Rémi Laffont (FRA/27) came top of the overall ranking at the Arabian Epic Series in the United Arab Emirates and was content with second daily position after the last race. With no less than four stage wins, the French climbing specialist was in a class of his own, emerging as the most dominant rider overall for the winter months.
Born in the Pyrenees, Rémi Laffont normally feels at home in high mountains. Also, when you look at the build of the 55kg Frenchman you see straight away that he’s a climber. This makes it all the more astonishing that the 27-year-old mountain bike pro has just gone and brought home first prize from the desert. “For me, the Arabian Epic Series wasn’t just any old race through the sand dunes. I don’t do things by halves. It’s all or nothing, and that goes for me and the whole team; it’s a fundamental principle. The United Arab Emirates, Dubai, the region – they’re a team partner for us, and right from the beginning I really wanted to convey this connectedness to the world in a spectacular way – by winning the series,” states Laffont on becoming overall winner of the Arabian Epic Series.
The grande finale took place in Al Ain in the east of Abu Dhabi and the Frenchman immediately looked in control. After four stage wins, he’d built enough of a lead to not have to fight ‘come what may’ for a stage race victory on the last day. Laffont did however match an attack from his fiercest opponent, the Dane Michael Bang Gronbech. This once again underscored his position as the rider to beat. “The stage races here are unbelievably varied. Abu Dhabi is almost as flat as a pancake the whole way, so I don’t have to try and launch any big attacks with my 55kg. I know what I’m capable of and what to do when. Today it was about stay in the wheels and taking home the overall victory,” says Laffont after his last event of the winter racing series. When it came to the finish, the two most dominant contestants of the series showed great sportsmanship and almost crossed the line like two close friends. In an interview after the race, statements were made like “It’s an honour for me that I can battle with Laffont for the title” – also representative of the Epic Series.
Team skipper Steffen Thum was unable to compete for the overall rankings himself due to a collarbone fracture, but he did describe the atmosphere at the event as an example to the rest of the world. “Great sport and at the same time, great respect for other athletes – it’s fantastic what they achieved here in terms of spirit for the first year of the Arabian Epic Series. I’m so happy that our racing team is an integral part of this setup and things will stay that way. This was just the beginning and we can expect to see a lot more from this region in the coming years,” states Thum, once again pointing to his team’s commitment to a long- term partnership.
The series win means MTB Racingteam has already claimed two major titles at this early stage of the season: 18-year-old Marion Fromberger recently raised a few eyebrows with an Eliminator World Cup victory in Barcelona, now followed by Laffont’s win at the Arabian Epic Series. It seems the team transformation is working well on two fronts, not only boosting motivation but also delivering good results.