The World Champion returned to success at the Internazionali d'Italia Series, leaving Frenchman Carod behind in a World Cup-level battle.
Last year’s U23 World Champion Avondetto finished in third place, ahead of new series leader Colledani. Switzerland was on top also in the Open Women’s race, with Nicole Koller celebrating ahead of overall leader Martina Berta. Milan and Hahn won the UCI Junior Series races
It was just a matter of time. Nino Schurter has returned to winning ways at Internazionali d'Italia Series. For the most successful man in the history of mountain biking, the draught at Internazionali d’Italia Series had lasted slightly more than 7 years, since 2016 and until today, Saturday April 8th, in what he considers his second home, Tuscany.
In the third edition of Capoliveri Legend XCO, round 2 of the 2023 edition for most prestigious Italian Cross Country Mountain Bike circuit, the ten-time World Champion came on top of a World-Cup worthy battle with Titouan Carod, another MTB star who feels at home in Italian races. Third place for another World Champion, Simone Avondetto, who wore the rainbow stripes among Under 23 in 2022, and has quickly found his footing in the new category.
The Swiss flag was also flying among the women, with the victory of the emerging Nicole Koller behind series-leader Martina Berta and fellow Italian Giada Specia. There was also great expectation in Capoliveri for the UCI Junior Series races: Italian Diego Milan came on top among Men, imitated by Germany's Carla Hahn in the Women’s competition.
THE ELBA ISLAND BOWS TO THE KING: SCHURTER WINS IN CAPOLIVERI
Nino Schurter (Team SCOTT-SRAM) won Capoliveri Legend XCO at the end of a spectacular race, enriched by a battle with Titouan Carod, who had beaten him in his latest Italian display to date, the 2022 World Cup Finals in Val di Sole.
The Men's Open race (started at 14:00) was warmed by sunshine after the morning was all about rain and mud. The weather favoured a World Cup-level show in the battle between Nino Schurter – in his first XCO race in Europe in 2023 - and French Champion Titouan Carod, arguably the most expected riders on the eve. The World Champion didn’t disappoint, making the decisive gap in the penultimate lap and then enjoying the shouts of the fans in the last passage on the Capoliveri Bike Park circuit.
The riders kind of controlled each other early on, but still the race was quick in producing its first verdicts: the winner of San Zeno di Montagna, Luca Braidot, pulled out of the contest, still affected by the flu that has debilitated him in recent weeks, forcing him to retire halfway through the race.
On the third lap, the SCOTT-SRAM Team rider and the French National Champion of Team BMC decided to force the pace, moving away from the rest as a consequence. Behind them, a trio of Italians made of Nadir Colledani (Santa Cruz -FSA), Simone Avondetto (Wilier-Pirelli) and Daniele Braidot (CS Carabinieri Olympia Vittoria) tried to resist.
The Schurter-Carod duo squared off in the following laps until the penultimate time on the Elban circuit, when the World Champion launched the decisive attack on Carod (+18" on the finish line). Behind them, Simone Avondetto took a prestigious third place (+1'03"), preceding the new Internazionali d'Italia Series overall leader, Nadir Colledani (+1'12”). Swiss Luca Schatti achieved fifth place (+1'39"), while Daniele Braidot was sixth at 2’01”.
"I love the Elba Island and racing here, I am happy to have won. It was a good battle with Titouan, it was difficult to break away from him because he is an extremely technical rider, but I hope there will be more challenges with him this season. I am happy to have been back to the Internazionali d'Italia Series and to have won in a spectacular Capoliveri Legend XCO in front of so many fans," said Nino Schurter.
Andreas Emanuele Vittone (KTM-Protek Elettrosystem) finished seventh at 2'12" as the best Under-23. However, the circuit leader's jersey for the Under-23 category remained on the shoulders of American Bjorn Riley (Trek Future Racing).
SWITZERLAND ON TOP ALSO AMONG WOMEN: NICOLE KOLLER WINS
The Swiss flag waved on the second round of Internazionali d’Italia Series among Open Women. The winner of the Capoliveri Legend XCO was Nicole Koller, wearing the Swiss National Team jersey, who made the best of the experience and the condition made through a few days of training camp on the Elba Island trails.
Head Coach Edmund Telser‘s girls immediately took the lead from the early laps, with Koller, Sina Frei and Linda Indergand dictating the pace along with overall leader Martina Berta and Giada Specia. On the third lap, the Santa Cruz-Rock Shox rider attacked, followed by Nicole Koller, with Sina Frei and Giada Specia left to chase.
The two leaders continued together until the last lap, when the Swiss rider made the decisive attack on the hardest uphill section. At that point, it proved impossible for Berta to close on the eventual winner, who crossed the finish line with a 24-second advantage.
Giada Specia (Wilier-Pirelli) stepped on the third step of the podium (+36”), overtaking Sina Frei (+51″). Linda Indegrand (+1’17”) achieved the fifth place.
“I am thrilled about this victory; I had been waiting for it for a long time. It was a hard race, in which it was difficult to bend Martina Berta’s resistance. I gained some seconds on the final laps and I kept them until the finish line. Despite the changing conditions today, I think the training camp in Elba over the last few days helped me a lot”, said Nicole Koller.
“I’m very happy, beyond the result. It was one of the most beautiful races from the start of the season. It was very close to the last, with the Swiss riders going very strong”, said Martina Berta, who held on the Internazionali d’Italia Series leader jersey.
There was no history among the Juniors where Carla Hahn (Lexware MTB Team) took the lead from start to finish. The German took a few metres in the first lap and did not relinquish the first position. Behind her came second Swiss Lara Liehner (+13″), who attempted a comeback in the final. Elisa Lanfranchi (KTM – Protek Elettrosystem) finished third at +1’27”.
“What a show in Capoliveri, a wonderful race with a view of the sea that I fell in love with. I started immediately strong and after the first lap I was in front. There I went at my own pace and kept the gap to the finish line”, said Carla Hahn after the victory.
DIEGO MILAN TOPS THE JUNIOR SERIES RACE
A violent rainstorm hit the Island of Elba half an hour before the start, forcing the organizers to postpone the start by 50 minutes. Despite the rain that drenched the route, the day’s first race was open and uncertain until the last lap.
Winner of Internazionali d’Italia Series stage 1 among the junior and GC leader before the race, Gabriel Borre immediately took the lead. Anyway, the KTM-Protek Elettrosystem rider was the victim of an unlucky puncture that forced him out of contention.
Diego Milan and Sofian Corniglion took over the lead, insisting with a pace that left no space for other competitors to bridge back to them. In the final lap, the Italian made the decisive move, gaining the victory and the Internazionali d’Italias Series leader jersey.
“It’s an incredible emotion, I didn’t expect it. When I was in the lead with Corniglion, I realized I could win, so I tried several accelerations along the course until the last lap, where I gained a few seconds, and then pushed until the finish. I’m happy with this result and to wear the leader’s jersey, I’m starting to think about the overall victory of the Internazionali d’Italia Series now. We will see how the next rounds go,” said Diego Milan.
NEXT ROUND: ESANATOGLIA’S DEBUT
The third round of the Internazionali d'Italia Series is scheduled for Sunday 30 April in Esanatoglia, a small village in the Sibillini Mountains, Marche. A brand-new C1 category event for the circuit, promising excitement for the athletes and fans. The Santoporo XC course, 4000 metres in length and 160 metres in altitude difference, is varied, technical and fun, with many ups and downs inspired by the most famous World Cup courses.