Words: Paul Aston
Photos: Boris Nachbauer
I was looking for another race to fill in the gaps between the EWS in Valloire and the Italian round in La Thuile. I spotted this event taking place in the Tirol region of Austria and thought it would fit nicely in to the schedule. Having previously attended one of the SRAM series in Winterberg a few years ago, I knew the organisation was top notch. I had also ridden nearby in Mayhrhofen and the inspiring Zillertal Valley a few years back with Dirt Magazine and ever since had been urging to get back here. I was sure there would be some amazing trails and a good vibe.
I arrived late on Friday night, after driving over from the Scott Bikes 2015 Media Camp in Davos, Switzerland, I parked up and fell straight to sleep in the back of the Brotorhome.
Waking early the next morning and relocating to the well established shanty area where fellow Europikeys James, Shirley and Stuart Wilcox, and a tribe of Kiwis were living. The Kwis are probably some of the best pikeys I’ve seen in a while. A small transit van with beds constructed of pallets and other recycled products is home to Joe Nation, James Hampton and Hayden Lee since the EWS round in Scotland, and they are travelling around racing as much as possible on a shoestring budget.
An early start to get on the gondola to practice stages 4/5 as this was only open until 10am due to courses clashing with the multiple XC and marathon events, as this race was part of the KitzAlp Bike fest. The infrastructure here was great, trade stands, huge bike wash area and even a portable shower block.
Stages 4 and 5 utilised the Fleckalm trail, well renowned in this area, but split in to two. Organiser Georgy Grogger said they split the trail halfway as he wants these events to be a stepping stone for riders working towards EWS standard events, a Central European series with a national level standard. Top to bottom in one go would have been around 17/18mins for the top guys! These trails had a varied terrain of pea gravel berms, muddy roots and high speeds across the winter pistes.
Afterwards we rode across town to practice Stages 1, 2 and 3. These were on DH trails in the Gaisberg ski area, the best part of this, free WiFi on the chairlift, a dream for the pikeys. All 3 trails were super fun, the first being fast and open, the latter two being corner after corner with little let up.
Scottish lad Stuart Wilcox had a monster crash during the afternoons practice, hitting a small wooden bridge pinned, but loosing it on the landing. A few sky-ground, sky-grounds later his thumb was in a pretty bad way, and had a huge hole punched in to his shin. Utilising well used and dirty gaffer tape that was taping my spare tube to the frame to patch it up and contain the rush of blood. Unfortunately this put him on the sidelines for Sunday but he’s hoping to be fighting fit in La Thuile.
Saturday evening held a Prolog stage away from town. a 30-40 second sprint with a couple of sharp, quad burning climbs up and out of a stream. Kiwi brew Hayden Lee took the win for the lads, smashing the field by 1/100th of a second, he was pumped after this and even had all his kit laid out in order in the evening ready to put on first thing.
Sunday racing started at 9 with fastest riders starting first, weather forecast was unpredictable and some big clouds rolling around the skies. These events are pretty relaxed giving you a time limit in which to complete the stages rather than having set start times for each stage Georgy says he thinks this is a superior format to others because ‘like at Finale last year, some guy had Steve Peat 20secs behind him on every stage knowing that he was going to get overtaken or hold up Steve, with this format riders can choose who they start behind, or in front of, and also have opportunity to leave longer gaps up to 2 minutes between riders.
There was light rain from the off, which didn’t really affect the first few stages, by the time we got on the long gondola to Stage 4 and 5 it was getting heavier and the mist was descending. Visibility was very limited in some places and the trails were becoming sketchy, a thin layer of grease on top of hard-packed clay.
I had a clean day overall with no real mistakes, but need to pick up the pace after finishing way down in 20thplace. James Shirley was in the lead for a while before Markus Reiser pushed him back and the floodgates opened, Shirley dropped down to 11th. Hayden Lee continued his form from Prolog, taking second on the day followed by Joe Nation in 3rd. No mechanic, no team, no hotel but vollgas.
Old timer and all time good guy, Andre Wagenknect took the win on the day by just over 3 seconds.
Thanks to Georgy Grogger and Sabine for letting me race, it was a great event and will definitely be heading to another Specialized SRAM Enduro in the future.