The Volcat mountain bike stage race is one of the biggest S2 events of its kind in Spain. The large number of high-class contestants are just as much of a challenge as the three stages covering 178 kilometers and 5000 height meters. To end up at the front a rider must have both stamina and technical skills.
In 2017 the Volcat entry list sported some big names: the current mtb-marathon world champ Tiago Ferreira, the Olympic-twins from Italy Luca and Daniele Braidot, the 2013 mtb-marathon world champ Ilias Perikles or Jiri Novak. In addition there was a whole phalanx of grade A riders from Spain and around 1400 other participants.
On the first stage over 58 km of highly technical trails Ben Zwiehoff and Luca Braidot, seventh in the Olympic race, set the pace and outrode Tiago Ferreira. At the end of the day Ben landed on fourth place, only narrowly beaten by the two Italians and the Czech Jiri Novak.
The second stage is traditionally decided by the Volcat – the veterans call it “Etapa reina” or queen stage. During the 80 km long stage the riders have to climb almost 3000 meters and half of it is on extremely technical trails. It was clear to Ben from the start that it would be Ferreira’s chance to close the gap to the leaders today. After 3:15 hours Zwiehoff was able to finish only two minutes behind his rival. Overall this meant that Novac would keep the leader’s jersey with a 1:30 lead on Ferreira and 2:10 on Ben.
“Standing on the starting line of stage three it was clear to me that I wanted to ride safely to third. But should there be an opportunity I wanted to be ready, and that opportunity came.” On the 42 km stage with only about 1000 height meters there should be no surprises and the first 20 km brought nothing noteworthy until the leader, Jiri Novak, signaled that he had a flat. Both Tiago and Ben stopped for fairness and offered to help. As it became clear that the mechanical would take longer to fix and neither were able to help both raced on for the overall victory. For Ben to move up one rank he had to finish 2:10 minutes ahead of Novak. Not able to keep up with Tiago, Ben did his best to reach the finish line in time. After an arduous wait Novak was still not in sight after two minutes and second place for Ben was safe.
After these hardships Ben has a few days of rest planned after which he will race in Solingen. Along with valuable world cup points being awarded on this international race it will also decide the national high school championships which Ben had already won in 2015.