Internazionali d'Italia Series 2021 | Round 3 - Marlene Südtirol Sunshine Race

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Over 600 athletes took part on Saturday in the 20th edition of Marlene Südtirol Sunshine Race, Internazionali d’Italia Series stage 3. The Swiss and the Frenchwoman enjoyed prestigious successes, beating Schurter and Ferrand Prevot in a World-class event -

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The longest-tenured event in Italian MTB, the Marlene Südtirol Sunshine Race has celebrated in great fashion its 20th edition on Saturday April 10th, 2021. The Internazionali d’Italia Series stage 3 has a long history of great names in its golden book, but today the South-Tyrolean event boasted what was arguably the most prestigious startlist of its history.

Over 600 riders competed among the South Tyrol’s apple orchards: from the rising talents of the UCI Junior Series to the very best riders in the World shining in both the Open categories.

A full day of top-level mountain biking crowned an emerging name in Women’s MTB, Under 23 World Champion Loana Lecomte, who managed to leave no other than Elite World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot behind, and veteran Mathias Flückiger, who found another special day in Nals after 2018, beating a legend like Nino Schurter to the finish.

Practically all the best of World Mountain Biking took place under the starting banner of the Marlene Südtirol Sunshine Race in the Men's Open category. All the top 10 of the UCI World Ranking were in attendance, starting with the two main protagonists of Capoliveri, Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing) and Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM) but also World Champion Jordan Sarrou and home favorite Gerhard Kerschbaumer (Specialized Factory Racing), Internazionali d'Italia Series' leader Maxime Marotte (Santa Cruz-FSA) and many others.

Hot pace was expected on Nals' demanding course, and so it was. From the first lap, the pace imposed by the most expected protagonists began to skim the leading group: first 12, then 10, and from the third lap only 8 men were left in the lead: in addition to Avancini, Schurter, Marotte and Sarrou, also Mathias Flückiger (Thomus RN), Titouan Carod and Filippo Colombo (Absolute Absalon) and Ondrej Cink (Kross Orlen).

At the penultimate lap, Henrique Avancini lost contact with the main group, as Sarrou and Carod did shortly after. The race was decided on the last climb: “Flückiger accelerated and opened a little gap - told Marotte - I could not overtake before the single trail and I was stuck behind Colombo, losing a few meters. At the top, I managed to pass and bridge back to Nino, but at that point, Flückiger was gone."

The Swiss managed to win his second Marlene Südtirol Sunshine Race, after the 2018 edition: this time, Nino Schurter came second behind him (+), ahead of Marotte who beat Cink (+) in a sprint, also keeping the GC leader's jersey. Avancini was only ninth, behind Lars Forster (Scott-SRAM) whose very strong display was spoiled by a bad start.

“It's nice to win again here. I like Nals, it's a very natural course, with this long climb that I think suits me,” said 32-year-old Flückiger, winner of two World Cup rounds in his career. "It was my seasonal debut, and I tend to struggle a bit in the early races: it wasn't like that this time. That's the perfect way to approach my World Cup buildup".

In the eve's interviews, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Absolute Absalon) was shy about her condition for just her fourth outing of the season, but was sure in naming Loana Lecomte (Massi) as first in her list of favorites.

The World Champion was right: the fellow French rider, reigning Under 3e World Champion, literally dominated a star-studded race.

Right from the start, Lecomte forced the pace and left the company of the rest of the group. Behind her, Ferrand-Prevot was the only athlete, along with Sina Frei (Specialized Factory Racing) to limit the damage initially, but already at the end of round 3 (of 5), Lecomte had over a minute on the Elite World Champion, nearly two on Frei and on a quartet formed by Anne Terpstra (Ghost Factory Racing), Jolanda Neff (Trek Factory Racing), Mona Mitterwallner (Trek-Vaude) and Kate Courtney (Scott-SRAM).

On the other hand, the challenge for third place behind Ferrand-Prevot (second at ) was an entertaining one, and winning it was young Austrian Mona Mitterwallner (+), once again the protagonist of an impressive comeback like in Andora. Three reigning World Champions stepped on the first 3 steps of the podium: Elite (Ferrand-Prevot), Under 23 (Lecomte) and Junior (Mitterwallner). Fourth place for Sina Frei (+), fifth for Jolanda Neff (+).

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