On August 17th, 2014, the 17th Eiger Bike Challenge was set to determine the Swiss Marathon MTB Champions. The race has a traditional route, with a lot of climbing, and very steep descending. The route isn’t representative of the riding around Grindelwald, which hosts the event. The valleys are laced with trails, many of them unofficially open to mountain biking, but the race eschews those trails and the potential conflict of using them, sticking to a lot of sealed roads and paths, gravel tracks, and very steep walking tracks. It’s more about the racing than the trails.
And as a championship event, the racing was fast! With about 15km of climbing to open affairs, any race contender needed to be in great shape. But the first descent was down a muddy slope, made up of pine log stairs and uneven rock steps, not unlike an older, steeper version of the descent off Whernside in the Three Peaks CX race. People, bikes, and their spares were everywhere. Descents were brake cookingly steep, so you could go right back uphill again.
The men’s showdown of Huber vs Sauser didn’t get to play out completely, with Sauser suffering a mechanical problem. Huber crossed the line victorious, ahead Lukas Buchli and the young Jeremy Huguenin. Erik Kleinhans of team RE:CM was the highest placed non-Swiss rider, and the South African finished 9th.
The women’s race was just as competitive, with Ariane Kleinhans (defending champion), Milena Landtwing, Esther Süss, Cornelia Hug and more vying for the title. In the end it was Süss who rode clear to the finish, with Kleinhans behind and just ahead of Landtwing.
Full results are available via Datasport.
The Australian contingent in Grindelwald didn’t fair too favourably, with Imogen Smith still feeling the effects of a week of illness in the 55km race, and I was just racing as expected. Slowly. Kyle Ward was prominent on the first climb, but his ride around Lac Leman as prep for the event may have caught up with him. Kevin Wells of Darwin had a solid 7hr day on the bike.
But the sun is very powerful, and after the dismal summer that Switzerland has received so far this year, it’s ability to keep people moving really counts. The moods were good at the finish, and the Eiger and mountains beyond had plenty of fresh snow from the recent rains in the valley. Next weekend, Swiss racers and many others will head to Verbier in the Valais for the Grand Raid, which celebrates it’s 25th anniversary. 125km of racing with 5000m climbing. Make a day of it!
Eiger MTB Marathon – you may have just put me into my grave, but with the sun shining in the Swiss Alps .. I kept crawling out !! #epic
— Kyle Ward (@kyleward92) August 17, 2014