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Narrow Prologue Victories Hand ORBEA Leatt Speed Company and the BUFF MEGAMO Women the first 4Islands MTB Croatia Leaders’ Jerseys

By 4Islands, 04/16/24, 5:00AM HST


Defending champions, ORBEA Leatt Speed Company, got their 4Islands MTB Croatia campaign off to a winning start on Tuesday, 16 April 2024. Lukas Baum and Georg Egger won the 12-kilometre Prologue by just 6 seconds to take the first yellow CIOVITA jerseys of the race. While in the UCI Women’s competition, Janina Wust and Rosa van Doorn were 14 seconds quicker, for BUFF MEGAMO Women, than the CANNONDALE ISB SPORT combination. 

The island of Krk, in the Adriatic, welcomed 200 teams of two to the 2024 4Islands MTB Croatia on Tuesday, 16 April. The five-day Epic Series mountain bike stage race began with a 12 kilometre Prologue which was won by ORBEA Leatt Speed Company and the BUFF MEGAMO Women. Lukas Baum and Georg Egger thus got their Croatian title defence off to the perfect start. While Janina Wust and Rosa van Doorn added a stage win for the BUFF MEGAMO squad, in the UCI Women’s race, after their male compatriots had to settle for second and third behind the day’s UCI Men’s stage victors. 

Starting from the harbour town of Baška, the Prologue course featured 260 metres of climbing and acted as a scene setter for the marathon days to come. Though short, sharp and fast paced the 12 kilometre long stage should indicate who the form teams of the 2024 race are. If the close fought victories are anything to go by this year’s race should be fiercely contested throughout. 

The Prologue’s first starters were the EIDF 1 team of Haimar Zubeldia and Julen Zubero. Their initial marker, of just over half an hour, indicated that the course was a fast one. A fact that was reinforced by the Nicola Taffarel and Massimo Rosa, when they crossed the line in 27 minutes and 47 seconds a short while later. The Metallurgica Veneta MTB Pro Team 1’s effort stood atop the time sheets until the pre-race favourites started to post their times, though by then there had been drama out on course too. 

Just 2 kilometres into the race Axel Roudil-Cortinat suffered a major mechanical. The Bulls Mavericks rider was seen running his bike through the first time check, with Simon Schneller following slowly behind. The French Marathon Champion would later explain: “I was following Simon [Schneller] very closely when I must have hit a rock or something. I didn’t see what I hit, but it broke my rim and from there I had to run the rest of the course.” 

With no aid station or technical support on the Prologue Roudil-Cortinat and Schneller knew their general classification hopes were dashed, along with the former’s rear wheel. Though their trail running prowess, as well as an improvisation where Roudil-Cortinat sat on Schneller’s saddle and shouldered his own bike while Schneller pedalled standing up, allowed them to only concede 25 minutes and 58 seconds to the stage winners. They will however have to refocus their attention on stage hunting now. 

Having been the second to last starters, of the UCI Men’s teams, the only team to pass them on the trail was the ORBEA Leatt Speed Company combination. Baum and Egger tore through the course, clocking the fastest times at each of the time checks. “As always here, it was super fast, super short, but nevertheless hard,” Baum grinned once he and Egger had crossed the finish line. “It was all out for half and hour. We had a little mistake in the beginning where we crashed into a fence. But after that it was a smooth ride and we tried to keep the bikes in one piece. And we’re happy that we can get the [yellow] jersey now.” 

Baum and Egger will take a very slender 6 second lead, over Wout Alleman and Pablo Rodriguez Guede, into Prologue, with BUFF MEGAMO 2 just 3 seconds further back. “The stage was super hard,” Alleman puffed after finishing his time trial effort, alongside Rodriguez Guede. “It was super short but very intense. I think we did really well and worked really well together. But in the final 5 

kilometres, on the flat, I missed a little bit of punch and Pablo [Rodriguez Guede] also I think, and because of this we lost a bit of time there. But still, it was a super good start. We are second and there are four days to go, so I’m happy.” 

Alleman’s happiness was exceeded by his Absa Cape Epic teammate and 4Islands MTB Croatia support team member, Hans Becking. The Dutch Marathon Champion is racing alongside José Dias in aid of the BUFF MEGAMO 1 squad. “Yeah, it’s a super short, intense, time trial; but it was nice to race with José [Dias] again. We didn’t really have a plan for today, as we are here as a back-up team for the boys [Alleman and Rodriguez Guede]. Once we flew down the beach, we found ourselves in a good rhythm and then when they told us at a time check that it was really close for the victory we went full gas for the finish.” 

ORBEA Leatt Speed Company’s winning time was 27 minute and 26 seconds. They were joined on the first podium of the race by the two BUFF MEGAMO teams, who are both withing 10 seconds of the overall race leaders. Behind them Taffarel and Rosa are 21 seconds back, ahead of Klimatiza Toteemi Cabberty 2’s Miguel Munoz and Luis Martínez, who posted the fifth fastest time on the day. Taffarel and Rosa’s Metallurgica Veneta MTB Pro Team stablemates, Ole Hem and Jacopo Billi are also within a minute of Baum and Egger. 

In the UCI Women’s race the day’s victors posted a time of 34 minutes and 36 seconds. This was enough to see Wust and Van Doorn take the first orange CIOVITA jerseys by 14 seconds, over CANNONDALE ISB SPORT’s Monica Calderon and Meritxell Figueras. As in the UCI Men’s race the primary descriptor for the stage was “intense”. Though Van Doorn also expanded on that to add: “The stage was super fast with some technical climbs and a super rocky area. It was nice to be able to show good teamwork, together with Janina [Wurst], and to have the leaders’ jerseys now!” 

Calderon meanwhile confessed that she had been nervous about the opening kilometre across the rocky Baška beach. “I’m really happy to be racing 4Islands MTB Croatia,” the potential Epic Legend smiled. “I was expecting a super fast stage, and that’s exactly how it played out. I was a bit worried about the beach section before the race though, but we went across it so fast that it turned out not to be a problem. It’s one of the first stage races Txell [Figueras] and I have done together, so I’m very happy with our performance today and I’m looking forward to the coming stages.” 

The day’s final podium place was seized by the 8capital team of Janka Keseg Stevkova and Martina Krahulcova, though they were 60 seconds off CANNONDALE ISB SPORT in second and 1:14 off the BUFF MEGAMO Women in first. Koba’s Daniela Höfler and Alessia Nay were fourth on the opening stage, ahead of Costanza Fasolis and Giulia Alberti in fifth. Stefanie Walter and Tanja Priller will be disappointed with their Prologue effort, having ceding 2 minutes and 7 seconds to Wurst and Van Doorn. The Canyon Sidi Pure Humanpwr’s were among the big pre-race favourites for the UCI Women’s race and will have work to do on the coming marathon days. 

The first of which is Stage 1. It also begins and ends in Baška, on Krk, but its 72 kilometre long route ventures far further into the island than the Prologue course had dared. It is a day where teams will find hardly any respite. There is climbing from the off, to the Moon Plateau above the Baška bay, and a saw-tooth profile throughout the stage. The climbing accumulates to 1 530 metres in total, but it is likely the rocky descents which will set the top teams apart. A final 12 kilometre drop, through Draga Bašćanska, back to the start/finish on the sea shore could be decisive. 

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2024 4Islands MTB Croatia 

UCI Men’s Results | Prologue: 

  1. ORBEA Leatt Speed Company: Georg Egger & Lukas Baum (27:26) 
  2. BUFF MEGAMO 1: Wout Alleman & Pablo Rodriguez Guede (27:32 | +6) 
  3. BUFF MEGAMO 2: Hans Becking & José Dias (27:35 | +9) 
  4. Metallurgica Veneta MTB Pro Team 1: Nicola Taffarel & Massimo Rosa (27:47 | +21) 
  5. Klimatiza Toteemi Cabberty 2: Miguel Munoz & Luis Martínez (27:52 | +26) 


UCI Women’s Results | Prologue: 

  1. BUFF MEGAMO Women : Janina Wust & Rosa Van Doorn (34:36) 
  2. CANNONDALE ISB SPORT: Monica Calderon & Meritxell Figueras (34:50 | +14) 
  3. 8capital: Janka Keseg Stevkova & Martina Krahulcova (35:50 | +1:14) 
  4. Koba: Daniela Höfler & Alessia Nay (35:59 | +1:23) 
  5. MenteCorpo Cicli Drigani Pro Team: Costanza Fasolis & Giulia Alberti (36:16 | +1:40) 


To view the full results from the 2024 4Islands MTB Croatia click here.