Swiss Epic | Highlights from Stage 4

Trek Selle San Marco continued their Swiss Epic dominance in Lenzerheide on Stage 4. The Italian teams finished in first and second position on the 48km long penultimate stage. 

Samuele PORRO(1-1) Damiano FERRARO(1-2) Fabian RABENSTEINER(4-2) Michele CASAGRANDE(4-1) at the finish of Stage 4 of the 2019 Swiss Epic from Lenzerheide to Lenzerheide, Graubünden, Switzerland on 23 August 2019.
Samuele Porro (1-1) and Damiano Ferraro (1-2) with Fabian Rabensteiner (4-2) and Michele Casagrande (4-1) taking the win on Stage 4. IMAGE: Sam Clark.

The four Italians representing the Trek Selle San Marco squad raced to their second 1-2 finish of the 2019 Swiss Epic in Lenzerheide on Friday, 23 August. After their mechanical misadventures on Stage 3, Samuele Porro and Damiano Ferraro matched the pace of the indefatigable race leaders; Michele Casagrande and Fabian Rabensteiner.

Given it was the shortest stage of the 2019 race the UCI riders only set out at 08h30, which helped make for the warmest start of the week. That and the fact that the general classification positions behind Casagrande and Rabensteiner were all to play for ensured a high paced start. The 2 150 metres of climbing ensured that it was not quite a cross-country day, the winning time of 2 hours, 27 minutes and 33.2 seconds was an hour longer than a classic XCO race.

Adam PULFORD during Stage 4 of the 2019 Swiss Epic from Lenzerheide to Lenzerheide, Graubünden, Switzerland on 23 August 2019.
Adam Pulford drops in. IMAGE: Nick Muzik.

“Finally, the sun came out” said Porro, soaking up the rays and basking in the glow of his stage winning success. “After yesterday, when we had so much trouble [Ferraro had issues with a broken rear derailleur] we wanted to make it a great race today. We went out together with our other team [Casagrande and Rabensteiner]. It was a really nice day and a really nice track. Because there are so many technical singletracks in the Swiss Epic it is always possible to have a mechanical. That is why the first priority for us today was to stay with our other team so we could help them if they had any problems with mechanicals” he concluded.

Porro and Ferraro’s victory on the day saw them move up into fifth place on the general classification, gaining one position back after losing valuable time on Stage 3. Casagrande and Rabensteiner were content to roll across the Lenzerheide finish line behind their Trek Selle San Marco teammates as their real general classification rivals were nearly two and a half minutes behind.

Riders during Stage 4 of the 2019 Swiss Epic from Lenzerheide to Lenzerheide, Graubünden, Switzerland on 23 August 2019.
IMAGE: Michael Chiaretta.

Centurion Vaude’s Daniel Geismayr and Vinzent Dorn were next across the line. Dorn in particular had a real spring in his step after the conclusion of the stage. He had clearly been feeling the pressure of riding with the squad’s strongest member at the Swiss Epic. Geismayr though was his usual cool, calm and collected self. “Vinzent [Dorn] had a very good day” the senior partner in the team praised. “He had a flat tyre early on and we lost some time. So, we had to first close the gap. But he was very strong and we could go at a good pace. I’m happy with the podium today” Geismayr concluded in his understated manner.

Behind the podium finishers, the tussle between Texpa Simplon and jb BRUNEX/Fischer BMC continued. It appears as if the four riders would sprint each other for twentieth position if it came to that and Noah Blöchlinger explained: “We race each other a lot on the cross-country circuit so we are very competitive. Michael Stünzi and Marc Stutzmann got the better of Blöchlinger and Casey South for the second time in four stages. The jb BRUNEX/Fischer BMC team hold the upper hand though, by virtue of their stage victory on Stage 3, and their better general classification position.

Julian JESSOP wheelies his bike during Stage 4 of the 2019 Swiss Epic from Lenzerheide to Lenzerheide, Graubünden, Switzerland on 23 August 2019.
Julian Jessop being Julian Jessop! IMAGE: Nick Muzik.

The general classification, as it stands ahead of the final day of the 2019 Swiss Epic, has Trek Selle San Marco ensconced in a relatively safe position. They hold an 8 minute and 27.7 second advantage over South and Blöchlinger. Texpa Simplon’s Stünzi and Stutzmann are third, a further 4 minutes back. Casagrande and Rabensteiner have an ace up their sleeves in the case of a major mechanical in the form of their stablemates Porro and Ferraro. In order to overturn the Italian team’s lead jb BRUNEX/Fischer BMC and Co. will need lady luck to turn badly on Trek Selle San Marco.

The route from Lenzerheide to Davos does provide the opportunity for a team to put pressure on their rivals and force a mistake. Featuring 2 350 metres of climbing in just 65 kilometres, an implosion from having burnt too many matches on the first four stages could see a team lose swaths of time. If things start to go wrong on the climb from the Landwasser Viaduct to the Äbirugg, which lasts nearly 30 kilometres, the Swiss Epic’s final general classification standings could look very different by the time the riders reach Davos. 

RESULTS

UCI Men | Stage 4

  1. Trek Selle San Marco: Samuele Porro & Damiano Ferraro (2:27:33,2)
  2. Trek Selle San Marco A: Michele Casagrande & Fabian Rabensteiner (2:27:34,2 | +1,0)
  3. Centurion Vaude: Daniel Geismayr & Vinzent Dorn (2:29:55,8 | +2.22,6)
  4. Texpa Simplon: Michael Stünzi & Marc Stutzmann (2:30:32,7 | +2.59,5)
  5. jb BRUNEX / Fischer BMC: Casey South & Noah Blöchlinger (2:30:33,0 | +2.59,8)

UCI Men | GC After Stage 4

  1. Trek Selle San Marco A: Michele Casagrande & Fabian Rabensteiner (13:02:46,1)
  2. jb BRUNEX / Fischer BMC: Casey South & Noah Blöchlinger (13:11:13,8 | +8.27,7)
  3. Texpa Simplon: Michael Stünzi & Marc Stutzmann (13:15:16,8 | +12.30,7)
  4. Centurion Vaude: Daniel Geismayr & Vinzent Dorn (13:23:16,2 | +20.30,1)
  5. Trek Selle San Marco: Samuele Porro & Damiano Ferraro (13:23:43,6 | +20.57,5)


In the women’s race: Despite losing 17 minutes on the opening stage Adelheid Morath and Bettina Janas have fought their way into the Swiss Epic lead. On the trail to seizing the lead, KS Trek – Sportograf completed their third successive stage win today.

During Stage 4 of the 2019 Swiss Epic from St. Moritz to St. Moritz, Graubünden, Switzerland on 23 August 2019. Photo by Marius Holler
This is dropper post territory for sure. IMAGE: Marius Holler.

KS Trek – Sportograf stormed to their third successive stage victory when they crossed the finish in Lenzerheide, on Friday 23 August. Adelheid Morath and Bettina Janas strung together three remarkable rides; from fifth at the start of Stage 2 to the Swiss Epic race lead by the end of Stage 4. The German pair hold a slender 13.4 second lead ahead of the final stage of the race.

“That was cool” Janas grinned, after winning Stage 4 in a time of 3 hours, 11 minutes and 12.8 seconds. “Yesterday I felt we had to show it was not only one day [that we could win], but two days. Today I felt we had to show it was not only two days… So, it was really cool” she said enthusiastically.

Explaining how the stage was won Janas elaborated: “In the beginning we were all together. Then as we approached the first downhill we attacked because we had planned on entering that singletrack first. It turned out to be the right tactic. On the next climb we managed to ride away from Ariane Lüthi and her partner [Samara Sheppard].” The KS Trek – Sportograf riders managed to stay away from the chasing Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy team, eventually winning the stage by 3 minutes and 7.3 seconds.

“The downhills were incredibly fun today” Janas continued. “Especially the first one. I rode it with a huge smile on my face. It was so much fun!”

Rico ZANCHETTI rides the flow trail during Stage 4 of the 2019 Swiss Epic from Lenzerheide to Lenzerheide, Graubünden, Switzerland on 23 August 2019. Photo by Nick Muzik
Rico Zanchetti rides the flow trail. IMAGE: Nick Muzik.

Lüthi and Sheppard enjoyed the trail as much as their fellow riders, despite losing their spot on the UCI women’s podium. “It was a lot of fun out on the trail with the sun coming out” Sheppard related. “I think, with it being Stage 4 today, we are getting to know each other really well,” the New Zealander continued. “We’re starting to know each other’s limits, so now we can push on really well together and today we did that. The two climbs today were brutal though. They were really high too. You get up into the thin air and you get a little bit light headed and that was pretty tough. The descents though were great. I was just following Ariane’s wheel and enjoying the good trails here. I’m stoked now!” Sheppard said.

Sheppard and Lüthi slipped to fourth despite finishing second on the stage as KS Trek – Sportograf leapfrogged them and the rest of the women’s podium place holders. The day’s biggest losers were the former race leaders, Corina Gantenbein and Kathrin Stirnemann. Team Shimano S-Phyre had started the Swiss Epic on a high but as the altitude and kilometres have accumulated Stirnemann has struggled more and more with her breathing. That has not dampened Gantenbein’s high spirits though. “Before this race I wasn’t sure if it would be possible for me to race so many days in a row” Gantenbein confessed. The Swiss rider is returning from a glandular fever enforced lay-off from racing and the Swiss Epic is her first stage race back. “I actually feel better every day, so I’m quite happy” she laughed.

Ariane LÜTHI and Samara SHEPPARD during Stage 4 of the 2019 Swiss Epic from Lenzerheide to Lenzerheide, Graubünden, Switzerland on 23 August 2019.
Ariane Luthi and Samara Sheppard roll the bike park section. IMAGE: Michael Chiaretta.

Gantenbein and Stirnemann are not entirely out of the reckoning for the overall victory however. Their deficit to the new race leaders stands at 1 minute and 48.7 seconds. A strong showing on the final stage could well overturn that, though they will have to distance both KS Trek – Sportograf and Centurion Vaude 2. Alice Pirard and Stefanie Dohrn finished the penultimate stage 10 minutes and 5.8 seconds behind the stage winners.

That was enough to ensure that they did not inherit the orange women’s leaders’ jerseys, but they had briefly thought that they had done enough. Having absorbed the news Pirard stated: “This race is so exciting. I think every women’s team has enjoyed this hard battle. It is so cool to fight for every second like this! The last stage is going to be exciting. Anything can happen.”

In mountain biking anything can happen as Pirard pointed out. Pressure can force mistakes and the 13.4 second advantage KS TREK – Sportograf holds is just one wrong line choice away from evaporating in the pristine Swiss air.

RESULTS

UCI Women | Stage 4

  1. KS TREK – Sportograf: Adelheid Morath & Bettina Janas (3:11:12,8)
  2. Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy: Ariane Lüthi & Samara Sheppard (3:14:20,1 | +3.07,3)
  3. Centurion Vaude 2: Alice Pirard & Stefanie Dohrn (3:21:18,6 | +10.05,8)
  4. Shimano S-Phyre: Corina Gantenbein & Kathrin Stirnemann (3:23:05,5 | +11.52,7)
  5. Team ÅBRO / Fairtree: Jennie Stenerhag & Katie Lennard (3:27:37,2 | +16.24,4)

UCI Women | GC After Stage 4

  1. KS TREK – Sportograf: Adelheid Morath & Bettina Janas (16:53:02,9)
  2. Centurion Vaude 2: Alice Pirard & Stefanie Dohrn (16:53:16,3 | +13,4)
  3. Shimano S-Phyre: Corina Gantenbein & Kathrin Stirnemann (16:54:51,6 | +1.48,7)
  4. Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy: Ariane Lüthi & Samara Sheppard (16:55:37,5 | +2.34,6)
  5. Team ÅBRO / Fairtree: Jennie Stenerhag & Katie Lennard (17:58:15,7 | +1:05.12,8)
Riders during Stage 4 of the 2019 Swiss Epic from Lenzerheide to Lenzerheide, Graubünden, Switzerland on 23 August 2019. Photo by Nick Muzik
No words. IMAGE: Nick Muzik.

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