The final stage of the 2023 Andorra Epic Pyrenees saw Hans Becking and José Dias survive a puncture to close out the title, despite Martin Frey and Simon Stiebjahn winning the final stage. Janina Wüst and Meritxell Figueras Garangou completed their clean sweep of stage victories to seal a near perfect race for the BUFF MEGAMO squad.
Having taken a 4 minute and 40 second lead into the final stage of the Andorra Epic Pyrenees, on Saturday 8 July, the BUFF MEGAMO men knew that only a serious mechanical or puncture likely stood between them and their first Epic Series victory. José Dias however flirted with disaster as he punctured and nearly allowed Singer Racing’s Martin Frey and Simon Stiebjahn to reclaim the yellow Ciovita jerseys at the final opportunity. In the UCI women’s race the Janina Wüst and Meritxell Figueras Garangou did not subject each other to the stress Dias and Hans Becking endured as they raced to their fourth successive stage win.
The 55 kilometre long Stage 4 provided opportunities to both attacking riding and potential disaster. As with the previous three days the course was a mix of arduous climbing, technical singletracks and smooth purpose build mountain biking flow trails. The course included 1 570 metres of climbing and 1 860 metres of descending, started in the spectacular Naturland park and finished with a run in to La Massana over a series of Romanesque bridges and wooden walkways.
There was little to no time for the UCI men’s teams to take in the natural and architectural beauty of the stage however. Especially as Singer Racing made it tough from the off. Frey and Stiebjahn were not content to go down without a fight and put the pressure on BUFF MEGAMO.
“Starting the day with a 4:40 lead we had planned to race conservatively,” Becking allowed. “We know that if we descended safely, we’d concede around 15 seconds to Singer Racing on each downhill. But with no time checks that started to become stressful. José’s puncture cost us some time, but it wasn’t until the final aid station [at Comabella, with 17 kilometres to go] that we got a time gap to the leaders.”
“We were told there that Singer were two minutes ahead, so I knew if we kept it consistent, we’d be able to secure the overall victory,” Becking added. “But still I was avoiding every possible rock and unweighting my bike to avoid puncturing.”
“It feels like I’ve been the black sheep of the Epic Series,” he laughed. “Never able to get the victory. So, this feels great; especially with José by my side. Also, we owe a lot of thanks to the team and the sponsors, with MEGAMO investing a lot recently and BUFF’s committed long-term support. We have the best support, the best mechanics, the best physios and the best sponsors! Pau [Zamora Perez] is a team manager with a lot of experience, he makes our jobs easy; we just wake up, eat and suffer, that’s it. This victory is down to everyone’s hard work.”
Frey and Stiebjahn secured their third stage win, from a possible four, but only managed to reel in 2 minutes and 17 seconds of the 4 minutes 40 they needed to in order to overturn BUFF MEGAMO’s lead. This handed Becking and Dias the 2023 Andorra Epic Pyrenees title by 2 minutes and 23 seconds, from Singer Racing. The win is the first Epic Series crown for the Spanish team’s men and comes after second places at 4Islands Croatia, this year, and in Andorra, in 2022.
The final stage saw Sergio Gutiérrez and Pau Marza Bedos joining Singer Racing and BUFF MEGAMO on the podium. The Biking Point - MB2 team had suffered a major mechanical on Stage 3, while in competition for third on the day, so the result represented a redemption of sorts for them. It did however not unseat SCOTT - Cala Bandida’s Sergio Mantecon and Francesc Guerra Carretero from the final general classification podium position.
In the UCI women’s race BUFF MEGAMO’s Wüst and Figueras Garangou capped their dominant overall victory with a fourth stage win. The Swiss/Spanish pair were never troubled by their rivals and confidently defended the title which Figueras Garangou won alongside Naima Diesner in 2022. Mountain biking fans will hope that this victory will serve as the catalyst for the BUFF MEGAMO women to join their male teammates at the Epic Series’ Pinnacle event, the Absa Cape Epic, in March 2024.
“It’s great,” Wüst smiled. “I told Txell [Figueras Garangou] this morning that I’ve never done four out of four. So, I asked her to help keep me calm on the downhills and not let me crash. Crossing the line and securing that fourth win was fantastic.” “We’re very happy,” Figueras Garangou concluded simply.
Wüst and Figueras Garangou were joined on the stage and general classification podiums by the Mondraker Team and Protour BCN. Ariadna Rodenas Pascual and Pilar Fernandez Hernandez finished the four-day race 1 hour, 59 minutes and 29 seconds off the champions. While Marta Torà Milà and Susana Alonso Carballo were 2 hours, 39 minutes and 41 seconds behind the BUFF MEGAMO team.
Xavier Jove and Jessica Cruz Carrera, of FAC2, won the Mixed category title at the 2023 Andorra Epic Pyrenees. Photo by Carles Iturbe | Andorra Epic Pyrenees.
Tuula Kurkipää (left) and Noora Kanerva (right) were the only Amateur Women’s team in the race but wore the white Ciovita jerseys with pride throughout Stages 2, 3 and 4. Photo by Carles Iturbe | Andorra Epic Pyrenees.
In the age group categories Eemil Uitto and Ukko Peltonen were crowned the inaugural Epic Andorra Pyrenees Amateur Men’s champions. The Epic Orbea Finland team finished twelfth overall, ahead of two UCI men’s teams. The Patron-Sportbici team did even better, finishing tenth overall and winning the always competitive Master’s category. Francisco Javier and Jose Carlos Macias Bonaño can be even prouder of their efforts having bested none other than mountain biking legend Jose Antonio Hermida, and his partner Antonio Ortiz, on their way to the title.
The FAC2 team, of Xavier Jove and Jessica Cruz Carrera won the Mixed category title. Epic Legend Marc Schnyder, and his teammate Ivo Kistler were the best placed Grand Masters’ team. The Schnyder Gear Cutting Solutions combination finished an incredible eighteenth on the overall standings, 3 hours down on BUFF MEGAMO despite both being over the age of 50. Tuula Kurkipää and Noora Kanerva were the only Amateur Women’s team in the race, and thus the Helsinki 27 combination were the de facto if not crowned category champions. Carina Mohr and Jana Sutter, of the SCOTT Contessa Team, were the best-places Masters women’s squad and completed the Andorra Epic Pyrenees age group awards.
The next opportunity for mountain biking fans to experience the thrills of Epic Series racing, from the comfort of their homes, is at the SPAR Swiss Epic, from 15 to 19 August 2023. The five-day Legend status event takes places in Switzerland’s South Eastern Graubünden canton and will feature a live broadcast this year. Riders wishing to take part in an Epic Series event in 2023 will have to travel to South Africa or Australia to race the FNB Wines2Whales or Cape to Cape events.
For more information on these events, as well as on the Pinnacle status Absa Cape Epic, or to register an interest in racing the 2024 Andorra Epic Pyrenees please visit www.epic-series.com. To recap on the 2023 Andorra Epic Pyrenees click through to www.epic-series.com/andorra or share in the excitement on Instagram, @andorra_epic, and on Facebook, at Andorra Epic.
Carina Mohr and Jana Sutter, of the SCOTT Contessa Team, won all four stages in the Masters women category. Photo by Oriol Batista| Andorra Epic Pyrenees.
Antonio Ortiz was awarded his Epic Legend medal upon finishing the Andorra Epic Pyrenees, adding a second Legend status Epic Series finish to his palmarès in addition to the two Pinnacle Absa Cape Epic finishers’ medals he had already earned. Photo by Car
2023 Andorra Epic Pyrenees Results
UCI Men | Stage 4:
1. Singer Racing Team: Martin Frey & Simon Stiebjahn (2:21:50)
2. BUFF MEGAMO: Hans Becking & José Dias (2:24:07 | +2:17)
3. Biking Point - MB2: Sergio Gutiérrez & Pau Marza Bedos (2:34:44 | +12:54)
UCI Women | Stage 4:
1. BUFF MEGAMO Women: Janina Wüst & Meritxell Figueras Garangou (3:16:52)
2. Mondraker Team: Ariadna Rodenas Pascual & Pilar Fernandez Hernandez (3:43:57| +27:05)
3. Protour BCN: Marta Torà Milà & Susana Alonso Carballo (3:49:06 | +32:14)
UCI Men’s General Classification after Stage 4:
1. BUFF MEGAMO: Hans Becking & José Dias (10:29:39)
2. Singer Racing Team: Martin Frey & Simon Stiebjahn (10:31:59 | +2:23)
3. SCOTT - Cala Bandida: Sergio Mantecon & Francesc Guerra Carretero (11:14:07| +44:31)
UCI Women’s General Classification after Stage 4:
1. BUFF MEGAMO Women: Janina Wüst & Meritxell Figueras Garangou (14:09:35)
2. Mondraker Team: Ariadna Rodenas Pascual & Pilar Fernandez Hernandez (16:09:04 | +1:59:29)
3. Protour BCN: Marta Torà Milà & Susana Alonso Carballo (16:49:16 | +2:39:41)