to a 15-minute lead over their nearest rivals at the start of the stage, MTB Pro Merchandising Racing. However, mechanicals and the raw power of Fasolis and Peretti put Allebike Canyon Northwave on the backfoot and clearly reminded them that a race is not over until the final finish line is crossed and the win is secured.
With everything to race for, the final stage of the 4Islands is set to be an exciting one as Singer Racing Team strives to secure the clean sweep of victories in the men’s category will and Allebike Canyon Northwave will attempt to hold off the charging MTB Pro Merchandising Racing and Olympia – RDR Italia. The final stage of the event is on the island of Lošinj and while it is only 40 kilometres, the sheer climbs, rocky terrain, and the compounded fatigue of racing on the limit for the past four days is sure to come into play during the stage.