Perfect Swiss Epic Performance for Langvad and Batten of Specialized Racing
Annika Langvad and Haley Batten put in a perfect performance to sweep all 5 stages and win the 2020 Swiss Epic.
Specialized – Racing’s Annika Langvad and Haley Batten completed a clean sweep of Swiss Epic stage victories; in Davos on Saturday, 22 August. The Danish/American combination were peerless throughout the race through Graubünden, winning the overall title by 38 minutes and 19 seconds. Despite their dominance, it was no boring procession; however, their lead was challenged on each stage, including the final one. The 61-kilometre, Stage 5, route featured a long climb from the gun. As on every long climb in the 2020 Swiss Epic, the Centurion Vaude Radon team, of Stefanie Dohrn and Elisabeth Brandau proved the strongest climbers. They reached the summit 40 seconds up on the Specialized – Racing pair. Again, they were unable to hang onto that advantage, sacrificing two places on the Panorama Trail descent.
Once Langvad and Batten were in the lead they did not look back. They were briefly joined by the Andermatt Spur team on the undulating trails between Service Stations 2 and 3. Ariane Lüthi and Alice Pirard lacked the firepower to challenge Specialized – Racing when the climbing began in earnest once again, though, leaving Langvad and Batten out front alone. They have proved, during the Swiss Epic, that they are comfortable leading from the front. Langvad’s stage racing experience means she is adept at managing her and her partner’s energy expenditure. This meant that they never crested a climb in the red, in danger of making an avoidable error. Their calm composure allowed them to descend the Ischalp Trail into Davos, confident that they would not be caught. Crossing the line, they secured a perfect Swiss Epic performance. 5 stage wins from 5 starts, taking Langvad’s Epic Series total stage wins to 41. Their victory margin over Andermatt Spur was 2 minutes and 3 seconds on the day. While overall they had a 38-minute buffer to Centurion Vaude Radon.
“I’m very proud of our performance here, at the Swiss Epic” Langvad noted. “We rode super smart and super smooth. We worked at getting the most out of each other’s strengths, so it’s really rewarding when that pays off. But I knew going into the stage that it’s never over until you cross the final finish line. Today, we had 2 flat tyres which made the day that bit more challenging and stressful. The first was a small pinch flat; which we couldn’t really see, right up against the rim. We just stopped and re-inflated it a few times. From about the 20-kilometre mark, where it happened, to the first tech zone (29km) I had to ride very carefully; until I could change the wheel. Alice [Pirard] and Ariane [Lüthi] were really strong today and they passed us while we were swapping the wheel. But we were able to catch and pass them again.” That was not the end of the stress for the Specialized – Racing team, however. “Then, with about 10 kilometers to go, Haley [Batten] punctured” Langvad laughed. “Fortunately, it was a slow puncture and we were able to pump it and nurse it to the finish.” The stressful final day did not detract from her partner’s enjoyment of the stage. “Today I tried to take it all in” Batten grinned. “To be able to share this experience and victory with Annika [Langvad] and the whole team is really special. It was epic all round!”
Results Stage 5
1. Specialized – Racing: Annika Langvad & Haley Batten (3:50:35)
2. Andermatt Spur: Ariane Lüthi & Alice Pirard (3:52:38 | +2:03)
3. Centurion Vaude Radon: Stefanie Dohrn & Elisabeth Brandau (3:56:22 | +5:47)
4. jb Brunex Felt Factory: Nina Benz & Kim Ames (4:05:59 | +5:50)
5. jb Brunex Felt Factory 2: Sophie von Berswordt-Wallrabe & Jacqueline Schneebeli (4:05:59 | +15:24)
General Classification after Stage 5
1. Specialized – Racing: Annika Langvad & Haley Batten (19:08:09)
2. Centurion Vaude Radon: Stefanie Dohrn & Elisabeth Brandau (19:46:28 | +38:19)
3. Andermatt Spur: Ariane Lüthi & Alice Pirard (19:53:36 | +45:27)
4. jb Brunex Felt Factory: Nina Benz & Kim Ames (20:04:17 | +56:08)
5. Maloja Pushbikers: Linda Indergand & Karla Stepanova (20:11:40 | +1:03:31)
In the Men’s Race: Nino Schurter and Lars Forster wrap up the title in fine style.
The SCOTT-SRAM combination had no need to win the final stage, in Davos, but they did so regardless; ensuring that they put an exclamation point on an emphatic victory.
In so doing they wrapped-up the title, securing the crown by an emphatic 10 minutes and 32 seconds. Right from the off, on the 61-kilometre-long final stage, Schurter was eager to drive the pace. The multiple World Champion was in no mood to let his rivals make the racing close. His relentless approach, which he was unable to channel into races due to the Covid-19 enforced cancellation or postponement of most mountain biking events in 2020, led to the men’s field being whittled down on the opening climb.
The route aided Schurter in his bid to make the day a tough one for everyone else in the Swiss Epic. From the gun, the course climbed; rising from Davos, at 1 500 metres above sea level, to the highest point of the day, at 2 321 metres, within 10 kilometres. Only Trek Pirelli 1 and TEXPA-SIMPLON could match SCOTT-SRAM initially. BMC Fischer’s Casey South and Noah Blöchlinger used the magnificent Panorama Trail to bridge across to the leaders, swelling the group to four teams. For a while thereafter, Schurter was content to let the pace drop as Fabian Rabensteiner and Samuele Porro took over control, of the quartet of teams. The Italians did not allow it to become too easy, however; under their watch, Andreas Seewald and Markus Kaufmann were shed from the group. Followed soon after by South and Blöchlinger.
On the climb to the trail head of the Ischalp Trail, the final spectacular singletrack of the 2020 Swiss Epic, Schurter sent Forster to the front. Though the junior partner in the SCOTT-SRAM team looked all but spent, he managed to hold off Rabensteiner and Porro enough to ensure that he and Schurter led into the final singletrack. The 5-kilometre-long Ischalp Trail winds its way down towards Davos from nearly 2 000 metres above sea level. This gave SCOTT-SRAM the opportunity to rely upon their superb technical skills. Berm after berm, root and rock after root and rock they edged away from Trek Pirelli 1. By the foot of the trail, they held a lead of over 40 seconds. With that, the Stage 5 victory was sealed and along with it the overall Swiss Epic crown. “It’s a beautiful victory. It’s different to winning a cross country race or even the Absa Cape Epic, because of all the climbing” Schurter reflected. “I’m really happy to have the Swiss Epic victory on my palmarès. The entire week went almost perfectly, we had no mechanicals or punctures and secured four stage wins. I’ll admit, coming into the race there was a question mark as to how Lars [Forster] and I would climb those mountains. Having answered those questions, I’m really happy with the stage victories and the overall title.”
“It was an amazing week. A tough week. With really big mountains” Forster added. “We suffered a bit on the long climbs, especially in the first two stages. We knew going into the race that we wouldn’t be the strongest there; but we were able to hold on, every time, to the best climbers and then in the downhills, we were the fastest. Being able to exploit our strengths and challenge ourselves in an area where we aren’t as good makes winning the Swiss Epic a joy.”
Forster and Schurter’s victory margin of 10 minutes and 32 seconds underlined their dominance on the 2020 race, through Graubünden. Trek Pirelli 1 were their nearest rivals on 3 of the 5 stages. Rabensteiner and Porro will be happy with their return to racing too, though they would have liked to have challenged SCOTT-SRAM more closely. They would have too, if it were not for Stage 2, when they lost over 4 minutes of the 10, they eventually conceded. Future Cycling Northwave secured the third and final GC podium position, despite finishing sixth on the last stage. Kristian Hynek and Martin Stošek were the only riders other than the race winners to secure a stage victory. Further down the GC, TEXPA SIMPLON leapfrogged the BULLS Youngsters on the final stage. Seewald and Kaufmann finished the day in third and moved up to fourth overall, while Martin Frey and Simon Schneller slipped to fifth.
Looking further ahead, mountain bikers will now be able to plan for 2021 and the return of the Swiss Epic next year. The event is scheduled to take place from the 17th to the 21st of August 2021 and general entries will open on 9 September 2020, at 16:00 (CET).
Results Stage 5
1. SCOTT-SRAM: Nino Schurter & Lars Forster (3:01:24)
2. Trek Pirelli 1: Fabian Rabensteiner & Samuele Porro (3:02:08 | +44)
3. TEXPA-SIMPLON: Andreas Seewald & Markus Kaufmann (3:04:31 | +3:07)
4. BMC Fischer: Casey South & Noah Blöchlinger (3:06:03 | +4:39)
5. SCOTT Italy: Juri Ragnoli & Christian Cominelli (3:06:52 | +5:28)
General Classification after Stage 5
1. SCOTT-SRAM: Nino Schurter & Lars Forster (15:13:44)
2. Trek-Pirelli 1: Fabian Rabensteiner & Samuele Porro (15:24:16 | +10:32)
3. Future Cycling Northwave: Kristian Hynek & Martin Stošek (15:30:30 | +16:46)
4. TEXPA-SIMPLON: Andreas Seewald & Markus Kaufmann (15:46:51 | +33:07)
5. BULLS Youngsters: Martin Frey & Simon Schneller (15:49:17 | +35:33)
| IMAGES: Michael Chiaretta, Francesco Narcisi, Marius Holler |