You can’t imagine any time trial near this Swiss town will be anything other than challenging. Verbier sits looking over a stunning valley at around 1600m, surrounded by 2000m plus ski runs that during the summer act as a magnet to any mountain biker who likes to keep things punchy. The climbs are tough, the descents are a whack over the head and the bike park runs the final kick in the backside, you ride these trails and you will be asking yourself, ‘why haven’t I done this sooner, seriously why!?’.
Flow riders and Epic riders all had to face the 16km stage, ‘Flow’ stands for crazy people who aren’t so keen on uphills but can break the sound barrier going down and ‘Epic’ for crazy people who like the soul crushing goodness of a 50 min climb and a 7 min descent, or thereabouts.
Thanks to Matt’s ‘Elite’ licence we were in the UCI bull pen, starting pretty much first out of a bunch of fire breathing hitters the likes of which I last saw, well, on TV. We were about to be humbled by the sheer awesomeness of our sports best. Start ramp, UCI official with French accent, oh man I’m in heaven ‘bip, bip, bip, beeeeeeee’. Zoom it’s flat out the gate and quick as a flash we’re heading uphill as fast as our heart rates. ‘Op op zuper’ BMC Ralph Naf no less shouts some encouragement, yep this is ace!
We established in training that I’m not exactly a rocket ship downhill, I had the green light from Pagey to go if I could and get enough gap to have us even up after the punishing descent. Deep I did go! I have a bucket load of respect for Matt, looking back on one of the hairpins he yells ‘go as hard as you can!’ Roger that Captain Kirk, it was the boost I needed I pushed on trying to work out how much was going to be enough to hold off Team Rwanda who were climbing like total machines.
I’m first to enter the downhill, me, first…ok so it wasn’t reflecting reality but I can’t tell you how cool that felt! Whoosh, I’m into the blue run, doing my best to stay off the brakes and flow, the bike bucking and squirrelling like an angry wasp. I hit an open section the super fast Wheeler-iXS boys showing me how to do it, I try latch on, no sign of Pagey. I’m into the red run now. This is where things get funky, red means ‘not crazy, but you may need new shorts’, dropping swooping and rolling, I’m literally on my limit of control, I think I may, actually, be enjoying this?
I hear a brake squeal Page is on me, we tackle the vertical drops into the last blue, I’m clinging to his wheel, hunkering down and loving the dots of supporters lining the lower slope, brilliant, unadulterated awesome.
Squashed to the frame its a road attack for the final few hundred metres then boom over the finish line 57:24, thats good enough for 20th and I’m one seriously happy bunny!
We roll in as the big boys start coming home, Platt and Huber 48:32, stonking fast! The clock ticks the times drop, 47:49 for ‘Suzy’ and Kulhavy, wow, a gasp goes out, Vaude Racing’s Daniel Geismayr and Jochen Kass 47:19, surely no one can go faster, Stockli Bikes thinks they can, Matthias Fluckinger and Lukas Buchli 47:10…silence ATOMIC BOOM Shurter and Vogel 47 dead!! Exciting and humbling, an unforgettable experience even being in the same finish pit as these guys, man love, sorry Tracy.
The ladies leaders looked like this, our new found friends Mountain Heros Andrea Kuster and Kristin Aamodt in 3rd with a very respectable 1:07 we ate salads together, this must have been their secret? Wheeler iXS Team 1 Hielke Elferink and Esther Suss smoking at 1:00 dead and our MarathonMTB favs Ariane Kleinhans and Annika Langvad winning in 57:59 for Specialized 2.
The real business begins tomorrow, Verbier to Leukerbad, 95km and 3050 metres climing, a big day and certainly a stage to be respected!
Matt’s prologue video: