Reigning Marathon World Champion Christoph Sauser brought the home best possible start for his mission of securing the three-peat. The main aspirant for the title at the 6th CRAFT BIKE TRANS GERMANY mastered the opening and so-called queen’s stage of this years edition from Sonthofen to Pfronten (73.10 km; 2,759 m Asc) in 3:05.47,6 hours and was 1:12 minutes faster as surprising runner-up Matthias Bettinger of Team Centurion-Vaude (3:06.59,7). South Africa’s pro David George of Nedbank Team 360life rounded out the podium as third (3:07.07,6).
After his wins in 2010 and 2011, Sauser seems to be well-prepared to write Trans Germany history. So far, no mountain biker was able to win the overall ranking of the four-day event three times in a row.
However, the 2000 Olympic Bronze medalist of Specialized Racing had to face some strong competition today. The Sigriswil resident had to close the gap to David George almost half of the distance of the Allgau leg; George had outpaced the field in the first climb to Imberger Horn and thus taken over the lead in the best climber category for the Green Jersey of the Bayerischen Staatsforsten powered by fi’zi:k.
“It was pretty tough today,” said Sauser right after the finish. Just like last year, I had some problems in the first ascent. But fortunately I get better and better as the race goes on.”
Just like today: at the second food station, Sauser and last year’s third ranked racer Markus Kaufmann drew level with David George. Thereafter, Sauser was able to – after later on runner-up Matthias Bettinger had also caught up – break away at the final climb up to Edelsberg. “At this point, I finally was able to outdistance them. Now, it’a all about defending the Yellow Jersey and to ride tactically.”
Other than Sauser, David George was – understandably enough – not so pleased with the result as the Cape Town resident had to content himself with the third spot after being in the lead for quite a long time.
“Of course I’m a little bit disappointed. Maybe I should have gone a bit easier on the first climb. But I wanted to see how strong the other guys were and also to isolate Christoph (Sauser),” said George.
Although “King George” is now already a bit behind, his tactic remains the same: “I will keep on attacking and take every opportunity I get.”
It will be interesting to see if Matthias Bettinger will be able to mix it at the top again as the fastest German in the field was pretty surprised by himself: “I never thought of anything like that although I did train very well over Whitsun. But anyway, I didn’t think of being that strong. We’ll see how it goes on the next days.”
On the side of the 40+ racers, Garmisch-Partenkirchen resident Andreas Strobel finished things off with a banger today. After the Centurion-Vaude pilot had gained a lead of some two minutes over the course of the stage, he lost nearly all of it again to his strongest pursuer Carsten Bresser of CRAFT – Rocky Mountain; in the end, the 40-years-old crossed the finish line after 3:14.30,8 hours and thus only one second ahead of the reigning champion (3:14.31,3).
“I felt very strong in the beginning and really enjoyed my time keeping up with the elite racers,” said Strobel. “But then, Rupert (Palmberger) had a flat tire and I was all alone out there. You never know how big the advantage would have been with a strong team mate at my side.”
Austria’s Heinz Zoerweg of Team Factory Cube came in third of the master classifier (3:18.05,9).
In the women category, Milena Landtwing (SUI), who had finished the Trans Germany as third ranked mountain biker in 2010 and 2011, took over the Pink Leader Jersey for the first time. Despite a flat, the Swiss lady cranking the pedals for Centurion-Vaude came into Pfronten after 3:43.12,9 hours and was thus 1:45 minutes ahead of last year’s winner Pia Sundstedt (FIN, 3:44.58.5).
“I’m pretty surprised. I had to be careful not to overpace during the race,” said Landtwing.
However, CRAFT – Rocky Mountain athlete Sundstedt was handicapped by some stomach problems and could not refill batteries at the food stations properly.
Silke Schmidt of notebooksbilliger.de came in third in 3:47.13,9 hours.
On the side of the 50+ racers, South Tyrolean Walter Perkmann clinched the Trans Germany stage opener and thus took over the Green Leader Jersey in 3:40.16,3 hours. The CRAFT and Friends team member now has a decent lead of some nine minutes on his pursuers.
Henrik Cohen (DEN, 3:49.43,4) of Team Geels and Werner Hoepperger (AUT, 3:50.13,4) of Team Tiroler Zugspitz Arena have to hope for a mistake of the leading senior in order to put Perkmann under pressure over the course of the three remaining stages.
Results can be found online