Pila has been well-known to the mountain biking community far beyond Italy’s borders since long before it hosted the World Cup in 2005. So it was not a total surprise when, last year, iXS selected it as the venue for a leg of the European Series. The bike park in the Aosta Valley has a perfect infrastructure and former professional cyclist Corrado Herin designed a world quality course for this year’s race. The dry, extremely dusty conditions made the track very slippery and even more challenging. The names on the registration list already promised that the race would be top class but the atmosphere would still have been very special despite this – the Italians are, after all, known the world over for their love of cycling. In addition to this, the high level of media and camera coverage was particularly striking – there was even a camera helicopter circling over the course. Conditions were thus perfect for the penultimate leg of the European Cup.
After Lewis Buchanan (GBR - ChainReactionCycles) recorded the fastest time in the seeding run, ahead of Cameron Cole (NZL - Lapierre) and Joshua Button (AUS - SC-Intense), Sunday saw a completely different set of names on the podium. Johann Potgieter (RSA) set a best time very early on in the race and was able to relax in the Red Bull Hot Seat for a while. At the end of the day his time was, however, only good enough for third place, despite being only 36 hundredths of second slower than the winner. Second place went to junior rider Loic Bruni (FRA - Lapierre) who was thus able to leave all the major favourites behind him. Only one of the final Top 20 was able to better his time by 14 hundredths of a second. Florent Payet (FRA - SC-Intense) took 4:19 min to complete his run, winning one of the Cup’s most hotly contested races by the narrowest of margins.
With sovereign first places in the seeding run and the finals Miriam Ruchti (SUI - SC-Nukeproof) assured her early victory in the overall rankings. Second place in the day’s rankings went to Elisa Canepa (ITA - Eli-CA RRide asd) with Diana Marggraff (ECU) able to repeat her success in Špičák and achieve another third place on the podium.
Junior Female biker Tahnee Seagrave (FRA - Fox/Intense) once again showed what we can expect from her in the coming season, when she will be able to compete in the Elite Women category as a junior. The time she achieved in Pila would have made her the winner in exactly this category – for the second time after Monte Tamaro.
The results in the Junior Male category were also less than surprising: Gianluca Vernessa (ITA - Argentina Bikes) again took top points, as previously in the first race of the series and in Leogang.
In the Masters category it looked as if Wilfred van de Haterd (NED - Bike Service Eisenach) would clearly dominate the entire weekend. Despite falling he won the seeding run with just under 5 seconds’ lead. However a flat tyre in the finals put paid to his hopes of gaining a fourth Cup victory. This left the way clear for Marcel Waldmann (SUI - Fatwork) to take his first win of the season. Heinz Hostettler (SUI - BanditBike.ch) came in second, ahead of Javier Santiago (ARG - Moser Sport).