Despite the small field of Elite teams, the fact that the top three teams are evenly matched should ensure a fierce battle for the inaugural Andorran MTB Classic-Pyrenees Women’s title. Which of Orbea Factory Racing, MTB Pro Merchandising and RDR Italy Leynicese Racing Team will emerge victorious come the 3rd of July?
Predicting how a mountain bike race may unfold is always a challenge. Fitness and form are compared to historic results, but with health and, in the case of racing in Andorra, how each athlete will adapt to altitude being a mystery, making anything more than an educated guess is exceptionally tricky. Especially when there are three relatively evenly matched teams lining up against one another; as is the case in the 2021 Andorra MTB Classic-Pyrenees’ Women’s race.
In what is expected to be a titanic three-way battle for stage and race honours, Orbea Factory Racing take on MTB Pro Merchandising and the RDR Italy Leynicese Racing Team. Four-time Epic Series women’s category winner, Ariane Lüthi starts as the favourite alongside her Orbea teammate Sandra Jordá. Lüthi was the winner of the inaugural Swiss Epic and the first woman to win the Absa Cape Epic once the women’s race received UCI status. Having competed against each of her, and Jordá’s, primary rivals this year, Lüthi is uniquely placed to assess the difficulty of predicting how the women’s race may unfold.
“I actually raced against Constanza [Fasolis] in a few races this year already and she is a very strong rival” Lüthi highlighted of the RDR Italy Leynicese Racing Team rider. “She placed seventh in the European Marathon Championships, in a proper field. Sandra Mairhofer was closing in on me on the second last climb at the Hero Dolomites race, in June. She flatted in the following descent, though, so it’s a bit hard to tell what could have been, but she’s a very strong climber for sure.”
Turning her attention to the MTB Pro Merchandising squad, Lüthi pointed out: “I know Greete and Alice very well. We trained together, for the whole of January, in Spain this year. Unfortunately, both have struggled with illnesses and Greete with an injury as well, so they couldn’t quite reach their top form, yet. In any case, it will be an exciting race and I look forward to lining up next to these formidable riders.”
The marathon and stage race specialist is eager to race in Andorra once more, and having come from altitude in Switzerland, the rarefied air of the Pyrenees should be no issue for her. “I managed to fit the Andorra MTB Classic-Pyrenees into my schedule after the Swiss XCM Championship, that should have happened at the end of the June, got postponed” Lüthi explained. “Since I have good form after European Champs it fitted in well; I’ve been to Andorra for the XCO World Cup before and I loved the country’s terrain, so I look forward to explore more of it soon!”
Pirard shares her Swiss rival’s enthusiasm for racing in Andorra. “I’ve got good memories of Andorra, from racing the cross-country World Cup there. It’s a wonderful place to ride bikes” Pirard emphasised. “The stages seem to be short, on paper, but I’m sure the altitude and the technical nature of the trails will test our bodies to the limits.”
Pirard, at least, knows what to expect. For her MTB Pro Merchandising teammate, the race is a step into an exciting unknown. “I’ve never been to or raced in Andorra” Steinburg smiled. “This is one of the reasons why I am looking forward to this year’s Andorra MTB Classic-Pyrenees!”
Hailing from Estonia, where the highest point above sea level is just 318 metres, Steinburg has had to seek out more suitable training destinations. “I’ve been preparing in the Italian Dolomites and in Switzerland” she revealed. “The high-altitude training and racing I’ve done recently will help me be in good shape in Andorra.”
Part of the appeal of taking part in the event, for the MTB Pro Merchandising team, is the fact that the Andorra MTB Classic-Pyrenees is an Epic Series event. “The crew behind the Epic Series know how to offer quality events to their participants” Pirard praised. “I’m looking forward to this new one!”
“The UCI points are becoming more and more relevant in XCM as well” Lüthi added to Pirard’s reasoning. “The women’s field is growing and therefore it will be helpful to have a high ranking which will get me a good starting position at the Marathon World Championships, for example.”
To follow all the action from the Andorra MTB Classic-Pyrenees, which takes place from the 30th of June to the 3rd of July, visit www.epic-series.com. There mountain biking fans will be able to watch daily highlight videos, read reports on how the race unfolded and browse through the daily photo albums. More coverage can be found on the race’s social media handles, @andorramtbclassic on Instagram and Andorra MTB Classic-Pyrenees on Facebook. Regular live updates, from the race route, will also be posted on the @EpicMTBSeries Twitter handle.