Stage 3 of the 2023 Andorra Epic Pyrenees saw BUFF MEGAMO and Singer Racing going hammer and tongs at each other until Hans Becking and José Dias were able to decisively distance Martin Frey and Simon Stiebjahn. Becking and Dias’ teammates, Janina Wüst and Meritxell Figueras Garangou continued their Andorran ascendency in the women’s race with their third successive stage victory.
The Queen Stage of the Andorra Epic Pyrenees had the look, on paper, of being the decisive general classification day of the 2023 race. Barring disaster on Saturday’s final stage, Stage 3, on Friday 7 July, will prove the key day in the third edition of event. BUFF MEGAMO’s men’s and women’s teams both conquered the 65 kilometre long stage best, distancing their rivals on the climb to Pic Maià. In the women’s race this allowed Janina Wüst and Meritxell Figueras Garangou to further cement their grip on the orange Ciovita leaders’ jerseys. While for Hans Becking and José Dias it allowed them to turn a 1 minute and 47 second deficit into a 4 minute, 40 lead.
Along with the longest course of the race, Stage 3 also featured a sapping 2 580 metres of elevation gain, including a climb to 2 615 metres above sea level. Given that the highest peak in Andorra is Coma Pedrosa, at 2 942 metres, there was not much higher the teams could scale. Starting in Canillo, the first 25 kilometres gained 1 100 meters and provided the terrain for BUFF MEGAMO to launch the attack which unseated Singer Racing from the overall lead. Having reached the highest point of the day the climbing was far from over however, as the stage also included ascents of Mont Màgic and the Coll d’Ordino before the final descent, along the Beixalís DH trail, back to La Massana.
The first order of the day was for Becking, Dias, Martin Frey and Simon Stiebjahn to distance the other UCI men’s teams. Once the leading two squads, on the overall standings, were out front together they began to go at each other hammer and tongs. BUFF MEGAMO attacked, then Singer Racing countered, then the protagonists attacked the leaders once more.
“It was quite a high pace from the start, but nearing the highest point Martin [Frey] began to experience some problems with the altitude so we had to slow down a bit,” Stiebjahn confessed. “We couldn’t see the BUFF MEGAMO guys anymore, then I think they took a wrong turn because suddenly they were coming from behind. I thought then that if we could keep in touch with them to Mont Màgic we could maybe keep the yellow jerseys. But again, we lost contact with them and once we did I knew it would be hard!”
Despite the wrong turn Becking and Dias never wavered on their plan for the stage. Knowing they had nearly two minutes to overturn but that they had nearly a 17 minute buffer to third they went full gas all stage. “This morning we said we have a big gap for third, so we decided to go all in from the start. At the highest point of the stage; we had a big gap already, maybe about a minute, but then we lost the route. We fought back again and continued to all in on every climb,” Becking reflected from the finish line. “If you want to fight for your teammate, it’s like 100 watts extra. I fought for José. He fought for me. We couldn’t let each other down and just continued to push more and more.”
The SCOTT - Cala Bandida teams crossed the finish line together on the Queen Stage, with Miquel Faus Juan (left) and Jose Maria Sanchez Ruiz (right) taking third place on the day. Photo by Carles Iturbe | Andorra Epic Pyrenees.
Meritxell Figueras Garangou (left) and Janina Wüst (right) have been in a class apart throughout the first three stages of the 2023 Andorra Epic Pyrenees. Photo by Carles Iturbe | Andorra Epic Pyrenees.
By the finish line Becking and Dias had built a 6 minute and 27 lead on Frey and Stiebjahn. This sees BUFF MEGAMO move into the race lead, with one stage remaining. They now hold a 4 minute and 40 second buffer on Singer Racing. Behind them SCOTT Cala Bandida’s two teams crossed the line together, with Jose Maria Sanchez Ruiz and Miquel Faus Juan taking third ahead of Sergio Mantecon and Francesc Guerra Carretero. Matecon and Guerra Carretero maintain the final general classification podium place however, but are 32:46 behind the new race leaders.
In the UCI women’s race Wüst and Figueras Garangou moved to within one victory of a clean sweep of the 2023 Andorra Epic Pyrenees stage titles. Once again, the BUFF MEGAMO women were a class apart, distancing their rivals, the Mondraker Team and Protour BCN within the early kilometres. The women in orange powered through the climbs and trails, continually extending their advantage. Their winning time was 4 hours, 47 minutes and 17 seconds, 39 minutes ahead of Ariadna Rodenas Pascual and Pilar Fernandez Hernandez of the Mondraker Team.
“I say it every day, but I’m really loving this race,” Wüst laughed, post-stage. “You have to suffer in the uphills, but the views are amazing and the downhills are just perfect. We’re here to race, but we don’t have to take any risks tomorrow. So, we’re looking forward to another great stage and hopefully we’ll be coming back in to La Massana again with smiles on our faces.”
With another Epic Series stage win on their team’s palmarès BUFF MEGAMO take a virtually unassailable lead of 1 hour, 32 minutes and 24 seconds into the final stage. Rodenas Pascual and Fernandez Hernandez’s advantage over Protour BCN’s Marta Torà Milà and Susana Alonso Carballo is itself over half an hour. Making it unlikely that the UCI women’s general classification will change on the final stage.
There is however still a change for general classifications shakeups on Stage 4. The 55 kilometre route includes 1 570 metres of climbing and 1 860 metres of descending. It also finishes with a climb rather than a singletrack descent into La Massana, so if a team begins to struggle in the closing kilometres they could ship minutes rather than seconds to their rivals. The final day is once again packed with singletracks and highlights include the start in Andorra’s Naturland park, the La Peguera downhill trail as well as the Romanesque bridges and wooden walkways.
To follow the Andorra Epic Pyrenees action mountain biking fans can log in to www.epic-series.com/andorra from 09:00 (Central European Summer Time | GMT +2) on Saturday, 8 July. Alternatively, share in the excitement on Instagram, @andorra_epic, and on Facebook, at Andorra Epic.
BUFF MEGAMO’s emphatic victory on Stage 3 moved them into the overall race lead and earned them the right to race in the yellow Ciovita leaders’ jerseys on the final stage. Photo by Carles Iturbe | Andorra Epic Pyrenees.
Andorra’s climbs may be strenuous but Janina Wüst reports that the views make them more than worthwhile. Photo by Carles Iturbe | Andorra Epic Pyrenees.
2023 Andorra Epic Pyrenees Results
UCI Men | Stage 3:
1. BUFF MEGAMO: Hans Becking & José Dias (3:26:43)
2. Singer Racing Team: Martin Frey & Simon Stiebjahn (3:33:10| +6:27)
3. SCOTT - Cala Bandida 2: Jose Maria Sanchez Ruiz & Miquel Faus Juan (3:42:52 | +16:09)
UCI Women | Stage 3:
1. BUFF MEGAMO Women: Janina Wüst & Meritxell Figueras Garangou (4:47:17)
2. Mondraker Team: Ariadna Rodenas Pascual & Pilar Fernandez Hernandez (5:26:43| +39:26)
3. Protour BCN: Marta Torà Milà & Susana Alonso Carballo (5:44:36 | +57:19)
UCI Men’s General Classification after Stage 3:
1. BUFF MEGAMO: Hans Becking & José Dias (8:05:29)
2. Singer Racing Team: Martin Frey & Simon Stiebjahn (8:10:09 | +4:40)
3. SCOTT - Cala Bandida: Sergio Mantecon & Francesc Guerra Carretero (8:38:15 | +32:46)
UCI Women’s General Classification after Stage 3:
1. BUFF MEGAMO Women: Janina Wüst & Meritxell Figueras Garangou (10:52:43)
2. Mondraker Team: Ariadna Rodenas Pascual & Pilar Fernandez Hernandez (12:25:07 | +1:32:24)
3. Protour BCN: Marta Torà Milà & Susana Alonso Carballo (13:00:10 | +2:07:27)