The Italian national team
How is the Italian national team preparing for the HERO ?
Q: How are you preparing your team for the World Championships?
Hubert Pallhuber: “We began our preparation in January with an intense period on the snow of Val Gardena! We tried to get away from the routine of day to day training and focussed on a variety of activities and the fun element was important too. The next training camp will be from 5 to 15 March at Alassio in Liguria. In that occasion we will concentrate more on stamina and distance training, check out the equipment, and also work hard on the uphill sections of racing. Until those dates in March the athletes will be training with their own local clubs. Before racing in the Marathon Series our Italian team members will compete in several Cross Country races as these are always useful for speed training. And then later on from 9 to 13 June we will all meet up in Selva, in Val Gardena, the idea being to go over all final details and aspects of the race as we build up to the UCI Marathon 2015 – it of course the World Championship event.”
Q: Have you already decided who will be in the team for the World Championships? Who are the key members of your team?
Hubert Pallhuber: “As for bikers sure of a place I have 5 or 6 in mind. However as the host nation it is also important to take advantage of the circumstances so as to give every opportunity to younger athletes to experience the event and look towards their sporting future.
Certainly there are bikers in the team who will be ready to compete for the leading finishing places. It is clear that we no longer have an athlete like Mirko Celestino, he having won two medals at world Championships and he really did have something special about him which gave him a distinct advanatage over the others. He has of course retired but among the contenders there will certainly be our actual national champion Samuele Porro and as for the ladies Daniela Veronesi should be in with a good chance of finishing high up. Also because of the type of route the HERO follows I would mention Toni Longo, for he is an excellent climber.”
Q: What are your expectations? Do you think a podium finish is possible?
Hubert Pallhuber: “The important thing at this stage is to work so as to arrive at the World Championships in the best possible condition and with the right attitude. It is very important to understand the nature of long distance racing and to face the the race in a cool, calm and collected manner. If we are able to do this then the podium is not out of our reach. As things stand however it is really too early to pick out many names as we need to see how things develop in the season.”
Q: What are the race favourites?
Hubert Pallhuber: “The usual names, those who have won several medals in recent years and are well known to us. For example I can name Christoph Sauser, Jaroslav Kulhavý, Urs Huber, Ilias Periklis, Alban Lakata. However as hot hot favourite I must mention the Colombian Leonardo Paez - he has won the last three Sellaronda HERO titles. Going downhill he never loses time and in the uphill sections he might be too strong for his rivals. If he doesn’t win the world title this time I think that will be it for him. Looking at the womens race the names which come to mind are Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjå, Annika Langvad, Sabine Spitz, Esther Süss and Sally Bigham. For our own Daniela Veroneswe are talking about her last crack at a World Championship race and possibly the last race of her career...“.
Q: Which part of the race do you think will be the decisive part?
Hubert Pallhuber: “I don’t think we are likely to see a sprint finish. I think the race will be decided on the last two uphills when we will see who is the best prepared and most resilient of the bikers. Also the final downhill needs to be handled well for the bikers need to keep their concentration and be aware of all around them.”
Q: How are our young bikers doing?
Hubert Pallhuber: “Many of the foreign bikers don’t give their best until they have reached 30 years of age. We don’t have many bikers in this age group – I can name Samuele Porro, Juri Ragnoli, Johannes Schweiggl and Daniele Mensi as examples. However if they continue to develop their talent in the right way then in three to five years they will really be able to compete at World Championship level. It’s all about building up the resistance and endurance elements as you get older.”
Q: How do you see the technical aspects of the Marathon developing?
Hubert Pallhuber: “In future it will be more and more about materials. It will be essential to have a really light bike which is also resistant to to the race terrain. It can already be seen when you consider the chan-rings; uptil three years ago the bikes had three, and now most have only one. And likewise the development of an electronic gear change will be decisive.”
Q: To what extent has the HERO contributed in supporting the marathon movement?
Hubert Pallhuber: “At national level and coming after the European Championships and the World Championships at Montebelluna (TV) the HERO has without doubt had a significant effect on the increasing interest for the marathon. Many of the Cross Country bikers have shown an interst in the longer distances and the HERO has surely had a role to play here. Also it is important to note that the HERO is the race best promoted and organised in the whole world. This in great part is due to the professional prowess of the organising team. I should add that the HERO has a great symbolic presence, a presence instigated by and represented in the HERO President himself, and has become a great example for all to follow.”
D: When was the last time whilst cycling that you were distracted by the beauty of the landscape? Do you go cycling with your kids?
Hubert Pallhuber: “Now and again I must say that whilst out on the mountain bike in these parts I am taken in by the beauty of the surroundings. In the past however when I was competing I rarely lifted my head to admire the view !
When I am not travelling for my job and am able to spend time at home I do cycle with my kids (9, 7 and 4) and my wife too. Of a weekend we often bump into the rest of the family on the local cycle paths and at one race meet or other. My 7 year old son takes part in the junior races. The funny thing is that I don’t get involved in his races but then he moans at me for not taking an interest!”
Hubert Pallhuber, 49 years of age, born in Anterselva, in Alto Adige. He is married and has three children. In 1997 he was crowned as XCO world champion at Château-d'Œx (Svizzera). In 2000 he took part in the Olympic Games in Sydney. He retired from competitive sport in 2002 after the World Championships in Kaprun (Austria). Since 2006 he has been coach to the Italian mountain bike team.