Martin Frey and Simon Stiebjahn, of Singer Racing, fought their way to victory on the opening stage of the 2023 Andorra Epic Pyrenees. The German pair were joined atop the day’s podium by Janina Wüst and Meritxell Figueras Garangou, of BUFF MEGAMO, who dominated the stage in the UCI elite women’s category.
Stage 1 of the 2023 Andorra Epic Pyrenees was contested in perfect conditions on Wednesday, 5 July. The 42 kilometre route, which started and finished in La Massana, saw fast paced racing; despite the high altitudes the course presented. Singer Racing’s Martin Frey and Simon Stiebjahn drew first blood in the UCI men’s competition. While Janina Wüst and Meritxell Figueras Garangou, of BUFF MEGAMO, showed their class in the UCI women’s race.
With climbing from the gun, the Andorra Epic Pyrenees rapidly showcased what mountain bike racing in the Pyrenean Principality is all about. The opening stage began with a 15 kilometre ascent from the centre of La Massana, at 1 250 metres above sea level, through Pal and the Arinsal Bike Park to the summit of Collada de Muntaner, at 2 120 metres. A 5 kilometre long 500 metre descent followed, before the day’s second major climb ascended the Coll de la Botella along the Smuggler’s Pass. The famous Commençal DH flow trail, in the Pal/Arinsal Bike Park, then took the teams back into La Massana to conclude the day’s alpine adventure.
On the first climb of the race the UCI men’s field felt each other out; with the pre-race favourites Singer Racing and BUFF MEGAMO being joined by the SCOTT Cala Bandida teams as well as by Biking point - MB2 and the Federació Andorrana Ciclisme squad. Picking up the explanation of how the stage unfolded Stiebjahn explained: “The start wasn’t too hard, but then near the first summit BUFF MEGAMO took it up hard. From there the stage became a more tactical battle between us and them. The key moment was the sprint for the entrance to the Commençal DH flow trail, which we won. We were then able to establish a little gap on the singletrack descent and defend it to the end.”
The stage was raced like a Prologue Frey joked. “Hans [Becking] and José [Dias] were really strong today,” Frey praised. “The pace, once we were away with them was really high! Which was surprising because we all know the affects of racing that hard at altitude. Once you go into the red zone it’s really hard to recover, so you need to stay steady. So, we’ll see how the next three days unfold.”
Frey’s warning could have a material affect on the rest of the race, as all three remaining stages cross the 2 000 meter above sea level mark, with Stage 3 reaching as high as 2 615 metres. The 28 second lead which Singer Racing established, over BUFF MEGAMO, on Stage 1 is thus by no means a secure buffer. The 7 minute and 16 seconds advantage they hold on SCOTT - Cala Bandida’s Sergio Mantecon and Francesc Guerra Carretero is a more telling time gap. One that arguably points to the battle for the yellow Ciovita jerseys playing out between the Stiebjahn/Frey and Becking/Dias combinations.
In the UCI women’s race Wüst and Figueras Garangou set a fierce early tempo which distanced their rivals on the climb to the Collada de Muntaner. Once the BUFF MEGAMO combination had established a lead they set about extending it by riding a consistently high pace for the rest of the stage. This tactic allowed them to remain safe, but also to win the stage by 15 minutes over the Mondraker Team, of Ariadna Rodenas Pascual and Pilar Fernandez Hernandez. The battle for second was a much closer affair, with Marta Torà Milà and Susana Alonso Carballo, of Protour BCN, finishing within 2 minutes and 53 seconds of Rodenas Pascual and Fernandez Hernandez.
“We are excited to be back here, at Andorra Epic Pyrenees,” Figueras Garangou smiled after her stage win. “Andorra is a beautiful country, filled with beautiful trails and friendly people.” When asked how the stage was won Wüst noted: “We made a tactical plan yesterday. Because I didn’t know any of our rivals, I didn’t know what to expect, so we initially stayed with them on the first part of the climb. Later we attacked and established a good lead, after which we were able to ride our own pace and enjoy the incredible downhills.”
“We are very fortunate to have the support of such an incredible team,” Wüst thanked her BUFF MEGAMO staff. “They do all the hard work so we can just focus on racing and giving our all on the bike. It’s also great to have such a fun group of people in the team, it creates a good atmosphere which helps everyone enjoy the stage race that bit more.”
Stage 2, of Andorra Epic Pyrenees, features a 58 kilometre long route, which starts in Pal/Arinsal and crosses the Coll de la Botella, twice, Port de Cabús and Collada de Muntaner. From that final summit the day drops into the Sispony Valley and remains mercifully below 1 500 metres above sea level for the final 25 kilometres. It is a course packed with singletracks which will require supreme skill in order to make a decisive difference in the general classification battle.
2023 Andorra Epic Pyrenees Results
UCI Men | Stage 1:
1. Singer Racing Team: Martin Frey & Simon Stiebjahn (2:01:00)
2. BUFF MEGAMO: Hans Becking & José Dias (2:01:28 | +28)
3. SCOTT - Cala Bandida: Sergio Mantecon & Francesc Guerra Carretero (2:08:16 | +7:16)
UCI Women | Stage 1:
1. BUFF MEGAMO Women: Janina Wüst & Meritxell Figueras Garangou (2:36:03)
2. Mondraker Team: Ariadna Rodenas Pascual & Pilar Fernandez Hernandez (2:51:25 | +15:22)
3. Protour BCN: Marta Torà Milà & Susana Alonso Carballo (2:54:18 | +18:15)