Moscow, 07 June, 2012 – The adventure of the Italian National team at the European mountain bike Championships in Moscow, Russia could not have gotten off to a better start. This afternoon, Thursday, June 7th, in the inaugural team relay test, the Italian team captured a splendid victory. It was up to Michele Casagrande, Gioele Bertolini, Eva Lechner and Luca Braidot to bring the gold medal home for Italy, and the four of them put in an outstanding performance in this major test. Three quarters of the team are new players compared to last year, and they truly earned this success when they beat Switzerland and Holland.
“It’s an important result that rewards the entire team,” says the Technical Director of the national team Hubert Pallhuber. “We wanted to do well but we certainly didn’t start out as the favourites; on paper there were still teams that were much stronger than us but the four blue athletes in the race today were terrific, all four of them gave it their all and put in a perfect race. Fortunately the weather also held; it didn’t rain and the race terrain was optimal. Michele Casagrande rode a fantastic first part, handing off to our young Gioele Bertolini in third position. Gioele outdid himself and perhaps it was his fraction that was the key to our final success. Bertolini registered the best time among the Juniors and his time was also super close to those scored by the Unders and Elites. This is proof of his excellent performance. Bertolini launched Eva Lechner in first position, Eva tried to limit the damage inflicted by her male counterparts and passed the staff to our last rider, Luca Braidot, who was still in the lead positions. Then Luca did great finishing the job of his team mates, catching up with his rivals and even finding the strength to attack in the final, going on to cross the finish line in first position ahead of Switzerland and Holland.”
“I took off strong right away and tried to catch up,” explains the final blue rider Luca Braidot. “On the second-to-last climb I understood that it could be the right time to attack and so I went for it. I realized that I managed to gain a good advantage and so I focused entirely on pedalling my hardest and going all out for the finish line. It was an extraordinary feeling to cross the finish line waving the Italian flag. I was dreaming of a good result but to win was really the greatest. My team mates and I are very happy, we all gave it our best for this gold medal.”
Tomorrow the continental series continues with the Juniors, Men’s and Women’s races. “We got off to a good start and this medal definitely is a morale booster, it gives the entire group some confidence,” continues Pallhuber. “Tomorrow in the Junior race there are lots of strong athletes in the competition; here, too, we are not the favourites but today’s race is proof that you should never hold back. Today Gioele Bertolini showed us something great; certainly the team relay is different compared to the other races but tomorrow too he will definitely give it his all, as will the other Italian athletes in the race.”
EC XC Team Relay, Classification: 1) Italy - km 17.92, km/h 17,559, in 1.01’.14” (M.Casagrande, G.Bertolini, E.Lechner, L.Braidot) 2) Switzerland at 04” 3) Holland at 12” 4) Poland at 17” 5) Czech Republic at 41”
Attached are photos of the podium and the four Italian athletes in blue, with technical directors Hubert Pallhuber and Paola Pezzo; also the complete classification.