It was the hardest Andalucia Bike Race to date but the marathon king Tiago Ferreira still dominated the competition. Hildegunn Hovdenak took the ladies after winning the final 2 stages.
The inclement weather in this year’s edition resulted in shortened stages plus a cancelled stage 5. Whilst the whole of Europe suffered with storms the rain battered Spain. Even so the pace of the competition barely slowed with a blistering pace up and down the Andalucia mountains. Some of the world’s best mountain bikers were in attendance and formed what must be the best starting line-up at a stage race in Europe.
The 30 km stage 1 timetrial was an indication of what would unfold with the top 30 being separated by less than 3 minutes. Matous Ulman taking the men’s stage 1 win but the winner was well aware that second place finisher Tiago Ferreira was the favourite for the overall win. Chloe Woodruff took the ladies win and set out her bid for the overall classification.
The venue of Linares bid farewell to the 2018 Andalucía Bike Race on stage 2 with a day marked by low temperatures. It didn’t take long for the race to warm up as competitors charged into the 72 km route that travelled between Linares and Baños de la Encina along the border of the Rumblar reservoir and criss-crossed its adjacent trails. It was a rolling stage that ended up sampling some of the trails of the Linares mining district to finish at the Paseo de Linarejos. The men’s race finished with a 14 way sprint for the line! After the second stage Tiago Fiago Ferreira and Chloe Woodruff were already dominating the general classification.
The third day dawned and it was a rainy day in Andújar. Competitors looked worrying skyward as the clouds painted the day grey. It was a stage expected to be intense and Tiago Ferreira and Natalia Fischer set the winning pace over the line. The DMT Racing team took a remarkable podium clean sweep with Jose Diaz second and Hans Becking in third.
Córdoba hosted the queen stage of the Andalucía Bike with a tough and demanding course. The day’s challenge came not only from the stage profile but also from the course conditions. The intense rain that fell during the night left the roads and trails with lots of mud making for an epic finish. The Italians of TREK Selle San Marco, Fabián Rabensteiner and Michele Casagrande took a late lead in the stage after a long solo break by Miguel Muñoz of the BUFF Scott MTB team. Racing in the Elite Women’s category was fierce, but glory finally went to Hildegunn Hovdenak, who snatched the stage from Chloe Woodruff and Naima Diesner. The German racer of the MCIPOLLINI-TUSPO WEENDE squad tried to come back in the final part and managed to catch and overtake Woodruff.
Due to flash flooding stage 5 in Villaviciosa de Córdoba was cancelled.
It was a hard final stage 6 of the Andalucía Bike Race presented by Shimano due to the addition of inclement weather in this year’s edition. With the route shortened everything was on the line. The racers went all out for the stage in which the El Reventón climb and the technical trails in the final part would dictate the final podium. The Portuguese race leader Tiago Ferreira took command of the final stage along with his teammate Hans Becking. A motivated Fabian Rabensteiner had to take some risks to escape the DMT team to take the stage win but DMT knew if they took no risks they would secure the overall for the team leader. Tiago Ferreira would take his third overall win at Andalucia Bike Race ahead of Enrique Morcillo Vergara and Fabian Rabensteiner in third.
In the women's category, Hildegunn Hovdenak started with a significant lead in the general classification, which allowed her to play it safe and try to have a smooth day. After winning the last two stage she succeeded in winning the GC by more than ten minutes. Naima Diesner of DMT Racing didn’t win any stages but she always landed on the podium (except in the time trial on the first day) and this meant she would finish second in the general classification. Chloe Woodruff scored third place.
I came here off the back of some testing which showed my best power numbers ever. Fitness was good, form was good. Sadly good legs don’t always mean good results. I finished 28th in the timetrial which was satisfactory if not spectacular after struggling to overtake traffic. Day 2 my legs felt amazing but I punctured from the lead group early in the stage. With the terrain being super-fast rolling you had to be in a group. I was stopped just 2 minutes to fix the puncture but whilst a CO2 inflation tool can will fix a puncture it doesn’t save a race when the race is going 30kph. I rode my hardest to regain time but didn’t make much progress. Day 3 I woke feeling like I hadn’t slept following a night of bad stomach and poor sleep, another puncture put an end to any hope of a decent result. Stage racing is a raw deal, your body, head and equipment has to be 100% to perform at this level of competition.
Andalucia Bike has some simply amazing trails, kilometre after kilometre of rocky twisty demanding trails to test even the top riders, they certainly put a smile on my face. Andalucia Bike Race has the ambition of not being one of the best but being the best stage race in the world and with sensational trails, spectacular views, easy logistics and high quality hotels it ticks the boxes.