There’s a funny sense of relief when the last day of a stage race rolls around. Even when it’s been something you have planned for, anticipated, saved for and trained for – when you’re tired you are still ready for it to finish. And despite the Snow Bike Festival being a popular 4-day format of a prologue and 3 stages, there was still a sense of ‘just one more stage’ this morning.
Changes for Stage 3 of the Snow Bike Festival
While Stage 2 was a sublime bike riding experience thanks to pristine conditions, the temperature had lifted after the stage. And while snow dumped down much of the afternoon, it was melting and not hanging around. Overnight, the precipitation was predicted to fall as rain.
Showing consideration to racers and conditions, the organisers made a call yesterday evening to shorten the stage to about 17km, and change the route from the planned race to Gsteig and then up the Eggli and down the ski slope.
Instead we would do a shortened route similar to Stage 2, climbing out of Gstaad on the road, which would likely now be clear of much of the ice and snow, with some sections of snow and less climbing and therefore less descending too.
At the front on Stage 3 of the Snow Bike Festival
From the start in the Promenade, riders raced straight into today’s Land Rover Mountain Prize climb up to Turbach. Nicola Rohrbach (SUI) and Nadine Rieder (GER) were the quickest up the climb. In the UCI Men’s race Rohrbach put early pressure on the overall leader Ryf (SUI) and raced to a 90 second lead at the halfway point of the stage.
With Ryf under pressure to defend his leader jersey, a thrilling battle ensued. Rohrbach took the stage over 2 minutes ahead of Ryf, but couldn’t quite close the gap to the young Swiss rider who fought with everything he had, collapsing as he crossed the finish line.
A worthy winner of a thrilling 2018 Snow Bike Festival.
In the UCI Women’s race Katrin Leumann saw herself go into today’s stage with a commanding lead. She used all her experience to control the race, and even though Rieder attacked and opened a sizeable gap on the first climb, Leumann’s lead and overall win was never under threat as she came into the final stage with over 11 minutes lead. Rieder took the stage victory, but it wasn’t enough to stop Katrin Leumann from securing her second successive Snow Bike Festival GC win.
That’s the end of 4 days of thrilling and challenging racing in the wonderful destination of Gstaad. The UCI race had about 60 riders, showing the appeal that the race has in part due to the S1 ranking, but also the timing, the location, the professional organisation and the fact the race is really unique.
My day at the Snow Bike Festival
I sound like a broken record but low temperatures and wet conditions don’t suit me. Still, the rain mostly came up from the ground in spray, not from the sky. The fact that the organisers modified the route was a real gift to everyone, maybe not Nicola Rohrbach, but I’d say most people were happy to be on a more rideable route.
The start was pretty clear, and I could see many of the leading amateur men making their moves on the climb. David Zink was moving strongly, Dick van Loon was climbing consistently and Maciej Stanowicz was charging through the field. But Matthias Flury was out on a flyer!
I found the conditions deteriorated and I was getting wet and cold, and in time the inevitable happened and I had a crash that hurt a little more than the ones on previous days, as my bars spun around again and I went head first into an icy snow drift. For a moment, it was less fun. But by that point I was so close to the finish it was a case of grin and bear it – and finishing the race felt great. It was short, less than 100km of racing. But it was a challenge, and even finishing in the middle of the amateur field it feels like an accomplishment. Riding on snow throws up many challenges, and I think having the skills to do it fast and with precision is really unique.
Flury won the stage but Zink won the overall race for Amateur men, with Stanowicz in 2nd Zdenek Snobel in 3rd.
In the amateur women Eva Carrer Enz ruled again, and took out the title.
The questions hang – would I come back? Would I come to race it ‘seriously’? Should you consider it?
Yes, maybe and definitely.
The whole race was a great experience from a manageable adventure perspective, through to a travel, social and sporting experience. Would I come back with a UCI licence and honed fitness? Maybe. But I think riding on snow, fast, takes some practice. Which I don’t get at home – it suits me better to come for fun. And for that reason, and for the chance to ride in conditions like those we had on Stage 2, I’d seriously consider coming to the Snow Bike Festival. If you’re chasing UCI points and high end racing, come a little earlier to get your skills dialled and jump in!