Nothing hurts quite the same as watching a race from the sidelines. But the truth is that watching a race on the 5th day from the sidelines is a pretty sombre affair anyway. Despite the excellent trails, and the great accommodation and food, there were a lot of tired people in the start block today.
With an elevation gain of 3,300 metres the Grächen–Grächen circuit would also cover 88 kilometres. With a few short climbs before a long technical descent to the valley, many teams rolled out of the start well rugged up. The air was cold, but no rain was predicted.
The first technical descent did claim some victims, with both BMC and Topeak-Ergon having flat tyres early in the race, putting them in the difficult position of chasing back through a crowded field.
Team BiXS Stockli on the attack
Today in the Men’s category the two top teams were in another exciting head to head battle. In the final climb Lukas Buchli and Mathias Flückiger, were able to create a bit of space and take the win by 28 seconds with 4h 08min, an astounding time for the difficult course. That puts them back in contention with Jochen Käss and Daniel Geismayr, of Team Centurion Vaude, who came in second and still hold on to the overall lead by just 37 seconds.
So this leaves us with the same showdown as 2014 for the final stage to Zermatt. Alban Lakata and Kristian Hynek of the Topeak Ergon Racing Team lost over 18 minutes because of a flat tyre on the first descent, and a bit of a bodged repair job. They still hold on to third place overall, but at 19 minutes behind it is almost certain that is where they will stay. The third fastest today were Sepp Freiburghaus and Marc Stutzmann, Team Thömus / Grächen, with 4h 17min.
The teams were really far apart after the leading two, with fatigue clearly evident after so many difficult days in the mountains.
Topeak-Ergon consolidate in the women’s
In the Women’s Adelheid Morath and Sally Bigham of the Topeak Ergon Racing Team crossed the line over 22 minutes ahead of Annika Langvad and Ariane Kleinhans, Team Specialized RECM. That puts them 31 minutes in front in the overall rankings for tomorrow’s last stage.
In the Mixed category today’s winners were Anita Bucher and Hans Flück of Giant Team Obwalden with 5h 53min, but the British team of Melanie Alexander and Mark Spratt still has the overall lead. Dani Schnider and Oliver Imfeld won again today in the Masters category with a time of 5h 05min, and have the security of a 2 hour lead going into tomorrow’s stage.
Special Guest Christoph Sauser
The ex pro mountain biker Christoph Sauser, who had to quit last year’s race on the stage to Grächen, participated again today. He decided to take it a little easier today and just enjoy the trails. “I’m riding purely for fun today. The Perskindol Swiss Epic is a totally different race because the trails are on a different level. We’re able to ride the best trails in Switzerland and it’s great that an event like this exists here. Anyone who has the conditioning and technical skills will enjoy 6 days of pure mountain biking heaven.“
Unfortunately, co-organizer and mountain bike icon Thomas Frischknecht had to end his race before reaching the finish line: “I had to stop because of a cold. There was no point in continuing, in the end my health come’s first. My son Andri had to finish the stage on his own today, at least he could ride as fast as he wanted.“
Tomorrow will see the fifth and final stage, and the Men’s category in particular promises an exciting day, covering a distance of 60 kilometres with an elevation gain of 2,400 metres from Grächen to Zermatt.
Imogen and I are lining up again in the last block, aiming to enjoy the great Swiss trails, and to earn the after party.