Stage 3 of the 2023 4Islands MTB Croatia was the Queen Stage of the event, featuring the best riding that the island of Cres had to offer, but before the teams could enjoy the trails, a trip on the Jadrolinija ferry from Rab to the Merag port on Cres allowed nerves to settle and pre-race plans to be formed.
Though, given the relaxed atmosphere on the ferry, it seemed that there was more relaxing than strategising; however, when the horn of the ferry sounded the start, it was full gas up the opening climb and the pace never let up until the line was crossed in Cres.
The main protagonists of the day were, once again, Orbea x Leatt x Speed Company as they charged up the opening climb in their true to brand style and drove the pace with BUFF MEGAMO and Team Bulls in tow. When the elastic broke, it was Egger and Baum alone for the majority of the stage once again.
“I thought the last few days were rough, but wow, today was even rougher! It was incredible” said Egger on the finish line of Stage 3. “We started nice and fast and that was to our advantage; we kept pushing and kept our speed up the whole day and feel that yellow is quite safe now.”
Egger and Baum have shown the world their racing style, which is pedal to metal from start to finish, in Andorra and at two Absa Cape Epics in the past two years; Stage 3 of the 4Islands was another signature performance.
“All these islands have started to look like one big rock to me,” laugh Baum when asked about which island has been his favourite. “I’m kidding, the racing has been amazing on all of them. We grew up with XC racing which needs a fast start so that’s become our style… sometimes attack is the best defence, and it’s worked, especially here with early climbs. We’ve kept the yellow jerseys and there’s only stage to go.”
Egger and Baum’s winning time was 03:14:04. Second place went to Team BULLS, Alban Lakata and Simon Schneller, in 03:21:20. Third place went to BUFF MEGAMO, Hans Becking and Hugo Drechou, in 03:23:40.
With one stage left to race, on the island of Lošinj, Orbea x Leatt x Speed Company lead the Men’s category by 18 minutes, 21 seconds and will start the final day in the yellow CIOVITA leader jerseys. The pair were clear to state that anything could still happen on the final day, but they’ll be racing full gas for the win.
“Tomorrow’s the last day, and it’s a short one,” said Baum. “We’ve got the last few fireworks to burn!”
After a series of unfortunate events during Stage 2 on Rab, Bettina Janas and Kim Ames of sportograf.com – Bike Aid MTB were back to winning ways in Cres as they claimed the stage win by crossing the line in 04:17:57, 7 minutes, 8 seconds ahead of Tanja Priller and Greta Karasiovaité of TRISCELION | SRT-Protective Factory. Velohunt/Veloflütsch’s Alessia Nay and Liisa Ehrberg finished the day in third.
Janas and Ames raced aggressively in the early parts of the stage, and opened a gap, much like they’ve done on the race’s earlier stages, which allowed them to ride their own race and take in the scenery on Cres instead of having to keep their eyes locked on their rivals.
“Today was quite tough and the trails were very technical, but that difficulty proved to be to our advantage, ”said Ames. “We really liked the stage and the racing as we could focus on our plan. And take in some of the amazing views along the way.”
Stage 4 takes place on the fourth and final island Lošinj. Starting and finishing in Mali Lošinj, the stage is a celebration of trails and views on Lošinj and is the perfect way to wrap up the 2023 4Islands MTB Croatia. While the time gaps going into the final stage are large, this is mountain bike stage racing and there’s still everything to play for, however, with just 41 kilometres left to race, if moves are to be made, they’ll need to be made early and aggressively.
Tune in to the 4Islands Facebook page and Instagram account, or the Epic Series YouTube channel, for the best images and videos from Stage 4.
2023 4Islands MTB Croatia – Stage 3 Results
1. Orbea x Leatt x Speed Company: Georg Egger, Lukas Baum – 03:14:04
2. Team BULLS: Alban Lakata, Simon Schneller – 03:21:20 (+00:07:16)
3. BUFF MEGAMO: Hugo Drechou, Hans Becking – 03:23:40 (+00:09:36)
1. Sportograf.com – Bike Aid MTB: Bettina Janas, Kim Ames– 04:17:57
2. TRISCELION | SRT-Protective Factory: Tanja Priller, Greta Karasiovaité – 04:25:05 (+00:07:08)
3. Velohunt/VeloFlütsch: Alessia Nay, Liisa Ehrberg – 04:26:59 (+00:09:02)
2023 4Islands MTB Croatia – General Classification After Stage 3
1. Orbea x Leatt x Speed Company: Georg Egger, Lukas Baum – 09:18:40
2. BUFF MEGAMO: Hugo Drechou, Hans Becking – 09:37:01 (+00:18:21)
3. Team BULLS: Alban Lakata, Simon Schneller – 09:38:29 (+00:19:49)
1. Sportograf.com – Bike Aid MTB: Bettina Janas, Kim Ames – 12:12:58
2. Velohunt/VeloFlütsch: Alessia Nay, Liisa Ehrberg – 12:28:59 (+00:16:01)
3. TRISCELION | SRT-Protective Factory: Tanja Priller, Greta Karasiovaité – 12:36:32 (+00:23:34)
To view the complete results across all the 2023 4Islands MTB Croatia categories, please click here.