One week before the first real international meeting the guys & girls of the GTR-team did another form check. Lars Gräter and Ronja Theobald went to Slovakia to participate in the first run of the Slovak Cup in the ski center Drozdovo.
Nils Schmidt, Tim Feinauer and Noah & Luis Neff traveled to Leukerbad in Switzerland to compete in the Proffix Swiss Bike Cup.
In preparation for the upcoming World Cup in Albstadt from May 7-9, it was important for part of the team to gather race toughness once again. While Lars Gräter decided at short notice to go to Slovakia together with Ronja Theobald, because the junior field at the race in Leukerbad was very strong due to the cancellation of Heubach, the others took the long journey to Switzerland. In terms of kilometers, the trip to Slovakia was longer, but Lars Gräter was counting on a possible victory in the junior race and the associated points he could use very well because of the poor starting positions in the current UCI Junior Series races.
For Ronja Theobald it was the first race for the new team and at all this season, since all planned races for the younger categories in Germany, were canceled until here. "It was nice to be able to race again," she said after her 8th place in the U17 race on Saturday.
Nils Schmidt, the second youth rider of the team, for whom it was also the first race in the new kit, also started on Saturday in the U17. However, the venue was Leukerbad. A bad starting position prevented him from making up ground during the starting phase. After lap 2, Nils Schmidt could already be seen in the top 50 before he was pushed away by an opponent in a downhill and bent his rear derailleur. He finished the race, but came in a disappointing 81st place.
On Sunday, the race of Lars Gräter took place at 9:30 a.m. in Slovakia and the race of U23 rider Noah Neff in Switzerland. While Lars Gäter quickly found his way to the front in a smaller starting field, Noah Neff was trying hard to get to the front from the 39th starting position. To top it all off, it started snowing at the start and this made the race even harder than it was going to be anyway. It had also rained overnight in Slovakia and the track was very soggy. After the start lap, Lars quickly found himself in the lead group with two other Slovaks. "The legs were good today and of course I tried to be in front right away. After lap one, however, I was a bit tactical in order not to use up all my energy right away," said Lars Gräter after the race. After lap two Lars Gräter was able to break away with one of the two and so it became a duel at the top.
Noah Neff had also moved up in the meantime and was seen in 15th place after the introductory lap and already in 7th place after lap 1. "The weather was not good, but I was already used to that from Obergessertshausen and therefore I took the fight", said Noah Neff at the end of the U23 race.
In the meantime, Lars was able to distance himself from his only competitor and confidently drive home the victory. The plan worked out perfectly and the associated points may bring Lars Gräter already next weekend in Albstadt in the starting lineup far forward. Congratulations to this fantastic success!
Noah Neff meanwhile was in 7th place in Switzerland and was able to maintain his position in the top 10 with consistent lap times. Only a flat tire, which however could be quickly fixed cost Noah a place, so that in the end he finished in 8th place. "Today was a great race, of course the flat tire would not have had to be, but I'm still satisfied for the second race this year and look forward to the home World Cup next week!", Noah Neff sums up.
Luis Neff and Tim Feinauer competed for the Untermünkheim team in the elite race in Leukerbad. Actually, Sven Strähle would have traveled to Switzerland, but two weeks before the World Cup opener in Albstadt he broke his collarbone in a training fall in his hometown Heubach. Get well soon Sven!
Shortly after 2 p.m. the elite men were sent out on the course and Luis Neff was able to make up some places from starting position 77 and found himself around 50th place. Tim Feinauer, on the other hand, had to move up from starting position 115 due to missing points and had to really assert himself especially in the starting phase. The race could be followed live via "SwissSportTV" and here Tim could be seen pushing more than driving at the beginning, because there were often traffic jams. However, he did not let this stop him and made up ground lap after lap. Luis Neff was able to maintain his position and rode the entire race together with a larger group. "The start was ok, but then I somehow didn't really get into the race. The form was so good and after my messed up race with chain tear in Obergessertshausen I was really motivated. Unfortunately, I couldn't really step on the gas," said Luis Neff.
Tim Feinauer really fired up the turbo and advanced lap by lap until he finally caught up with his teammate 1.5 laps before the end and even overtook him. "I first had to fight my way to the front at the start, which is not so easy from grid position 115. You lose a lot of time due to traffic jams and slow drivers in front of you. After that it went quite well and when I saw Luis at some point I knew I had made up some places," said Tim Feinauer at the finish. In the end, Tim Feinauer was able to secure 52nd place, just ahead of his teammate Luis Neff in 55th.
"It was good to race today in view of the World Cup next weekend in Albstadt. The race hardness is currently missing and so really you still do not know where you stand. In this time it is really hard for us amateur athletes to get a foothold. Now I'm looking forward to the home World Cup, even if without spectators!" said Luis Neff shortly before returning to Germany.
Already on Thursday the team will be on site in Albstadt before the races on Saturday (Junior Series and U23) and Sunday (Elite). As always, RedBull TV will broadcast the elite races live on Sunday. Follow the team on social media for live footage from the event.
pc: EGO-Promotion, Nicole Gräter