Rookie World Champs: Young Guns Fast as Lightning


Seven days of pure mountain bike action have come to an end! Bikepark Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis greeted 250 young athletes from 21 different countries for this year’s the MTB-Festival. The focus had already been on development and progression all week during the Rookie Camp. At the weekend it was all about the perfect line choice and the fastest times. Saturday already showcased quick runs during the Specialized Rookies Cup and Sunday saw hundreds of young shredders pull through tough weather conditions during the iXS International Rookies Championships to determine five Rookie World Champions.
by Felix Pirker
Similar to the elite athletes racing at Mont-Sainte-Anne, the rookies racing at Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis had to battle their way down a gnarly downhill track through dense rain and fog. The victorious five each had to lay down 'Gwinesque' runs to have any hope of landing at the top of the podium. First, though, it was up to the relatives to show their determination during the Family Challenge.
by Christian Waldegger
At the end of the day, the team made up of Sebastian and Niclas Maag sent the fastest total time down the mountain after the times of the adults had been added to the times of the rookie runs during the iXS International Rookies Championships. “It was always a dream of mine to race with my son or daughter one day and this year it happened. I am totally proud and it feels better than every race I won during my career. I really enjoyed it,” explained an enthusiastic Sebastian Maag, Marketing Manager at Specialized Bicycles, after his run in the live webcast interview.
by Felix Pirker
After the adults had sent their runs down the hill, things got serious for the downhill prodigies waiting at the top of the Waldbahn at an altitude of about 1,800 meters/5,905 feet. After more than three hours of wet and intense downhill racing Henri Kiefer (GER, U13 male), Leona Pierrini (FRA, U15 female), Nuno Zuzarte Reis (PRT, U15 male), Valentina Höll (AUT, U17 female) and Marko Niemiz (SVN, U17 male) celebrated their unofficial Youth World Championship Titles. We spoke to both Nuno and Vali after their scorching runs.
by Christian Waldegger

Congratulations! What an intense and wet race! How does it feel to take the win today?

Nuno: Great! Yesterday, I was very unlucky and got held up by a rider in front of me. I felt really good riding on the mud today and did my best to make no mistakes and stay on my bike. It feels really fantastic to take the win today.

by Christian Waldegger

Vali: I am so happy! Mille Johnset is my closest competitor and she beat me in Fort William back in May. I so badly wanted to be the fastest on my home ground. The track was very different compared to yesterday and I just had to prove that I could also be quick in wet conditions.

Saturday the track was pretty much dry, Sunday extremely wet. How did you adjust to the conditions?

Nuno: Yeah, I had to change some things. I picked different lines, avoiding some wooden features at the top and the slippery parts of the track. I was slightly more conservative than on Saturday and also changed my front tire to a mud tire.

by Christian Waldegger

Vali: I did think about changing a few lines, but in the end, I thought, “To hell with that!” I didn’t change my tires, didn’t change my setup and stuck my line choices. I tried to push hard right from the start and ride cleanly. The grassy turns were really difficult though. It was such a sick race!

Did you watch Aaron Gwin race in wet Mont-Sainte-Anne? Did you try to copy anything for your winning run?

Nuno: I watched the World Cup yesterday and picked up one or two things. I just tried to ride like Gwin by breaking as little as possible and keeping the bike in a straight line throughout the race.

Vali: We had a barbeque last night and watched the World Cup. When I saw Rachel’s run I just thought, that I don’t want to have to pull off a save like that in my race (laughs). I thought it was mint to see how flat out everyone rode their bike and how desperately they still wanted to win even though it was chucking it down. I think that gives you an additional push if you are challenged by the weather like that.

by Christian Waldegger

How was the overall weekend for you here?

Nuno: It was a sick weekend. I didn’t take part in the Pumptrack Session, but it was so much fun to cheer on the other kids. It felt great to race and winning today put the icing on the cake.

Vali: It was great! We got here on Thursday and I started my weekend with the track walk. It was great to be racing here once again.

How cool is it to be able to meet so many young riders from many different countries, ride together and have fun together?

Nuno: It is so cool! We do not have anything like this at home because we cannot race until the age of 16. Seeing all the kids shredding was just sick. Meeting and getting to know Jackson Goldstone and Ike Klaassen was great as well. It was great fun to play on the bikes with them and have fun.

by Felix Pirker

Vali: I love it! Especially for us girls, because at other races there are not always that many of us riding. We were ten yesterday. That doesn’t happen anywhere else. If things are going well, then there might be three girls riding at the European Downhill Cup. We are all close friends and weeks before this event happens we are already hitting each other up on Instagram to see who is coming to Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis. It’s always great to meet new riders and have a great time here.
by Christian Waldegger

What’s up for you next?

Nuno: We are staying in the Alps for another week and will explore what these mountains have to offer. Then we will head back to Portugal for some summer weather hopefully.

Vali: I am super stoked to be flying to Whistler this week. I am also really looking forward to competing at the World Cup next year. It’ll be rad!

The iXS International rookies Championship rounded off the MTB-Festival Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis - a historic event for rookie downhill racing. Atle Laakso (NOR) and Mille Johnset (NOR) were crowned as the King and Queen of the Weekend, sending the best totalled time during the Pumptrack Session, Specialized Rookies Cup and iXS Rookies Championships.

You can find all results from the whole weekend here.

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MENTIONS: @Bikepark-Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis / @iXSsports / @Specialized