After being the outright ruler of the last two editions of Appenninica MTB Stage Race, you can’t escape the role of big favourite. From September 4th to 9th, 2023, Naima Madlen Diesner will try to win the overall standings for the third time in a row, but she’d better be ready to face some tough competition on the Emilia-Romagna Apennines’ trails.
Debora Piana and Kristina Ilina are expected to be the top rivals in the way of Diesner’s hat-trick. The Italian rider from Team Cingolani Specialized will be at the start of the Appenninica MTB Stage Race for the first time, after crowning the first half of the season with second place at the Italian Marathon National Championships in Telve Valsugana. It will be the first time for her in a solo stage race, but in 2022 she already demonstrated her ability to handle herself over multiple racing days, finishing second in the Swiss Epic paired with Janina Wüst.
“I’ve been curious about the Appenninica MTB Stage Race for several years because it’s raced in an area I’ve rarely been to. I’m ready to take on this challenge and test myself on a six-day stage race, tackling it alone. Plus, you are racing in Italy, so the motivation will be greater”, says Debora Piana.
Kristina Ilina will also try to test herself on a six-day stage race. The Russian comes from the Cross Country discipline, but she has become MTB Marathon national champion this year, and she is coming to the starting ribbons of the Appenninica MTB Stage Race with the ambition of learning and growing fast, supported by the DMT Racing Team.
“MTB Marathon stage races are a new world for me, but I’m learning fast, and I know that the DMT Racing Team staff will be able to teach me a lot. The goal is to try to win a stage. I come from XCO, so I will try to live the race day by day, listening to every word of Andrea Marconi, who will help me to get into the reality of this type of races. I know that with him and his decade-long experience I am in good hands”, explains the Russian riders.
While these three athletes should be regarded as arguably the top contenders for the Women’s race, right behind them are other competitors with a shot to squeeze into the top positions. Swiss Nina Brenn, recent winner of the Swiss Epic with Simone Stroll in the Masters Women category, stands out, while Imogen Smith arrives from Australia with an extensive background. To hold on to the Apennine sceptre, Naima Diesner must keep her eyes wide open.