It’s funny how fast the weather can change in the mountains, after a hard day of practice with riders roosting corners in deep dust and sweltering in the heat, nobody was expecting that as we sat down for food that evening the heavens would open and the rain would fall so hard it was setting off car alarms! All over Kronplatz riders took cover in restaurants and under roofs as nature put on a spectacular show of lightning, forking through the night sky. While enjoying the spectacle riders thoughts turned to the trails, what would this deluge cause, would they need spikes, how would the dusty trails handle the rain?
With good weather forecast for the race day it was going to be a day of contrasting conditions as groups left in staggered times. However, rolling back to Saturday night, before the rain and the full race, there was an exciting short prologue track to race, starting and finishing on the terrace of the Kronplatz lift centre. Starting with a short sharp climb, riders were faced with an unusual obstacle not often seen in a mountain environment, a 6m set of ascending stairs! Riders had to find a fast way of hopping off their bikes and sprinting up the steel rungs, with places separated by mere seconds the stairs would prove a crux in the lap. After that it was onto deep dusty berms, and a final sprint to a hairpin right, over loose stone that had more than a few riders eating gravel! With laps averaging around 1 minute it was all-out intensity. In the end it was favourites Gustav Wildhaber, and Laura Brethauer both riding for the Cube Action Team who took the wins!
Riders woke up to a different scene after the fierce storms of the night, the lift centre was shrouded in deep mist and everything was cold and damp. The first of the riders began to head up into unknown conditions, had the the loamy earth and steep climbs on Stage 1 become a slippery mess?
Stage 1, this was a welcome addition to some and a curse to others, after a steady climb up from the town the stage dropped over easy forest track with a few sharp corners, speeds were high through here. But the surprise came when you reached the midway point and the stage took a sharp turn upwards forcing riders to climb a steep hill, and once the end had been reached, delivered a sucker punch as the trail rose again through some sharp switchbacks. In the growing heat of the day this was an ordeal for even the fittest, the final blow was a 10m bank that had the strongest riders stalling out at the top and resorting to running. It is good to see organisers challenging the confines of enduro and ensuring it does not become just a series of DH races.
After a short ride back to the pits, the second transition was lift assisted, using the main Kronplatz gonodola to climb to the 2225m peak! Cutting out past the tourists and families out exploring the summit, stage 2 was a very scenic affair. Dropping fast over the open ridge line, it was all about how much power you could put through the pedals, then after a loose turn the trail dived into the heather and into a series of sinuous turns that could be navigated, or just straight lined if you had the nerve. Most riders chose to hop the heather, hoping that there were no hidden rocks.
Dropping onto the far side of the hill there were no lifts back so this is where the heat started to play its part with the temperatures climbing to the mid thirties, and the transfers carried out under the hot sun with no place to hide. Plenty of riders looked pretty hot at the top of stage 3, as they lined up to get started.
Stage 3 was an enduro riders dream, taped wide to allow options in line choice, the stage dived through open alpine meadow, rocks and roots hid under the heather and wheel holes were everywhere! At speed the short 2.5 minute stage was incredible fun, lofting the front wheel and getting rowdy over the dryed roots. As rider blasted out the bottom of the stage, water bottles and bananas were a welcome and in some cases almost lifesaving provision from the organisers.
Riders lingered a fair amount of time under the trees at the end of stage 3, not just to eat and drink, but also in fear of the hefty push back up the hill to the top of 4. There were a few brave souls, perhaps suffering from heat exhaustion induced delirium, who decided to attempt to cycle up the steep, loose fireroad, but most were soon to join the procession of staggering riders, pushing their bikes up the hill like some sweaty pilgrims trail.
Once again at the summit it all got a bit more bike parky, stages 4 and 5 were both short sections of the legendary Herrnsteig freeride trail, a impressive collection of berms, drops and woodwork. Dropping into the transfer to stage 4, I could not help wish that the organisers had used more of this trail, it would have made 2 awesome 4-6 minute stages that would have truly tested body and bike! However, as it was both 4 and 5 were quite short, just over 2 minutes each, but certainly tested your nerve. The trail is SO FAST, becoming a real confidence game about how fast you dare let the bike run before diving into a catch berm.
When it came to the results, it was a CUBE ACTION TEAM dominated event! Favourite Gustav Wildharber took the win in the mens with a time of 12:51:82 with team mate Andre Wagenknect in third with 13:23:62 separated by Rose Vaujany rider Petrik Bruckner in 2nd with an impressive 13:20:76.
In the Ladies, Anna Brandtner took the win with a time of 16:07:90, with Birgit Braumann in 2nd and Anjer Kramer in 3rd with times of 16:36:17 and 17:14:16 respectively.
Overall from the weekend 2 things were clear, Kronplatz is a great venue for an enduro or even a holiday visit if you love great AM trails. The second thing was that the team from the Specialized-SRAM Enduro series can put on a great show, with excellent facilities for visiting riders, clear and fun organisation, and a great welcoming vibe! Topping off the day with a big BBQ was the perfect send off, before weary but satisfied riders headed back to their cars, packed thier bikes away and headed off to destinations all over Europe.
Looking forward to the next one!
Words and photos: Trev Worsey