With the veritable explosion of fatbikes, it was only a matter of time until ski resorts adopted fatbikes, and the Snow Bike Festival in Gstaad is an excellent example. Why not cater for another user group? There’s no need for it to feel like a snowboard invasion all over again.
The first edition of the Snow Bike Festival in Gstaad started this morning, introducing fatbikers to the picturesque promenade of Gstaad! It was an ice cold morning with temperatures dipping well below zero all the way down to minus 11 degrees Celsius. The sun however showed itself from over the mountains to the eager but cold riders just seconds before the race started. The impeccable timing almost seemed planned.
The first stretch through the village was a neutral zone, leading the pack on small little roads and trails through Gstaad and then went onto trails along the Saane river all the way to Rougemont.
Paul Bühler, a seasoned marathon cyclist – “It was a nice ride. Really good. It was just cold at the start, but then, we warmed up quickly, even though there was no sun on the track down to Rougemont. I can confirm that the little airport is the coldest spot in the valley”. He was not exaggerating as all of the pipes of the rider’s camelbacks froze. So tip of the day came out to be to start with warmer water!
The turning point in Rougemont brought the first climb of the day which was followed by a small downhill. The riders then had a flat stretch with the terrain in perfect conditions for snow biking! On the way back to Saanen. Johann Tschopp (Switzerland) raced to the front of the pack with Daniel Gathof (Germany) and Thomas Misser (Spain) behind him.
After the riders passed Saanen, they headed into a climb into the beautiful Chalberhöni valley. Daniel Gathof said the following after the race: “The final stretch was on the road and ski track covered by good compact snow. The conditions were excellent but the climb was still very tough”. Johann Tschopp who is known to be an excellent climber, raced away on the climb towards the top of the Eggli and won himself the Land Rover King of the Mountain prize.
The exciting action though was happening behind him between number two and three as Daniel Gathof who just beat Thomas Misser, the winner of the inaugural event last year, to the top of the Eggli. Thomas known for being excellent on the downhills overtook Daniel on the downhill race towards the finish line in a breathtaking speedy affair down the Eggli.
In the women’s race Switzerland’s Hielke Elferink, current Dutch champion, won the stage, followed by Alba Wunderlin (Switzerland) and Laura Turpijn (Netherlands). Hielke was also first to the top of the Eggli and is therefore the proud winner of the Land Rover Queen of the Mountain prize. Coming into the event Alba carried a light knee injury, after the race she was delighted with the fact that her knee held up quite well and that she managed a spot on the podium. Hielke said that she had her best day ever on a fatbike and is delighted with her stage win!
After the race the riders headed over to the race village to revitalise themselves with some welcome warm food.
*See latest results and the overall standings at: www.snowbikefestival.com/results/