Race report | SSES #3: Half-time in Willingen
This weekend’s ZIENER Bike Festival in Willingen marked the third stop of 400-rider strong Specialized-SRAM Enduro Series. Taking home the honours at the end were Michal Prokop and Anneke Beerten.
Some of the sport’s biggest names were hunting for glory in the Elite Men’s race in Willingen this weekend including the Irish winner of the EWS, Greg Callaghan (IRL – Cube Action Team), Michal Prokop (CZE – Specialized Racing) and the newly crowned German champion Fabian Scholz (GER – Focus Trail Team). The women’s field was equally as contested with the current series leader Anneke Beerten (NED – Specialized Racing) and the young German talent Raphaela Richter (GER – Radon Factory Racing) both present, promising an intense battle for victory.
Saturday stayed dry despite the presence of threatening clouds, as riders diligently collected their numbers and headed out for training on the five stages, which cover 28km and 960 metres of climbing. Given the dry conditions, the trails were satisfyingly quick, and the organisers at this third stop of the SSES have designed a route that encompasses a touch of everything – from bike park sections in stage 1, to stage 2’s high-speed parts, right through to the dense forests of stage 4. Such variety meant riders were forced to employ all their endurance, with intense pedalling sections on stage 3 as well as dealing with stage’s technical steep sections.
Sunday morning welcomed the riders with the ideal conditions, with moderate sunshine and light wind rearing its head on the transfer stages for some well-needed cooling-off. Over the course of the day, the stages got more ridden in and rutted out, leading the crowds to wonder just which riders would cope best with such dusty conditions.
Michal Prokop took victory in the Elite Men’s category, clocking in a time of 10:09.29 ahead of Greg Callaghan and Premek Tejchmann (CZE – Commencal). Andy Eyring (GER – RWV Haselbach) and Philip Shucksmith (GBR – Pro Ride Guides) claimed fourth and fifth. As is often the case, the Elite Women’s race was dominated by Anneke Beerten, who took first ahead of Natalie Schneitter (SUI – ROSE Vaujany) and Raphaela Richter.
The faster Pro Master on the day, Remo Heutschi (SUI), was joined on the podium by André Kleindienst (GER – Endura Bergamont Factory) and Tommy Umbreit (GER – Redheads Team). Amongst the Amateur Men, Clemens Bachmann (GER – BSG Flughafen Stuttgart) dug deep and showed his form, leaving Maximilian Dörfer (GER – Epic Cycles Hamburg) and Henrik Grobert (GER – Freiburger Pilsner) to take second and third positions. The Amateur Women’s category was won by Barbara Stettler (SUI – Thömus Veloshop), with Jana Goetze (GER – Santa Claus Syndicate) second and Ulrike Moelders (GER – Aroma Ahoi) in third.
While the weekend’s victory meant that Michal Prokop extended his lead in the overall standings, it has also seen added competition in the women’s classification as Anneke Beerten poses a real threat to Raphaela Richter. It’s going to be a tight battle to claim the top step at the next stop of this year’s Specialized-SRAM Enduro Series, which will take place on 18/19 July on the Samerberg.
With 15 nations represented in Willingen, the huge international presence of the SSES was once again in force. And the BIKE Festival proved just what a great backdrop it provides to a race of this calibre; with the organisers already expressing their intention to further develop the diversity of the race route.
More information on the Specialized SRAM Enduro Series and the full results can be found at enduroseries.net.
Text: Martin Stöckl Bilder: Hanno Polomsky