I know from experience that you can’t pack much more than 2,000m of climbing into 50km if you want to finish in the same place you start – so while today’s Swiss Epic stage looks mercifully short, it was bloody hard work, and that’s how it always stood out from the race route.
Swiss Epic Stage 4 – the route
As the profile shows, today would be punctuated by two long climbs. But the funny thing about course profiles is sometimes it is the finer details that you don’t notice that can make the difference. The route took us on the far side of the lake before crossing back across the dam wall, and climbing through Lenzerheide Bike Park, up to Valbella, Parpan and higher still above the tree line, with a natural singletrack traverse, super steep sections. Then it was a long flow trail, another climb, more climbing, some climbing, and a descent with climbs in it to finish. All pretty straight forward then.
MarathonMTB.com’s race at the Swiss Epic Stage 4
Day 4 of a stage race can be many things. In a 4-day race it’s the last day, in a 7 or 8 day race you’re hopefully finally finding your stride. In a 5-day race it’s time to take stock and think about finishing like you want to.
We came into today’s stage with a little over 7 minutes advantage to the closest teams with us on the general classification for the Mixed category. On the one hand, we wanted to lead all day and win another stage. But knowing that Anders and Synne from Norway were so close to us yesterday, it was clear they were chasing a stage win, and we suspected they would be hunting it down today.
We were not wrong!
The start was good, and clean, one of the benefits of having so many start groups. The courses here at the Swiss Epic really bring the race to the riders, a little different from home where everyone just goes out guns blazing no matter what lies ahead.
We started well, drifting back a little as the men’s and masters and grand masters teams moved away on the road climb you would recognise from the XCO World Cup. We tipped into a natural trail, passed a couple of teams with flats, and crossed to the other side of the valley – but missed a right hand turn, which let a few teams slip ahead – including Anders and Synne! Although we didn’t know it.
On the next climb we took stock, counting the teams ahead who had passed, and saw them motoring along, they looked strong. With our advantage the aim was clear. Stay close. Hey, we got close and felt good so tried an attack, and it worked, but they brought it back again.
And so the day went on, we aimed to keep them close and for the most part that’s what we did, but with a really strong ride by these two the deservedly won the stage, and ended up taking about 1.5 minutes out of our lead. And we both finished higher up the overall than any other day so it’s clear it was a fast day in our category!
Today’s talking point
It would have to be how close the racing is. The women’s race lead changed but the top 3 are still so close, especially with a longer day again tomorrow. Similarly the men’s teams are close with Porro and Ferraro winning for Trek Selle San Marco – showing how valuable it is to have two teams in the race, as the team wins their 3rd stage.
If there’s a second talking point it’s about how good the food has been. From in the hotels, to the finish catering. Today it was spaetzli with cheese, and it was amazing!
The front of the race
The stage win went to Porro and Ferraro as mentioned, with their team mates just a couple of seconds behind with Centurion Vaude a couple of minutes back.
In the women’s race KS Trek – Sportograf won, showing their other stage win wasn’t a fluke and that stage 1 was just a bad day. And they took the lead as well. The Wielka Orkiestra Swiqtecznej Pomocy team of Ariane Luthi and Samara Sheppard were 2nd, with Centurion Vaude 2 with Alice Pirard and Stefanie Dohrn in 3rd.
Kathrin Sitrnemann and Corina Gantenbein lost the race lead, but are only 1.48 off the lead, and the gap between the new leaders and Pirard and Dohrn is only just over 13 seconds. Expect fireworks tomorrow!