The Andorra Epic Pyrenees, the Epic Series’ newest Legend status event, gets underway in La Massana on Wednesday, 5 July. 210 teams, from around the world, will be taking on four challenging stages in the mountainous principality and seeking to conquer 220 kilometres of racing with 7 160 metres of climbing.
Founded in 2021 as a Classic status event in the Epic Series the Andorra Epic Pyrenees expanded in 2023 to a Legend status stage race. The growth saw the Prologue being replaced by a fourth full stage; adding distance and elevation gain, but also more of Andorra’s incredible trails. Starting in La Massana on Wednesday, 5 July, the race will see age-category contenders contesting for honours and qualification slots for the Absa Cape Epic. At the sharp end, the elite men’s and women’s competitions will play out in fierce battles between Epic Legends and relative newcomers to the series.
The elite men’s field is headlined by two of the most active teams in the Epic Series, Singer Racing and BUFF MEGAMO. Martin Frey and Simon Stiebjahn have already raced against Hans Becking and José Dias this year. Both squads lined up at the Absa Cape Epic, in March, where BUFF MEGAMO finished nineth on the general classification. Singer Racing endured a difficult start to the week before finished second on Stage 5 and third on the Grand Finale.
Becking has been close to winning an Epic Series event overall, on two occasions, placing second alongside Hugo Drechou, after wearing the leaders’ jerseys at the 2022 Andorra Epic Pyrenees and the 2023 4Islands Croatia. This year he and Dias will be aiming to secure the general classification title in Andorra.
“Winning an Epic Series event would be amazing,” Becking smiled, at registration for the 2023 Andorra Epic Pyrenees. “After second in Croatia and missing out at the Absa Cape Epic we have some work to do to be on the top step. But I’m confident that with José I have the best partner with me. For him it’s his first time in Andorra, so it’s a new experience.”
“This year will be very tough, as we’re racing over 2 000 meters for a lot of the race,” the Dutch start continued. “It’s tough to predict how that will affect the racing, but I know we are in good shape. And we’ll certainly be trying to finally win an Epic Series race!”
Along with Frey and Stiebjahn the BUFF MEGAMO will face challenges from 15 other UCI elite men’s teams. The likely challengers from that line-up include the Cannondale Vas Arabay squads, the first of which is made up of Roberto Bou Martin and Miguel Muñoz, while the second consists of Fran Herrero and Raul Bermudez. Becking and Dias’s former teammate Francesc Guerra Carretero, who now races for SCOTT – Cala Bandida alongside Sergio Mantecon, will also be a rider they pay close attention too.
Guerra Carretero and Mantecon have a support team, in the form of SCOTT Cala-Bandida 2’s Jose Maria Sanchez Ruiz and Miquel Faus Juan to call upon in their fight for the title. Other squads who could be challenging for a top five placing after four days of racing included Team Marchisio-Silmax’s Simone Ferrero and Giuseppe Domenico Lamastra, Radikalbikes – Tbikes’ Gerard Blanch and Mario Sinues Mico, as well as Federació Andorrana Ciclisme’s Kilian Folguera Díaz and Jan Missé. The Tabros Racing team are an interesting addition to the Andorra Epic Pyrenees line up. Periklis Ilias is a celebrated marathon and stage racer, having won the UCI Marathon World Championships in 2012, and his partner Mattia Talento is an up-and-coming talent, who founded the Tabros Racing team with his brother, Lorenzo.
The UCI elite women’s field also sees BUFF MEGAMO start as the race favourites. Janina Wuest and Meritxell Figueras Garangou are tasked with defending the title which their team won in 2022, when Naima Madlen Diesner and Figueras Garangou dominated the women’s race. They will face challenges from Ariadna Rodenas Pascual and Pilar Fernandez Hernandez, of MDK & Cía, as well as from Marta Torà Milà and Susana Alonso Carballo, Protour BCN.
The first challenge for the elite and age category teams alike is the 42-kilometre-long Sage 1. Starting and finishing in La Massana it takes in ascents of the Collada de Muntaner and Coll de la Botella, and finishes with the famous Commençal DH singletrack. In total the day’s route takes in 1 550 metres of climbing and descending.
Stage 2 then takes the teams, via a transfer, to Pal/Arinsal before they race 58 kilometres back to La Massana. Despite topping out at 2 302 meters above sea level, atop the Port de Cabús the course boasts 500 metres more descending than climbing. On Friday, 7 July, the Queen Stage awaits. Stage 3 is not only the longest of the race, at 65 kilometres in length, but also reaches the highest point of the event, Pic Maià, at 2 615 metres. The final stage begins in the spectacular Naturland Park and treats riders to day packed with Pyrenean singletrack. It boast 55 kilometres of racing and features 1 570 metres of elevation gain.
Mountain biking fans can follow the action at www.epic-series.com/andorra, or share in the excitement on Instagram, @andorra_epic, and on Facebook, at Andorra Epic. The racing action gets underway at 09:00 (Central European Summer Time | GMT +2) on Wednesday, 5 July.