On Stage 3 of the 2020 Swiss Epic, mountain bikers were treated to some of the best singletrack the canton has to offer, including the Hörnli Trail – one of Europe’s longest flow trails. True to form, and pre-stage expectations, SCOTT-SRAM excelled on a route seemingly tailor-made for their strengths. Nino Schurter and Lars Forster raced to their second stage victory, in so doing extending their overall lead to nearly 6 minutes.
Schurter and Forster’s skills put their rivals on the back foot. For Centurion Vaude’s Ben Zwiehoff, this pressure led to an untimely and race-ending crash. Having set the pace on the opening climb; which led the field from Arosa to the Hörnli Ski Station, at 2 400 metres above sea level, Zwiehoff crashed in the first downhill singletrack of the day. The German rider struck his knee badly in the fall and, despite battling on for a few more kilometres, was unable to complete the stage. With Centurion Vaude out of contention, Trek Pirelli 1 stepped up to challenge of Schurter and Forster.
Fabian Rabensteiner and Samuele Porro took the race to the men in the yellow Scatta leader jerseys. Try as they may, Trek Pirelli could simply not distance SCOTT-SRAM. Rabensteiner and Porro were, however, able to control the pace on the long descent of the Hörnli Trail, one of Europe’s longest flow trails, and along the singletrack past the Arosa Bear Sanctuary. On the forest road run-in to the final singletrack, which began 5 kilometres from the finish line in Arosa, the Trek Pirelli 1 team were unable to keep Schurter and Forster behind them. Once the SCOTT-SRAM team had clear trail ahead of them, they simply descended away to a comfortable victory.
It is with good reason that Specialized Racing’s Annika Langvad is considered the Queen of Stage Racing. In 7 Epic Series starts she has won an astonishing 39, from a possible 48, stages. On Stage 3 of the 2020 Swiss Epic – which started and finished in Arosa on Thursday, 20 August – the Dane once again reigned supreme.
She and America’s Haley Batten secured their third win of the race. The only time on Stage 3 that the Specialized – Racing combination was in any difficulty was in the first 10 kilometres of the day. Centurion Vaude Radon used their superior climbing ability to briefly distance Langvad and Batten.
As on the previous 2 stages, Stefanie Dohrn and Elisabeth Brandau were eager to attack the race leaders on any long climb. Rising from Arosa in the valley to 2 400 metres above sea level, at the Hörnli Ski Station, the first climb of the day was long and brutally steep in places. Langvad and Batten were content to let Dohrn and Brandau slip away, knowing that they would be able to reel the German combination in on the singletrack that followed. Only 4 kilometres separated Hörnli Ski Station from the highest point of the race, at Gredigs Fürggli, but in that time Specialized – Racing turned a 40-second deficit into a 1 minute and 20-second lead.
From there, Langvad and Batten never looked back. They inexorably extended their lead to 8 minutes and 2 seconds, by the time they crossed the finish line in Arosa. Behind them, second place changed hands; when Sophie von Berswordt-Wallrabe and Jacqueline Schneebeli overtook Centurion Vaude Radon. Further back, the battle for fourth saw the Maloja Pushbikers and Andermatt Spur locked in a titanic tussle. Specialized – Racing’s eventual winning time was 2 hours 57 minutes and 19 seconds. It would take a brave person to bet on Langvad not adding further stage wins to her palmarès in the next 2 days. Especially given her bullish attitude to racing. “It never gets boring [winning stages], because it’s never easy to win a stage of an Epic Series race” she responded to the question of if she ever tires of winning.