406 mountain bikers from 30 different countries and five continents participated from 6th – 9th June 2019 at the 21st edition of Alpentour Trophy. The region Schladming-Dachstein was the host of Austria’s only UCI stage race and there were four varied days waiting for the participants. The start and finish area was positioned at Schladming, host of the Alpine Ski World Championships of 1982 and 2013.
„We feel perfectly preserved at Schladming. The infrastructure is perfect for a stage race. All the participants and their caretakers are housed near the start and finish area and we have a daily ‘get together’ at the victory ceremony at the dinner hosted at Schladming’s congress center, which became tradition. Again we received a lot of compliments by the participants for the organisation and we are glad to start with our planning for 2020”, explained Alpentour organizer Gerhard Schönbacher.
As there was still snow over 1.500 metres of altitude, some of the stages had to be shortened and adapted with new trails. There were still 181 kilometres of biking and 8.500 metres of climbing scheduled at the 21st edition, which had a strong field of participants, including World and Olympic Champions as some of the top stars of marathon and cross country. German Sabine Spitz gave her debut at the race. She is a legend of mountain bike sport and finished sixth in the women’s category.
Githa Michiels dominated the women’s elite. The Belgian, current third-placed rider at the cross country world ranking, won three stages at this year’s Alpentour Trophy and the overall classification. Only at the ultimate stage, a mountain time trial, she was beaten by Italian Maria Cristia Nisi. At the final ranking Michiels was leading by 19:44 Minutes ahead of Nisi.
“It was a tough race. I was feeling good all four days. It was a pity that I didn’t managed to win all four stages, but I’m very happy. It was a great week and I scored a lot of points for my aim to participate at the Olympic Games next year”, summed Michiels up. She won the Trophy for the first time. Austrian Angelika Tazreiter finished third-placed in the overall ranking. The national marathon champion placed second behind Michiels at the second and third stage.
“It was a tough fight and I’ glad that I finished on the podium. I’m happy, because I came to Schladming with a swollen knee. It didn’t looked well after the first day, but with my two stage podiums and the overall podium I had a very positive Alpentour Trophy”, the 31-year-old explained. She defended her podium spot at the final time trial against 24-year-old German Janine Schneider. Fifth place went to Estonia and Greete Steinburg, who finished third at the first day.
Three stages out of four won Leonardo Paez from Colombia at the men’s elite. The 36-year-old celebrated his second overall win after 2014 at Austria’s biggest mountain bike stage race. As Michiels he laid the foundation for his win at the first stage, where he attacked out of a five men leading group. “My legs felt incredible at Schladming. I’m glad to be back at the winner’s podium after five years”, explained Paez.
Italian Daniele Mensi finished second at the final classification, with a gap of 4:05 minutes to the Columbian. The mountain bike specialist from Brescia won the king of the mountains jersey and celebrated his first Alpentour Trophy stage win at the third day. He was the only rider, who could beat the strong Paez. At the ultimate stage, the mountain time trial, Paez’s fellow countryman Diego Cuervo climbed on third place overall. He jumped German Jochen Käß, who finished fourth.
“I lost to much time at the first day. I had a decent time trial and looking back to my injury in March I’m quite happy about my performance”, explained Käß, who broke his collarbone at Cape Epic, where he was partnered by Daniel Geismayr. The Austrian scored two podium finishes at this year’s Alpentour Trophy and finished fifth overall.
As his German team mate, the Austrian returned from an injury break to the 21st edition. He suffered a scaphoid fracture at the Tour of the Alps in April. “I felt good. I had a good rhythm uphill, but there was no chance to beat the Columbians. I was feeling better day by day and after my injury I’m happy about my result”, explained Geismayr. He wasn’t the only Austrian in the top ten. Alban Lakata finished ninth. At the elite master class German Uwe Hardter and Austrian Andreas Dollinger had a tough battle for the overall win, which decided Hardter with strong performances in the second half of the race.
Alpentour Trophy can also be competed as a team. The fastest time was set by Thomas Garber and Martin Kürbisch from Austria. It took 20:51 hours to ride the 181 kilometres around Schladming. The duo was one hour ahead of Italian Miran Bole and Tomaz Cefuta from Italy. “Our conclusion this year is so positive, because we had four days of perfect weather and there were no larger injuries. The Alpentour Trophy is a common experience and should intend to come back in the upcoming year to try it again”, told organizer Gerhard Schönbacher.