The Dutch phenom will be among the top names of 18th edition of the Marlene Südtirol Sunshine Race on Sunday 15 April, along with World Cup holder Yana Belomoina, Under-23 World Champion Sina Frei and defending champions Marco Aurelio Fontana and Gunn-Rita Dahle
The Marlene Südtirol Sunshine Race celebrates its 18th birthday and it’s going to be a great one. The traditional appointment with the Cross-Country Mountain Bike of Nals will celebrate on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 April its first 18 years, indeed. Thus, Sunshine Racers Nals organizers presented today, on Wednesday, April 4, topics and protagonists of an edition which will be remembered – also valid as first stage of Internazionali d’Italia Series 2018. The press conference held at the headquarters of Birra Forst, in Algund (Bozen), was attended – among others – by the President of Sunshine Racers Nals, Florian Pallweber, the President of the Alto Adige Committee of the Italian Cycling Federation, Nino Lazzarotto, the reigning Italian Cross-Country MTB Champion, South Tyrolean Gerhard Kerschbaumer, and fellow home rider Lisa Rabensteiner.
The first important piece of news in 2018 for the Marlene Südtirol Sunshine Race is about its return to UCI Hors Categorie, which makes it the most important event on the Italian Cross-Country calendar with the exception of the World Cup stage in Val di Sole.
A category upgrade strongly wanted by the organizers of Sunshine Racers Nals, as explained by the President Florian Pallweber: “In eighteen years of history, we have succeeded in establishing our race from a technical and organizational point of view, and every year, many athletes choose to compete in this event. However, the HC category represents an important additional motivation for athletes, especially at this time of the season, and the confirmations we have already received from many leading players promise a great race.”
There will be many athletes looking to write their name into the prestigious golden book of the Marlene Südtirol Sunshine Race, into which appear, among others, Julien Absalon (2005), Nino Schurter (2010), Marco Aurelio Fontana (2012 and 2017), Manuel Fumic (2013 and 2014), and Florian Vogel (2015) among men, and Paola Pezzo (2004), Eva Lechner (2009-2010-2013-2014) e Gunn-Rita Dahle, record athlete with six victories (2003-2006-2007-2015-2016-2017).
Marco Aurelio Fontana (Bianchi Countervail) will be back at the start to defend the title won in 2017, with teammates Stephane Tempier – ranked second in last year’s World Cup and second also in Nalles after being winning in 2016 – and Nadir Colledani.
Nevertheless, there will be many contenders willing to win the competition: among the most interesting names already confirmed at the start we can find the Dutch Mathieu Van Der Poel (Corendon-Circus), who follows in the family’s footsteps and is an absolute cyclo-cross phenomenon. During the last season – his first in the MTB World Cup – he gave even Nino Schurter a hard time.
Let’s keep on focusing on men: the athletes of the Cannondale Factory Racing Team stand out, with Maxime Marotte (# 2 of the World Ranking) and Manuel Fumic, who has already won twice in Nals.
And other athletes are showing up as well: the European Champion Florian Vogel (Focus XC International), ranked third last year in Nalles; Mathias and Lukas Flückiger (Thomus-RN Racing); Martin Blums, the winner of the last Under 23 World Cup; Norwegian Petter Fagerhaug, winner of the first race of the Under 23 World Cup in South Africa.
And watch out for the Italians: much is expected not just from Fontana but also from the home athlete Gerhard Kerschbaumer (Torpado-Gabogas), ranked fifth in the last edition, from Gioele Bertolini and Andrea Tiberi (Focus-Selle Italia) and Luca Braidot (C.S. Carabinieri).
Let’s switch to women: the expected winner is the indestructible Gunn-Rita Dahle, competing for her seventh victory in Nalles (and that would be her third victory in a row). However, she has to watch out for a very strong rival as Yana Belomoina (CST-American Eagle), winner of the 2017 World Cup, despite suffering an injury at the beginning of the season.
Together with her the teammate Anne Tauber, ranked second in the World Cup debut, who will also play a leading role.
Linda Indergand (Focus XC International), ranked second last season, will try to step up another position. The Ghost Factory Racing Team will line up in force, with Malene Degn, winner of the Under 23 in the World Cup debut, with the current Under 23 World Champion Sina Frei, and another talented Swiss should not be forgotten: Alessandra Keller (Thömus-RN).
Among the Italians, much is expected from Serena Calvetti (KTM-Protec Dama), the young Martina Berta (BH-SrSuntour) and Chiara Teocchi (Bianchi Countervail), and of course from the South Tyrolean riders: Lisa Rabensteiner and Greta Seiwald (Focus-Selle Italia) and Anna Oberparleiter (Lapierre Trentino Alè).
A prestigious list which will grow further during the last ten days leading to the event.
“I like Nals’ course a lot, though I have never managed to succeed here so far,” told Gerhard Kerschbaumer. “Maybe this time will be the right one, though the startlist is World-Cup worthy, with Van Der Poel leading the field.”
“There will be lots of competition also among women,” Lisa Rabensteiner confirmed, “though Gunn-Rita Dahle is always the one to beat when it comes to Nals. Among the others, watch out for Indergand and Belomoina. My own condition is on the rise, I would be happy with a top-10 position.”
UCI JUNIOR SERIES
This year Nals will also host the only Italian stage (and the outright second) of the UCI Junior Series, the World Cup for the Junior category: the worldwide most promising talents of the fat wheels will therefore compete on the traditional route of South Tyrol.
A very important recognition for this event and its organizers, who have been heavily investing for years on the formation of young riders.
“Sunshine Racers Nals organizers have set a benchmark with their commitment for youngsters, even beyond the South Tyrolean borders,” stated Nino Lazzarotto, President of the South Tyrol’s committee of the Italian Cycling Federation, ”and deserve credit for their outstanding work, that led them to creating over these 18 years one of the most successful and prestigious mountain bike events in Italy.”
The Nalles route is well known in the Mountain Bike field as one of the most challenging. Its length is of 4.3 km, to which is added an initial launch stretch for the first lap only. Right at the beginning we find the most feared and characteristic stretch of the Marlene Südtirol Sunshine Race: the “Hill of the Nightingale”, the challenging 1 km-stretch (600 meters in the woods) with 10 hairpin bends, which traditionally states which contenders may really go for the victory. After the spectacular stretches of the Keschtnigl, the Gugguhütte and the Step Downhill, technical parts with different features and jumps as well as spectacular downhills, the Ganterer downhill leads the athletes to the Stachelburg estate and then brings them back to the finish line. The total difference in height is 190 meters: it takes brilliance, fund and endurance to win in Nals.
The Marlene Südtirol Sunshine Race show already starts on Saturday, April 14, with the races of the Cadets (11.00-15.00) and the Rookies (13.00-17.00), giving life to a technical competition which will be a prelude to the races of the following day.
On Sunday, April 15 at 8:15 Women Cadets and Rookies, Men Rookies (10:00), Juniores Men – UCI Junior Series (11:15), Women Open and Women Juniores – UCI Junior Series (13:00), Men Open (15:00). The award ceremony takes place at the end of each competition.
Another new and important feature of the 2018 season is represented by the live streaming that Internazionali d’Italia Series will provide via its official channels. You will be able to follow the Open Men live, with extensive highlights and interviews of all the races.
Also in 2018 the Marlene Südtirol Sunshine Race can count on the fundamental support of important and prestigious partners, strongly linked to the territory: the Main Sponsors Marlene and Südtirol, and the sponsors Forst, Raiffeisen and Gemeinde Nals.
The Internazionali d’Italia Series is in turn supported by three Main Partners: Northwave, Shimano and Vittoria, true references of the world of cycling on an international level.