The only race of this year's iXS Downhill Cup was also the German championship. About 150 licensed athletes came to Steinach in the Thuringia Forest to take part in an exciting competition under difficult conditions.
From the event industry’s point of view, 2020 is more likely to be forgotten and therefore sports competitions were also rather rare. There were hardly any mountain bike downhill races in this country and the iXS Downhill Cup had to announce one cancellation after another. At the beginning of July, the NotARace in Schladming, Austria, was able to organize a pandemic-compliant format with worldwide attention. But even the attempts to repeat this event failed for various reasons. It was therefore very gratifying that the Steinach Bike Park in the Thuringian Forest was able to show, by hosting a Specialized RockShox Rookies Cup race in August, that a mountain bike downhill race is possible in close cooperation with the responsible authorities and at a somewhat greater expense.
The idea quickly emerged to hold a race of the iXS Downhill Cup in the Thuringian low mountain range. Unfortunately, one condition was a limited number of participants, so that a normal race with up to 500 starters was out of the question. Since the German Championship was also vacant due to the cancellation of the Bike Festival in Willingen, the idea was quickly born to save this nationally very important race for 2020 and thus at the same time to have the criterion for the selection of the athletes. With the help of some sponsors, the support of the BDR and a constructive cooperation between the organizer and the authorities, the organization of the championship could be secured and thus around 150 licensed athletes came to Steinach on the last weekend in September.
The racecourse was already taped for normal bike park operations on Friday, so that some of the riders used the time to familiarize themselves with the 1,750-meter-long and 250-meter-deep course. In the late afternoon, the Track Walk was the first official item on the program before the start numbers could be picked up. And just in time for the route inspection, it started raining.
Saturday began much like Friday had ended. The external conditions with which the field of participants was confronted were cold and wet. The track was softened and it was clear that not much would change about that. After training in the mud, things got serious for the first time in the afternoon and the seeding run provided the first yardstick for the level of performance. Not surprisingly, Max Hartenstern (GER - Cube Global Squad) and Nina Hoffmann (GER - Nina Hoffmann Racing / Stif) set the fastest times in the elite classes and made it clear that they were the favorites with a lead of around six and eight seconds respectively was rightly attributed.
For training on Sunday morning, the riders were again greeted with cold, wet weather. The track was now pretty beaten up and badly damaged. Punctually at half-past twelve, the first class started with Masters 2. In the over-forty-year-olds, Markus Bast (Propain Bikes) won ahead of Maik Höhne (Bike24 Racing Squad) and Knut Zentraf (RSV Adler Arnstadt). In the Masters 1 class that followed, Benjamin Herold (Giant Germany Offroad Team) secured the championship jersey with a two and a half-second lead over Willi Lützeler (Cube). Third was Daniel Schamul (Werxboden ILRC).
Next, the younger classes went on the course. First, it was the turn of the U17, in which at least twenty young athletes were on the list. Henri Kiefer (Canyon) clinched the title with a wafer-thin lead of just a tenth of a second, who celebrated his first major success outside of the Rookies Cup. Second was Nico Schlebes (BSS - Devo Team), followed by the fastest of the previous day Elias Heil (Yo-Trail Racing).
After this award ceremony was over, the U19 female class entered their competition. As a short explanation, the respective honors of the top three were always carried out directly after each class in the target area to avoid accumulations. The female U19 class was made up of seven athletes and shows that things weren't so bad with the youngsters. In this category, Anastasia Thiele (BSS Devo Team) was able to secure the medal of the German champion with a time of 3: 01.245 minutes. The young athlete from Hessen was able to prove that she is not wrongly seen by some as a great talent and, for example, was completely rightly invited to this year's NotARace. Lea Kumpf (VfR Waldkatzenbach) came in second. Antonia Enderlin (MTB Südbaden) completed third place on the podium.
The fifth start class was then the male counterpart with the U19 male. Heinrich Süchting (Lahari) became German junior champion with a time of 2:30.702 minutes, which was two seconds faster than the previous day's best time in this class. Luis Kiefer (Canyon) was relegated to second place, just under a second behind. Third place went to Steffen Smets (Commencal Co Factory).
Now it got really serious because now the championship titles of the elite classes have been awarded and these prestigious jerseys are fiercely contested every year. After all, this year it was the 28th German championship in the mountain bike downhill discipline. Big names are in the winners' statistics, for women among others Regina Stiefel with five titles in a row in the 90s, Antje Kramer with seven titles in the 2000s and Harriet Rücknagel with another five successes from 2010 to 2014. Currently hardly seems to be in Germany to be such a great hope for someone like Nina Hoffmann, who one would trust that she could one day be immortalized in this list in a similarly impressive way. But so far she has only been able to achieve one title in 2018, but maybe only because she was injured last year. So she started the race as the big favorite and the scoreboard actually revealed a minus of over 11 seconds, which earned her second German championship title.
The last class was then the Elite Men. And to rummage through something in the box of history, the most famous protagonists of the past should also be named. One of the great German names in the downhill discipline is Jürgen Beneke, who was the measure of all things in the early days. Then, however, an athlete came onto the scene who had shaped the German scene like no other, because with no less than 13 titles, he was the biggest favorite for the annually awarded championship jersey for almost two decades. However, Marcus Klausmann is now part of history and no longer active.
However, since 2016 there has been a young athlete who seems to have a similar constant grip on the competition. The only question was whether Max Hartenstern could have the conditions under control again this time so that none of his opponents would dispute his fifth title in a row. He was the last rider on the course and the times he had set before were still a few seconds away from his previous day's best time. So if he didn't make a serious mistake, it should be enough for the title, and in fact, everyone present knew from the moment he crossed the finish line that it would be enough for the 2020 German championship title. With a time of 2:21.601 minutes he won the race by over three seconds.
Hannes Lehmann (MRC Saracen Racing Team) secured second place in his first elite year. Nico Lamm (Pivot Cycles Gravity Team) finished third and achieved his best elite position. With Simon Maurer (Assault Racing) in fourth place, none of the top four were older than 21 years, which is very encouraging in terms of the future prospects of the German athletes.
All in all, one has to say that even if 2020 was probably not a great season for mountain biking due to the corona, it was at least managed not to interrupt the consistency of the title awarding of the German Downhill Championships since 1993. With a solid race organization, Steinach has shown, even under difficult conditions and adverse weather conditions, that a lot is possible with passion. The season seems to be over for the iXS Downhill Cup, but the hope is that next year a relatively normal racing season will be possible. ixsdownhillcup.com
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