Race Report | Kronplatz Trail Trophy – A Session for Everyone
The ‘Spirit of Enduro’ phrase is one that is perhaps overused in enduro racing these days. To us, just putting on an enduro race does not automatically qualify the organiser to have the ‘spirit’ however much they advocate it. There need to be some extra ‘je ne sais quio’, that something that is felt rather than calculated or intentionally produced. After racing some Enduro World Series rounds which fall directly into the serious race category and some races like the Megavalanche which test racers to the limit we were looking for a more chilled affair. We found the perfect antidote to EWS – the Trail Trophy three day enduro at Kronplatz, Italy with added ‘Spirit of Enduro’…
The Trail Trophy Enduro races are a German race series and are headed up by Thomas Schlecking of Bike Projects GMBH. They have been running for a few years now with the five rounds taking place in Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Austria. The Kronplatz area of Italy is in the South Tyrol region near the border of Austria and is by all accounts a well-kept skiing secret. As we know wherever there is good skiing there is likely to be good mountain biking too.
Reading up on the pre-race info it was obvious the organisers wanted their race to be unique, the three days had been divided up into different sessions – The Trail Session, The All Mountain Session and then finally The Enduro Session. I was looking forward to eleven timed stages, three untimed meals and plenty of unlimited laughs! The ENDURO magazine riders were out in force at this race and looking forward to the action.
Friday morning started leisurely with copious cups of tea watching the sun break up the clouds over the mountain range the other side of the valley, before riders signed on and received the best race goodie bag yet – hats, socks, biscuits and stickers (all mountain bikers love a good sticker!) The race had started with the stereotypical German efficiency and after yet more caffeine in the café at the lift station under the race marquee’s riders set off in groups of twelve to begin day one – The Trail Session.
This session was all about an afternoon of short, fun trails to ease riders into the weekend taking place in pockets of woodland around the main town, Bruneck. Stages one and two were dispatched quickly and were great for getting the eyes in for blind enduro racing, I remembered when lying in a ditch at one point that it isn’t wise to go in that hot as the trail narrows! I found out in a rather uncomfortable way that the trail cornered to the right. That’s right, not straight on.
Stages one and two were suited to the peddlers, cheeky uphill’s aplenty, where 90% of the field would be in the wrong gear 90% of the time! Enroute to stage three the transition took us through the town centre, it was rude not to sample some gelato, we are in Italy after all! Suitably refuelled we headed on to stage three and finished the afternoon with a loamy downhill biased stage complete with sudden hairpins, pouncing on you like a lion on its prey. Even with relatively short stages racers still racked up 600m of descending over the 15km of the locals ‘after work’ trails.
Back to race HQ there was a plentiful buffet laid on for all, riders ate and drank (not beer but iced tea) whilst waiting for night to draw in. About 9pm riders donned lights and headed off to the woods for the night stage. The start marshal had decided to have his own bit of fun, declaring that this was to be a running start with the bike laid on a line and the rider having to sprint, jump on and go! This started seriously enough but soon riders were more worried about pleasing the crowd with antics rather than getting to their bike quickly. With the timing chips attached to the bike rather than the rider and the start line some 10m further on, it was irrelevant anyway! With the buffet and post ride chat and now this, the spirit of enduro was making itself heard!
Day 2 dawned cloudier and cooler than the previous day and with four longer stages. Rain threatened but thankfully held off until the evening. Saturday was The All Mountain Session with a 30km round trip, 600m of uphill and over 2000m of descending, today was going to be a good day on the bike! The first stage was reached under racers power with a 200m climb to start the day, getting the legs spinning before hitting the lifts. Stage five was another loamy trail interspersed with rocks that created interesting riding. Day 2’s riding was supposed to be seeded from the previous day’s results but it appeared that the racers would rather do their own thing and ride with their mates. This works well and is a great format when people are sensible about the time gap they leave between each other.
This was the first day using a ski lift, alighting at 2,200m or thereabouts at the top of the Kronplatz ski area. After taking in the stunning, if slightly clouded, views of the green valley below racers set off for a practice run down stage seven before tackling stage six. Stages six and seven were similar bike park style, bermed trails with the fastest riders being the ones who could maintain speed and conserve energy.
There was nothing too technical in these stages but to ride bike park trails fast there really does seem to be a knack to it! Racers took another lift back to the top of the mountain where we were directed to the lunch stop. Don’t think feed station here, think restaurant, two course meal and big portions! Everybody ate far too much! Stage eight was a slightly more technical part of the man-made trails, it had some awesome berms and jumps at just the right gradient to create some great flow. As soon as racers were back at race HQ they were getting fed again, the food at this event was second to none, proper racers fuel and plenty of it! Most of the racers sat down in the evening to watch the Mont St Anne Downhill World Cup, a pretty perfect day!
The final day of the race took place on Sunday with The Enduro Session and no climbing whatsoever! No warm ups today, after a lift up and short downhill transition to Stage nine we headed straight into racing the 1,200m of descent over three stages. Saving the most technical stages for last, these stages were the steeper, rootier sections of the bike park and after a full night of rain the roots and rocks were slick to say the least.
The Trail Trophy Enduro was an extremely well run race, everything was slick, professional and friendly and with great, weatherproof facilities to boot! The spirit of enduro is created by the people the race attracts. This race drew in those with an appreciation of spending time with friends and family in a great atmosphere over the weekend. There was still some serious racing to be had but everyone was definitely having fun riding their bikes whilst doing it! We love seeing how other countries and people interpret enduro racing and this unique format with three distinctly different days coupled with a vibrant social scene is certainly one we will be keen to repeat!
Words: Rachael Gurney Photos: Daniel Zeising / TRAILTROPHY / Wisthaler.com-Schwienbacher