For the next five days, mountain bikers from 34 different countries will be pushing their limits, celebrating their love for mountain biking, exploring trails as old as time, and having the time of their lives at the 2023 edition of the 4Islands MTB Croatia.
The 2023 4Islands MTB Croatia will explore the trails of islands Krk, Rab, Cres, and Lošinj in its 291-kilometre route that includes 6 150 metres of climbing. Now, you’re probably wondering, four different islands in five days… how are the riders going to get between islands? The answer: by boat or by ferry!
The race begins in Baška on the island of Krk with a Prologue of 12 kilometres. Stage 1 then explores the island in detail during its 78-kilometre route that starts and finishes at the seaside promenade of Baška. Stage 2 sees teams board the boats and the Jadrolinija ferry and head to Rab where the stage starts in Lopar and finishes in the city of Rab. Teams sail across the sea once more ahead of Stage 3 and arrive at island Cres for a freshly designed Stage 3 route that begins in Merag and ends in the city of Cres for the first time in the event's history. The fourth and final island, Lošinj, plays host to Stage 4 and is a celebration of what’s been accomplished during the previous four days as teams explore the best trails on the island in a 41-kilometre-long stage that starts and finishes in Mali Lošinj.
While there are several professional teams eager to claim the win at the 2023 4Islands Croatia, the rest of the field has arrived for a variety of reasons; the majority of which do not include victory and glory.
Chris Sanchirico, from the United States of America, raced the Swiss Epic in 2021 and was told by a fellow rider about the action on the islands at the 4Islands, “While I was racing Swiss Epic, a guy told me about the 4Islands and it’s lived up to the reputation of being incredible already. I’ve just finished up the Prologue route recce and man, it’s incredible. These next few are going to be full of good people, great riding, delicious beers, and a few days on the boats. I can’t wait to get this going!”
Bart Luypaert, from Belgium, has done several mountain bike races across the world and when searching for his next challenge he discovered the Epic Series, ”After finding out about the Epic Series and its races I was excited and the timing was just perfect with the 4Islands happening in April. I’ve only been here a short while ahead of the race but I can already tell it’s going to be great – the nature and environment here aren’t anything like Belgium! The views of the Adriatic Seas are amazing, and there are mountains! That’s something we don’t have back home.”
Netzer and Telma Quan, from Guatemala, travelled from Central America to the islands of Croatia in search of adventure and the possibility of qualifying for the Absa Cape Epic through the lottery system. “Telma and I are super excited to race here for the experience of racing on these islands and on these amazing trails. I’m racing with my wife; we’ve been racing together for 20 years, and she’s the best partner. We have loads of singletracks back in Guatemala and I’ve heard there are lots here too, so I think we are in for a good week, hopefully, a top 10 in mixed. And then we want to qualify for the Cape Epic!”
The route, the islands, the terrain and the challenge of conquering the rocks were all common threads for anyone spoken to during Registration day, though a selection of riders revealed their reasons for racing: to become Epic Legends or to help their partners join the club.
James Scharf Jr, an Epic Legend himself, is racing with Edward Wimmer who is set to become a Legend in five days’ time. “I have the best possible partner in Edward and it’s going to be absolutely incredible racing these islands with him and seeing him become an Epic Legend. For all the newbies coming to this race – enjoy it, take it easy and soak this all in, it’s a special experience amongst amazing people.”
Two other riders, the world-famous Jose Hermida and Antonio Ortiz, are also racing to become Epic Legends. “I am absolutely excited to be here! Man! It feels good! I’ve done 10 Cape Epics, 10!!, and a Swiss Epic so my Epic Series history is deep. But now, at this stage of my life, I’m looking for more than just races; I’m looking at events, travel, adventure and experiences and the 4Islands gives me all of that. What is great about this is the balance of competition, the challenging terrain, and the fact that I am going to be racing alongside my good friend Antonio; he’s an amazing partner and he’s going to also become an Epic Legend so it’s something we’ll experience together. You know, when I got my Amabubesi (three Absa Cape Epic finishes) it was amazing, but when I got my 10-year Amabubesi it was a truly emotional moment with tears and everything; I think becoming an Epic Legend is going to be a similar feeling and I can’t wait. Bring it on, let’s Conquer The Rocks!”
To follow the action, adventures and experiences of all the teams, be sure to stay tuned to the 4Islands MTB Croatia social media channels for all the best images and videos as teams push their limits and Conquer The Rocks in Croatia!