2020 Swiss Epic: Stage One

The opening stage of the 2020 Swiss Epic introduced riders to the thrills and challenges of racing in Graubünden in a 60KM stage that featured 2 500M of climbing on the trails that surround Laax.

Mountain bike Riders in action in the 2020 Swiss Epic stage race taking place in Graubünden, Laax, Switzerland.
Riders roll off the line to start Stage One of the 2020 Swiss Epic from Laax to Laax, Graubünden, Switzerland.

In The Men’s Race: Schurter and Forster Outsmart The Field

Centurion Vaude took the fight to the race favourites on the first major climb of the race. Ascending from around 1 200 metres above sea level to 2 456 metres; the climb to the Crap Masegn ski station came too early in the stage to be decisive. Daniel Geismayr and Ben Zwiehoff did their utmost to make it so, though. At the summit, the Centurion Vaude pair held a 34 second lead over the chase group.

Mountain bike Riders in action in the 2020 Swiss Epic stage race taking place in Graubünden, Laax, Switzerland.
The first climb up to the Crap Masegn ski station takes riders to an altitude of 2 456m.

On the technical descent across the Segnas Plateau, past the Vorab Glacier and the Tectonic Arena Sardona, they quickly lost time and eventually the race lead. Despite Geismayr and Zwiehoff’s best efforts, Schurter and Forster were simply faster whenever the trails got rooty or rocky. “The first big climb was tough” Schurter allowed, confessing to not being able to match Geismayr and Zwiehoff. “We knew we weren’t going to be the strongest on the long climbs. So, we paced ourselves as best we could and made an effort to lead the chase group into the first downhill.” There they could exploit Schurter’s local knowledge.

Mountain bike Riders in action in the 2020 Swiss Epic stage race taking place in Graubünden, Laax, Switzerland.
“We managed to take time out of our rivals on the technical downhills.” – Nino Schurter

The multiple World Champion resides just 25 kilometres from Laax in, Graubünden’s administrative capital, Chur. “Local knowledge was a big advantage today” the SCOTT-SRAM ace added. “I knew a lot of the trails. Not all of them, but enough to make a difference. We managed to take time out of our rivals on the technical downhills. The conditions were exceptionally tough, with snow-melt wetting the roots and stones in the natural trails, but that suited our strengths.” Having passed Centurion Vaude after 24 kilometres of racing, Schurter and Forster went to work extending their lead. Geismayr and Zwiehoff, meanwhile, were soon caught and passed by the Trek-Pirelli 1 team, of Fabian Rabensteiner and Samuele Porro. The quartet spent the majority of the final 30 kilometres battling each other for second position, while simultaneously attempting to limit their losses to SCOTT-SRAM.

Mountain bike Riders in action in the 2020 Swiss Epic stage race taking place in Graubünden, Laax, Switzerland.
Michele Casagrande and Gioele De Cosmo drop into one of the technical descents.

There was no stopping Schurter and Forster, however. SCOTT-SRAM crossed the line in a time of 3 hours, 1 minute and 9 seconds. Behind them Trek-Pirelli edged out Centurion Vaude, claiming second by just 6 seconds. The Italian squad, who boast one of the defending champions, Rabensteiner, in their line-up, finished 1 minute and 19 seconds down on the stage winners. In a surprise result, the BULLS Youngsters were the fourth team across the line. Martin Frey and Simon Schneller were 7 minutes and 10 seconds slower than SCOTT-SRAM, but 1 minute and 30 seconds ahead of the more fancied BULLS Heroes. Splitting the two BULLS teams was the Future Cycling Northwave team, of Kristian Hynek and Martin Stošek, in fifth.

Mountain bike Riders in action in the 2020 Swiss Epic stage race taking place in Graubünden, Laax, Switzerland.
Men’s Podium with Scott-SRAM first, Trek-Pirelli second and Centurion Vaude in third.

Results: Men’s Race, 2020 Swiss Epic | Stage 1

  1. SCOTT-SRAM: Nino Schurter & Lars Forster (3:01:09)
  2. Trek-Pirelli 1: Fabian Rabensteiner & Samuele Porro (3:02:28 | +1:19)
  3. Centurion Vaude: Daniel Geismayr & Ben Zwiehoff (3:02:34 | +1:25)

In The Women’s Race: Langvad and Batten Stomp To Victory

The Queen of mountain bike stage racing, Annika Langvad once again showed her class as she and Haley Batten stormed to victory on the opening stage of the 2020 Swiss Epic.

The Specialized – Racing pair controlled throughout, capitalising on a fall by Sina Frei to build-up an 8-minute advantage on the 60-kilometre stage, which started and finished in Laax. The experience of Annika Langvad was clear on the opening stage of the 2020 Swiss Epic, in Laax, on Tuesday, 18 August. The undisputed queen of mountain bike stage racing kept her young partner, Haley Batten, calm; despite the Centurion Vaude Radon and Swiss Cycling Teams racing into an early lead. This allowed the Specialized – Racing pair to capitalise on a crash by Sina Frey and storm to a dominant stage victory.

Leaving Laax, the route headed straight uphill, for a typically alpine climb to over 2 400 metres above sea level. Once at altitude, the teams were tested and treated by a series of natural and mountain bike specific singletracks. These wound their way past iconic landmarks; like the Vorab Glacier and the Tectonic Arena Sardona. It was the trails that proved decisive on Stage 1, however, as the advantage teams managed to gain on the long climb were quickly whittled away in the singletrack descents. On the climb to the Queen of the Mountain point, at the Crap Masegn ski station, Centurion-Vaude Radon set a pace that none of the other women’s teams were willing to match. Stefanie Dohrn and Elisabeth Brandau summited the climb with a 53 second lead over Frei and her Swiss Cycling teammate, Nicole Koller. Langvad and Batten, meanwhile, were 2 minutes and 39 seconds off the pace.

Mountain bike Riders in action in the 2020 Swiss Epic stage race taking place in Graubünden, Laax, Switzerland.
“The more we got going, the more we rode ourselves into the race; into a flow with the course and into a flow as a team.” – Annika Langvad

The descent that followed shook up the standings almost immediately. Dohrn and Brandau lost their lead to Frei and Koller, before slipping further down the field and eventually finishing in fifth position. Once the young Swiss cross-country specialists were in the lead, one would have expected them to hang onto it. Especially given their technical proficiency. That was not to be however, as the BULLS e-bike pilot Stefan Sahm explained: “Conditions were really, really, tough today. The singletracks were very slippery and I saw a couple of crashes. It was challenging for everyone and helped split up the women’s field. Sina Frei fell on her hip and looked to be hurting mid-stage.” Frei’s crash allowed Specialized – Racing to regain parity with the leaders. Soon the under 23 World Champion was struggling to keep up with Langvad and Batten, though. The gap then inexorably grew over the remaining kilometres, until the Danish/American combination held a commanding 8-minute advantage.

Mountain bike Riders in action in the 2020 Swiss Epic stage race taking place in Graubünden, Laax, Switzerland.
Sina Frei and Nicole Koller relinquished the lead after a crash left Frei struggling.

“We really maximised our teamwork today” Langvad said, analysing their performance. “The more we got going, the more we rode ourselves into the race; into a flow with the course and into a flow as a team. Riding with Haley [Batten] was a pleasure. I must admit I even let out a few whoops while following her down the flow trail. That was so much fun.” Fun is fast, is a well-used adage in mountain biking and that proved to be the case for Specialized – Racing on the day. Their stage win hands them an 8 minute and 2 second advantage over Swiss Cycling’s Frei and Koller. Nina Benz and Kim Ames finished the stage strongly, claiming the final podium place on the day. The jb Brunex Felt Factory Team were 9 minutes and 26 seconds behind the leaders. Langvad’s erstwhile Absa Cape Epic and Swiss Epic teammate, Ariane Lüthi, was fourth on the day; alongside Alice Pirard. The Andermatt Spur team were just 13 seconds off the podium places and remain a team to watch as the race unfolds. Dohrn and Brandau rounded out the top five; though their deficit of just over 13 minutes must be concerning given their strong start to the stage.

Mountain bike Riders in action in the 2020 Swiss Epic stage race taking place in Graubünden, Laax, Switzerland.
Women’s Podium with Specialized first, the Swiss cycling Team second and jB Brunex Felt in third.

Results: Women’s Race, 2020 Swiss Epic | Stage 1

  1. Specialized – Racing: Annika Langvad & Haley Batten (3:48:57)
  2. Swiss Cycling Team: Sina Frei & Nicole Koller (3:56:59 | +8:02)
  3. jb Brunex Felt Factory Team: Nina Benz & Kim Ames (3:58:23 | +9:26)

ABOUT THE RACE: The SWISS EPIC is a five-day mountain bike stage race held annually in the Graubünden region of Switzerland. Founded in 2014, this year sees the seventh edition, running from 18 to 22 August 2020. Professional and dedicated amateur athletes alike take on the challenge of conquering the Alps in teams of two, covering 320km and 12 250m of climbing. Riders visit three stage locations in Graubünden: Laax, Arosa and Davos, tackling world-famous trails, all surrounded by breathtaking Alpine scenery. The Swiss Epic is a full-service mountain bike stage race and includes accommodation, luggage transfer, race support, massage and tech support. As part of the Epic Series, it is an Absa Cape Epic Qualifier event, giving riders a change to gain an entry to the world’s premier mountain bike stage race.

| IMAGES: Michael Chiaretta, Francesco Narcisi, Marius Holler |


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