I have often said that the day before a stage race can be as hard as a race itself. And even with planning, today was not without stress. The Swiss Epic starts tomorrow, and as I’m about to set off for some dinner in Davos, it seems like there has been little time to rest all day. But that’s not to say it has been a bad day!
We just spent the last five days in St Moritz. Not because we are international jet-setters, but because we know the trails, find the Engadin Valley beautiful, and enjoy the crisp high alpine air.
We used the time to ride some trails on rides of about 1-2 hours length. We bedded in our new Norco Revolvers, making small adjustments to the suspension and other settings.
We also swapped out our chain rings on our Shimano XTR M9100 12-speed group sets. The 10-51 cassette gives us a whopping gear range, but the 32t seems more useful than the 34t given the amount of climbing that lies ahead in the next 5 days.
We had a great apartment and relaxed, rested, and slept well. Plus we rode some trails that will be in Stage 2 at St Moritz. It always helps!
Travelling to Davos
But today was about travel. And a pre-race session. In the rain in St Moritz we did our pre race workout, washed our bikes, bought food from the Coop supermarket and rode back up our vertiginous street to our attic apartment, with a torrent of water running down the road under our tyres.
It felt like a mad scramble to pack up, dry our bikes and slide them into their bike bags and get a taxi to help us get to the St Moritz train station. At least this bit was easy – with pre-booked train tickets all we had to do was jump onto the carriage with our luggage stowed and look out the window.
As the train wove its way along the valley to Davos, I could spot course tape for the Swiss Epic – on the one hand it’s daunting and on the other exhilarating. When Imogen and I raced the Swiss Epic in 2015, we were blown away by the trails that we got to race on. Course organisers in Europe really take a lot of pride in their work at events like this. We would ride trails not previously open to mountain bikers, trails that had such huge exposure you knew you had to be at one with your bike and ride right on your limits. It was demanding, and that’s part of what made it so good. This route looks suitably epic, even though the Swiss Epic might have toned it down a little since the first couple of years.
We have booked the extra night before and after the race at Hotel Ameron, and while it was a little slow getting a taxi from the station, while we waited the town was abuzz with knobby tyres on the road through the alpine village. It is easy to spot riders here for the Swiss Epic as they do everything in pairs already. It makes sense, and working together well is a key part of pairs stage racing.
The hotel let us store our luggage, have some lunch (with Kyle Ward and Samara Sheppard as it happens) and then go to registration, which must have only been 10 minutes – and that included be queue jumped by a couple of European teams.
Of course, then the hard work starts. Bike building, fettling, fitting numbers, packing spares, shoving everything you can into your race bag, and then wondering if you actually need it.
Then a weather check. Then move inside because it’s raining. Then another weather check – what time is it? What chain lube, what tyre pressure? Are these the right tyres?
It is easy to let it all run away from you but really, Imogen and I are ready for 5 days of awesome mountain biking. We’ll see what our legs have tomorrow but we’re looking forward to the challenge.