Heroes…..not just for one day!

Maltese cyclists conquer the HERO Südtirol Dolomites

Marie Claire Aquilina
Marie Claire Aquilina

Dubbed as Europe’s hardest mountain bike race the HERO Südtirol Dolomites is on the bucket list of every seasoned mountan biker.  The race attracts many world class athletes and forms part of the UCI Marathon Series.

Malta was represented by seven cyclists – Maurice Formosa, Patrick Scicluna, Mark Bonnici, Jeffrey Borg, Mark Micallef, Paul Zarb and Marie Claire Aquilina. This year’s contingent was the largest to date.

Competing against some of the world’s renowned and professional cyclists, Malta registered some impressive timings, most notably Maurice Formosa who completed the race under seven hours and obtaining a 173 placing.

The Hero Tirol is the toughest race that I have ever competed in. Whilst the distance of 86km is not the longest I’ve ever raced in, the altitude reached – 4,500m combined with the technical nature of the race requires not only physical fitness but a strong metal preparation. – Maurice Formosa

The second Maltese to cross the finish line was Patrick Scicluna who completed the race in under eight hours. No stranger to tough challenges Scicluna put into use years of competition to keep the focus when the going got tougher.

An amazing race, which includes some tough passes, reaching over 2300m of altitude, such as the Prelongia, Pordoi which hard terrain of gravel, rocks and tree routes combined with 25% incline climb and downhills so technical that do not afford any second of rest or lack of concentration.  Although racing at altitudes, the heat was unbearable at times making the race more challenging. Achieving an overall 361 placing amongst thousands of riders was so satisfying – Patrick Scicluna

The only Maltese female in the contingent, Marie Claire Aquilina undertook the 60km race which was obligatory for female cyclists.  Aquilina, Malta’s best female cyclist had a good run placing 6th in her category and 31st overall.

This was truly a mountain biker’s paradise. Extremely tough route but so memorable. One of the best moments was when I managed to overtake some female riders on a particular technical downhill segment and obtaining a third place in my category with 15kms to go to the finish line.  Worst moment – stomach cramps shortly before the finish line and having to settle for sixth place in my category. Tough as hell but so satisfying – Marie Claire Aquilina

To understand the challenge that such a race offers riders one has to keep in mind that from a pool of over 4,000 registered cyclists, for ladies’ and men’s event -  2,450 completed the 87km route, whilst 1,766 completed the 60km race.

HERO Südtirol Dolomites Results

Maurice Formosa         6:28.02

Patrick Scicluna           7:07.02

Mark Bonnici               7:47.33

Jeffrey Borg                 8:02.30

Mark Micallef              8:12.56

Paul Zarb                     9:24.09

Marie Claire Aquilina     5:54.45