If there’s an emotional home to the birth of the MarathonMTB.com website it is the Engadin Valley. After travelling to St Moritz from Verbier after the 2010 Grand Raid, but before the National Park Bike Marathon, it was clear that St Moritz and the Upper Engadine Valley in general was a training haven.
Further trips in later years for training and holidays proved it. The trails had lots of variety, from flat cycle paths, to Swiss National Routes, an IMBA Epic Ride and of course the Flow Trails. Hidden in plain sight were all the hiking trails, ancient routes trodden by centuries of walkers, hikers and smugglers making the trip up from Italy. All these trails are open for mountain biking too, if you can handle them.
And now, the valley has a stage race, a 3 day event running in early summer. With an opening prologue (it’s a hill climb) followed by two hilly stages, the race runs from a central location in SIlvaplana, with accommodation options organised by the event, if you need it.
Sitting at around 1800m, the race is high, but not as high as something like the Breck Epic. It’s also close to some other great things to do, like riding the Bernina Express, taking a visit to Livigno (by bike, car or bus), or descending way down through the Maloja Pass and travelling to Lake Como.
Inside the Engadin Bike Giro
What was there to do but race the first year? The whole valley has a host of accommodation options, from 5 star hotels to camping options right at the race venue on the lake. We used Interhome to book an apartment for the whole week, as it was useful to get up to 1800m for a little bit of acclimatisation, but also to be comfortable and not rushing ahead of the stage race.
The Prologue was an incredible route, straight from the lake’s edge at the sport centre in St Moritz, up through town and the pedestrianised centre, and onto the slopes through Corviglia. Every rider had an individual start from a professional timing gate, and I don’t think anyone left much in reserve on the climb!
It was 10km, with almost 800m of climbing, but the descent from the Corviglia top station back to town on the flow trail was perhaps one of the best parts of our week so far. Everyone had their backpacks transported to the top, and after some food at the finish, pulled on their over shorts, and jackets, and rode down the flow trail back to town.
We went straight to the Coop for chocolate milk and strawberries.
You can read the report from the prologue here.
Stage 2 is the first big day, but given I had been chasing Imogen Smith in the Prologue I did feel a bit sore already… the start and finish are right on the edge of Lake Silvaplana, and as you watch the kitesurfers, nerves for the stage start build. The stages are a little unlike other alpine stages, as they don’t send you up a massive climb to start with. Just a reasonably big one. So the group was strung out along the bike paths near Silvaplana, before racing through the God Surlej, and over rolling climbs to take in some of the great singletrack overlooking St Moritz. The pace was high all the way up to Pontresina and beyond, then back again, before descending to near Samedan for the major climb of the day, to the top station above Celerina.
It’s an epic climb that finishes on bench cut trail, sliced into the slope but still climbing. Past hikers, past alpine cows, past summer farms and past the wild flowers. Forever up, until finally, graciously, you head down. Down the flow trails, through the swooping corners, and over the rollers, washing off speed only when you lose your nerve.
But you’re not done. You’re in Switzerland, the racing is never easy. The final trails were natural singletrack, rocky, steep and a lot of fun. The descent was steep through the forest, dropping you right back to the lake’s edge and the finish. At under 75km, the day was super tough – but I don’t remember seeing anyone upset at the finish. You can catch up on the report from the day right here.
Sometimes the final day of a stage race comes too soon, others it never arrives in time! I had mixed emotions for the start of this one. I was tired (it’s better to train if you’re racing) but at the same time I knew when the race was over, I’d have to go home. I always find it hard to leave the Upper Engadin Valley. The riding is great, the small towns are really pretty, and it always seems like there is more to do. This dfay showed there wasn’t more in my legs though! The start was fast along the lake, before climbing in the forests again. We shot back into the God Surlej, past some of the trails I’d ridden in the week before, and then into some I had missed. We crossed the valley and climbed high above Samedan, before dropping back towards Bever and heading up towards Corviglia on another climb, different to the day before.
Gratefully, we topped out at a lower altitude, but it was by no means easy. We traversed the slope for longer, coming down a different flow trail with built features, lots of line options, and a really fast mixed finish to the end. It was the perfect way to empty the tank! Read the full report here.
All in, the three days were professionally run, with great feed zones in the event and at the end, plus a really good bag service to keep your essentials safe for the end of the race. In the second year, the race has gained UCI status, which is fair, as it’s challenging, professional, and this should help the event grow. I find it hard to stay away from the Engadin Valley, and if I go back again I’ll make sure to coincide with the dates of the Engadin Bike Giro.