With tired legs from Stage 2 of the Engadin Bike Giro, I was happy to know today’s stage would be the final day. But at the same time, I knew that also meant it would be time to go home tomorrow, which wasn’t so appealing.
On paper, Stage 3 looked much the same as Stage 2. A fast start with shorter climbs, punctuated by a major climb at the finish before a long descent back.
Rolling to the start with Imogen Smith, we were both pretty tired. But at the same time, I could tell Imogen was motivated to have a better day than yesterday. Whenever the headphones and Essential Mixes from about 2007 come out I know she means business.
This makes the race a little different for me, as if she’s firing right now, she’s about the same speed as me – or faster. And that means we’re in a similar place in the race, which isn’t great.
Loop the lake
We both started further up the front today. While we were in start group A both today and yesterday, we got in the chute way too late yesterday. Still, with such a flat and fast start riders from further back were swamping everyone with some messy lines, and as we looped around Silvaplana Lake it was clear i’d dug a bit too deep, and had to sit up. After some more sitting up Imogen’s group was there, so I had to sit up some more to make sure I was at the back of it. In general, Euros get it about whats good sportsmanship and one team member helping another when not in a paired stage race isn’t right.
Turns out it wouldn’t be a problem anyway, as right after we turned off the lake and pointed uphill Group Imogen, including two other leading ladies, rode away from me.
We started back towards Fex, and came along some of the small roads I’d ridden one afternoon this week. Up, down, across, along… then more climbing and fast forest double track until we hit the hike-a-bike switchback climb. I do wonder if it was useful training for cyclocross pro Jonathan Page, who is here racing for training.
Part of the beauty of riding in big alpine valleys like the Engadin Valley is how the trails change depending on your altitude. We were well and truly below the tree line, so that meant that for the most part we were on contouring trails, mostly wider singletrack that had a gravelled surface for weather proofing. But when you climb higher, they become more rugged. More rocks, more roots, steeper gradients.
We stayed in the tree line for much of the first 45km, with fast speeds through the lower trails, save for some very rooty and rocky descending towards the road to Pontresina. The trail diverged with multiple lines, and riders were everywhere, most choosing the point and shoot method to get down.
Back to Bever
Another staple of the Engadin Valley is the wind. That’s why the kite surfers love it at Silvaplana after all. But as we were in the valley, it was just hard work today! We traced our way to Bever, and my heart filled with dread. I knew I couldn’t do the same climb as we did yesterday. I already started backing off.
But we approached the mountain side on a different trail, on some steeper grades, and the climb was interrupted by some short descents too. It actually suited riders differently, and powerful riders seemed to enjoy pushing hard on the steep climbs while lithe riders didn’t seem as able to find their rhythm.
About here, I could see Imogen in front of me again, and a couple of times I tried to pass on some encouragement – although I mostly got a glare back.
There had been a course change, which meant we weren’t climbing as high up to Corviglia, so just to Suvretta. In essence, we zig-zagged along the valley side, up and down the mountain slope, making our way over the top of St Moritz, and back towards Silvaplana. Up a forest road, down some singletrack. Up some shared use trail, down a flow trail. And so on.
The final descent took us down a heavily wooded flow trail, which also had numerous built structures in it just to keep you sharp. With a lower gradient than the trail from Corviglia, I actually found it a bit more fun. Having passed a master’s Belgian rider coming in to it, who I know struggles in that terrain, I had clear trail behind me but I could see Imogen catching, then passing, the leading woman in the amateur category. She’s clearly an experienced athlete, not a great mountain biker, but I have no idea why she was in ‘Fun’ class. These two were in a drag race, and Imogen punched hard on a small road climb into some singletrack to get a gap. I’d like to say she never looked back, but she did, about half a dozen times, as the two put their climbing physiques into time trial mode around the edge of the lake into a block headwind.
Finishing in about 4 hours, the event centre was awash with mountain bikers and their supporters lazing in the sun, eating, drinking, and talking about the last few days of great mountain biking. While Nadia Walker took the day’s win and overall in Elite Women, Hansueli Stauffer won the stage, but Karl Platt won the overall for the first edition of the Engadin Bike Giro.
Reflecting on the Engadin Bike Giro
Racing a first year event is always special. In part, you’re a guinea pig. But you also get to be the first to experience what the race has to offer. I did that at The Pioneer at the start of the year, and was really impressed by the challenge the event created, and the camaraderie between the riders.
The Engadin Bike Giro is one of many sporting events run by the organiser – and it showed. Registration had no lines, our race bags had our number, course profiles and some relevant vouchers for St Moritz. But no unwanted extras! The event website and Facebook page were up to date, and the event ran on time.
I do think the courses could have got into a main climb a little earlier, to break the field up, and perhaps there is the option for that in further years, or to avoid using some of the same trails twice. But for a 3 day event, it cannot be based anywhere better for those who like technical trails and alpine climbs, and I hope I can come again in the future.