There are marathon stage races around the world, but the Swiss Epic sits head, shoulders and torso above just about all of them. The combination of racing, trails, event logistics and service aren’t matched at any other race we have visited or competed in.
And on Monday 12th September, the third edition of Perskindol Swiss Epic kicked off with the prologue in Zermatt. The first day’s champions in the men’s category was the BMC Mountainbike Racing Team I with Lukas Flückiger and Reto Indergand, who completed the 26 km track in the extremely fast time of 51:37 minutes. For the women, it was the Stöckli Pro Team with Jolanda Neff and Alessandra Keller who came out on top with a time of 1 hour and00:57 minutes. Five long stages now await the racers, as they race through the Valais to Verbier via Leukerbad.
Racing the Swiss Epic under the Matterhorn
The prologue began on Zermatt’s Rothorn, at about 3100m, and led mainly downhill over a 26 km trail to Zermatt. Although effectively just a warm-up race for the stages to follow, the prologue already gave the two-person teams a first impression of the breathtaking panoramic views and flowing singletrack they will be experiencing over the next week.
The top riders were amazingly fast in the prologue course, which started off a bit rough, and those not having any flat tyres destroyed the expected top finishing times of just under an hour. Lukas Flückiger and Reto Indergand of the BMC Mountainbike Racing Team I were the day’s champions in the Men with a time of 51:37 minutes. Second place went to last year’s second place team CENTURION VAUDE with Daniel Geismayr and Jochen Käss with 53:00 minutes.
They were just seconds ahead of the Wheeler Pro Team, with Fabian Paumann and Martin Gujan, who came in at 53:04 minutes. Gujan is planning to end his professional career after Swiss Epic in 2016. Nino Schurter of the SCOTT-ODLO MTB RACING TEAM only came in 17th with a time of 57:15 minutes because his teammate Matthias Stirnemann got a flat tyre early on in the race.
There were no surprises in the Women’s category, with favourites Jolanda Neff and Alessandra Keller of the Stöckli Pro team coming in first with 1hour 00:57 minutes. They were over 3 minutes faster than the Spur Ötztal team with Ariane Kleinhans and Corina Gantenbein who came in second with 1 hour 04:09 minutes, followed by the Wheeler / Rocky Mountain team, made up of Esther Süss and Hielke Elferink, with 1 hour 06:10 minutes.
Mixed luck in the mixed category with Matt Page and Sophie Hemming suffering 3 flat tyres. But race favourites, Cornelia Hug and Adrian Ruhstaller winning, but only 10 seconds separating the top 3 teams. We might see another close race in Mixed just like 2015.
Off to a successful start
The prologue in Zermatt was a successful start to the third edition of the Perskindol Swiss Epic six-day mountain bike race. “Everything ran smoothly today and the competitors were happy to be here,” says organiser Joko Vogel. “As organisers we are particularly pleased with this year’s elite line-up of participating athletes – most notably the freshly crowned Olympic gold medallist Nino Schurter. This just goes to confirm the high status that Perskindol Swiss Epic has achieved as a stage race.”
Via Leukerbad to Verbier by Saturday
Tomorrow, all the two-person teams participating in the Swiss Epic and Swiss Epic Flow formats will set off on the first stage of the race to Leukerbad, where they will then complete the second stage, a circular trail, on Wednesday. On Thursday, stage three takes the riders further on to Verbier, where two more circular trails await them on Friday andSaturday. The overall winning teams from all the various categories will be greeted in Verbier on Saturday 17 September 2016