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FABIAN RABENSTEINER AND VERA LOOSER WIN UCI MOUNTAIN BIKE MARATHON WORLD CUP OPENING ROUND IN CZECHIA

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FABIAN RABENSTEINER AND VERA LOOSER WIN UCI MOUNTAIN BIKE MARATHON WORLD CUP OPENING ROUND IN CZECHIA

1 month ago

Two tight UCI Mountain Bike Marathon (XCM) World Cup races in Nové Mĕsto Na Moravĕ (Czechia) delivered gold for Italy and a pair of podiums for Namibia. Alex Miller just missed out on victory to Fabian Rabensteiner in the men’s, while a hard-fought battle in the women’s saw Vera Looser finish strongly to take top spot from Bosnia’s Lejla Njemcevic.

The opening round of the 2024 UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Cup, in Nové Mĕsto Na Moravĕ, saw a pair of close, hard fought, tactical races that were only decided in their later stages. Both men’s and women’s took place on the same 123km course comprising two long, largely flat loops plus a steeper, more technical section of the cross-country track.

In the men’s event a group of four riders, Fabian Rabensteiner, Alex Miller, Samuele Porro and Marc Stutzmann, broke clear of the field at the entrance to the second loop. With all but one of them guaranteed a place on the podium, the quartet opted for cooperation. They worked together economically to establish a sizeable lead over the field on the flatter, more endurance-demanding parts.

A collective decision was made to seal the victory between themselves and fight it out on the challenging final loop. After all four survived, the result on the morning would simply come down to who would be strongest. The technically proficient Rabensteiner also had the most left in his legs. He attacked the final climb, established a small but significant gap, and soloed to the win.

Stutzmann lost contact with the other two in the finale, with Alex Miller outsprinting Porro to prevent an Italian 1-2. Rabensteiner was thrilled to have taken the first marathon win of the series, but also with the way the race unfolded and that the four worked well together to stay away. 

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We had,” he said afterwards, “a small group, a perfect group with good collaboration, then we fought it out on the cross-country loop for the win.” In the end it took “a super hard attack, but I managed to win.” 

Alex Miller, riding his first ever UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Cup, was simply content to “to be able to fight for the podium” and had no complaints about the result. Rabenstein, he said “just had a little bit more on the last climb, so well done to him.”

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The women’s race was a less collaborative affair but similarly selective and tactical. Six riders found themselves together going into the second lap, a sextet that was soon whittled down to three, Vera Looser, Lejla Njemcevic and Rosa van Doorn.

Looser first got a small gap over the larger of the rock gardens. As hard as she fought to stay out, powerful riding from Njemcevic brought her back into contention. 

As the men’s the race would be decided on the challenging cross-country loop, which played to Looser’s advantage. The 30-year-old once again broke clear, this time on the technical rooted descent. Njemcevic and Van Doorn were not out of it and had time to come back to her but would have needed to quickly agree to work together, rather than settle for being the best of the rest. Looser knew that all she had to do was ride as hard as she could to the finish, which is what she did. She crossed the line after 5 hours 45 minutes of racing, to win by 2 seconds

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For her part, Njemcevic left the Dutch rider behind to solo to second place. Afterwards Looser was pleased with the way she played it. 

I knew it would come down to tactics in the finish loops on the cross-country course,” she said. “I know I’m technically quite good, and I know my sprint is good as well so I was just hoping on that. Coming up the rooty section your legs are just burning after five and a half hours of racing, but then I got a gap there and I just flew. I just knew I had to put the hammer down and take it home.” 

Although she enjoyed the day of “really intense racing,” second place Njemcevic felt that better collaboration could possibly have produced a different outcome.

Nobody wanted to work together,” she said. “I guess they were aiming for the podium, but I was only going for the win. I was pulling, asking them to pull but they didn’t want to pull so I was in front all day long and spent a lot of energy.”

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The next UCI Mountain Bike Marathon (XCM) World Cup event will take place in Megève, Haute-Savoie, nestled in the heart of the Alps of southeastern France, within the Mont Blanc massif, on the weekend of 28-30 June, 2024.

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