This past weekend the European Downhill Elite made their way to Spicak’s bike park for the second but last race of the European Series this season. At the end of an exciting race, Stanislav Sehnal and Monika Hrastnik delivered the fastest results and collected some important points for the overall rankings.
Finally, the EDC season 2018 slowly but surely comes to an end: four out of five races of the iXS European Downhill Cup are in the books. This weekend, the fourth race of the season invited riders and downhill fans all over Europe to Spicak near the Czech-German border and with this the cup returned to a beloved venue that already has been a fixed part of the agenda for eight years.
It is the venue that makes a race special. This is why so many riders are looking forward to the annual race on Spicak’s “Struggle” Trail. After numerous facelifts and improvements during the last years, the track has become one of the favorites for many riders. Even if 1750 meters in length might seem rather short, the rocky ground combined with a 320-meter descend make for a demanding track that calls for high concentration and stamina. After weeks of dry heat, the dust even added to the level of difficulty, especially where it covered roots and rocks, turning the track into a slippery slope. Well, let’s just say it is called “struggle” for a reason. Nevertheless, the 250 riders from 28 different nations seemed to have loads of fun this weekend!
Friday’s track walk opened the weekend and greeted the riders with a clear blue sky. Sadly, the following 6-hour training session already took its toll, so the fight for the podium had to be pushed to the final run of the series in Brandnertal for some of the riders. On top of that, the weather forecast was less than optimistic, promising heavy rain and thunderstorms throughout the weekend – so it was going to be an interesting weekend.
Fortunately, Saturday started with dry conditions and the riders enjoyed a rather relaxed second training session before the qualification started in the afternoon. In the qualification runs Nina Hoffmann (GER – Santa Cruz Bicycles) and Stanislav Sehnal (CZE – Kelly Factory Team) set the best times of the day and already collected important points for their rankings, so that Hoffmann managed to close in on the current leader of the rankings Monika Hrastnik (SLO – Blackthorn). Also Joshua Barth‘s (GER – Carbocage Factory Team) lead over Bryn Dickerson (NZL – FS Funn Factory Team) is melting more and more, adding some more anticipation and competition to the final run on Sunday.
Sunday morning greeted the riders with overall conditions that might have made more than one of them want to stay in bed for the day: after heavy rainfall all night, thick fog made it nearly impossible to find the perfect lines for the race. But after a rather slow start, most riders seized the last training session to adjust to the new conditions before their final run. Fortunately, it started to clear up during the day and the rain stopped in time for the race.
As usual, the Masters opened the race and proved that despite the weather the track did not lose a lot of its speed. Frank Hedwig (GER – Rad-Art) set a best time of 3.23,213 minutes, which was only five seconds more than the best time of the qualifications. Fabian Buschor (SUI – RSF) finished in second place, followed by Mads Weidemann (DEN – madsweidemann.com) in third.
In the U17 category, Marko Niemiz (SLO – Sinter Brakes Team) succeeded by one second towards Goncalo Bandeira (POR – Miranda Factory Team) in second place. Meanwhile, former Rookies Cup rider Gabriel Wibmer (AUT – Ride Free Osttirol), who has been climbing the ranks during the last three years, completed the podium this weekend.
In the Elite Women category Monika Hrastnik set a time of 3.39,426 with a 30-second gap towards her competition rather early into the race and had quite some time to sit back and relax in the Red Bull Hot Seat, before her strongest competitors even entered the track. Finally, Jana Bartova (CZE – MaxCursor) crossed the finish line with a result that came close, but a 5-second gap still remained. Sandra Rübesam (GER – Nukeproof) came even closer, but missed the best time by one second, leaving only Janine Hübscher (SUI – iDirt Racing Team) and Nina Hoffmann with a shot at the first place. In the end, Hoffmann ended up in fifth place, while Hrastnik took the third title in a row, once more ensuring her lead in the rankings. Janine Hübscher finished in second place and Sandra Rübesam in third.
In the U19 category one rider celebrated a special debut this weekend: Patrick Butler (NZL – MS Mondraker) who already has been participating in the World for the last two years and who reached his first podium in Val di Sole two weeks ago, took part in his first EDC race this weekend and set a best time, that would have brought him the eighth place in the Elite Men category with 3.11,923 minutes. Zak Gomilscek (SLO – Sinter Brakes Team) and Max Meinhold (GER – Gravity Bike Verein Schöneck) followed in second and third place.
After that, it was finally time for the Elite Men Super Final which was as exciting as ever. The results kept getting better and better and no one stayed in the Red Bull Hot Seat for long. It was not until Joshua Barth set his time of 3.06,419 minutes that someone established a clear lead, even if it was “only” by 6 seconds. But then Bryn Dickerson entered the track and man he was fast! But not fast enough. After that, all eyes were on Stanislav Sehnal. When Sehnal crossed the finish line the clock revealed a lead by split seconds. So at the end of the day, Stanislav Sehnal succeeded, followed by Joshua Barth in second place, once more defending his lead in the rankings. But with Dickerson in third place this weekend it’s getting ever closer in the rankings and the stage is set for an exciting season finale in Brandnertal in Austria!
Spicak once more delivered some high-class racing this weekend. Minus the rain it was the perfect race weekend! Now we’re facing the four week break before the iXS European Downhill Cup returns one last time for the season finale in Brandnertal at the end of August. Until then: ride on!
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