Best Moments of Andora Race Cup 2021 | Internazionali d'Italia Series

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Andora Race Cup marked the return of the Italian MTB circuit after the 2020 stop. Lars Forster and Jolanda Neff strike in Internazionali d’Italia’s return -

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Top-class Cross Country, the Olympic discipline Mountain Bike, is finally back to Italy. Almost 20 months after the spectacular World Cup round in Val di Sole, on Sunday 7 March at Andora Race Cup the first stage of Internazionali d'Italia Series fielded a hugely prestigious panel of athletes, for an event that somebody defined a legitimate World Cup appetizer.

The event organized by ASD Andora Race, under the guidance of Italian National Team coach Mirko Celestino, offered the right mix of technical sections and altitude difference (170 meters) on the 4,200 meters of the loop immersed in the Mediterranean bush, a few hundred meters from the seafront. Many of the strongest athletes in the world have found the sun and mild temperatures waiting for them in one of the very first tests of the season, with precious points at stake for the qualification for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The Open races rewarded two Swiss riders, former European Champion Lars Forster (Scott-SRAM), and former World Champion Jolanda Neff (Trek Factory Racing), who both went to claim their maiden seasonal victory.

OPEN MEN: LARS FORSTER EMERGES FROM THE PACK

The opening of the Internazionali d’Italia Series offered one of the most uncertain Men’s Open races in the recent history of the circuit. Since the start, the race has always been conducted by a group of a dozen athletes, with frequent upheavals and all the strongest protagonists vying for the top positions: from World Champion Sarrou to Forster, from Carod to Koretzky to the Italians Kerschbaumer and Luca Braidot - the latter until a puncture spoiled his plans - and the young Simone Avondetto.

The decisive move was made by Lars Forster (Scott-Sram) at the end of the penultimate lap, after having previously attempted an unsuccessful acceleration. This time no one was able to keep up with him, with Victor Koretzky and Milan Vader (both KMC-Orbea) striving to bridge over again, closely watched by Gerhard Kerschbaumer (Specialized).

The finale was a solo by Forster, who wore the leader's jersey improving a truly impressive score when it comes to Internazionali d'Italia: for the former European Champion, this is the third success (after Montichiari in 2016 and San Marino in 2019) out of four starts in the race.

Behind Forster came Victor Koretzky (+ ), Milan Vader (+ ), David Valero (BH-Templo, + ), and Gerhard Kerschbaumer (+ ), fifth and best of the Italians.

OPEN WOMEN: NEFF PUTS ON A SHOW, MITTERWALLNER AN AMAZING SECOND
There was no shortage of contenders for the first GSG leader's jersey in the Women's Open race, and it was one of the most awaited and loved athletes of the circuit to dress it. Swiss Jolanda Neff took her first victory of the season with a brilliant performance, redeeming a start that had seen her lose the pace from the early leaders of the race.

At the start, it was Lena Gerault (VCA Anjos Asterion), Sina Frei (Specialized), Anne Terpstra (Ghost), Martina Berta and Greta Seiwald (both SantaCruz-FSA) who hammered the first acceleration. Leading the chase in that phase was World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Absolute Absalon), who later struggled to find her best pace, finishing with an anonymous 16th place.

Already from the second lap, Jolanda Neff showed that she had found the right pedal stroke, returning in the wake of leaders and then accelerating in the third, with what would have proved to be the decisive break.

Behind her, however, an even more impressive and unexpected comeback took place: 17th after lap 1, Austrian Mona Mitterwallner, the 2002-born reigning World Champion in the Junior category, consistently managed to keep just below the 1-minute gap from the lead, recovering positions in the process, and even eroding Jolanda Neff's advantage in the final lap. In the end, this earned her second place overall, just 37 seconds behind the Swiss champion, as well as the best Under 23 jersey, and a bright future still to be written.

Third place at 43 seconds for a very solid Anne Terpstra, followed by Sina Frei (+) and the best of the Italians, the Andora's 2019 winner Martina Berta.

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