Hynek Headlines Future Cycling Northwave Team

One of the true gentlemen of mountain biking, Kristian Hynek will be racing the 2020 Swiss Epic with his Future Cycling Northwave partner Martin Stošek. The Czech outfit are aiming for the podium in Graubünden.

Having been back racing since June there can be no doubt that the Czech pair of Kristian Hynek and Martin Stošek will be among the best prepared riders at the 2020 Swiss Epic. The Future Cycling Northwave team blends the former Absa Cape Epic winner’s experience and cool head, with the 26-year-old Stošek’s formidable multi-disciplinary mountain biking power. Together they are dark horses for the general classification podium in Graubünden.

“Sure, it affected us a lot; but we were lucky and our country was one of the first ones that allowed racing” said Hynek of the Covid-19 pandemic’s effects on his season. “We have been racing for few months already and are very motivated for the Swiss Epic. Having been forced to take a break from racing, I’m definitely enjoying the prospect of getting back to stage racing more than ever before.”

“We are hungry for a good result and I believe we both are in a good shape” the team’s senior partner added. “The overall podium is our goal in terms of results; but we’re really looking forward to racing in such a competitive field again. I’m sure every elite rider shares my feelings and is really happy that our sport can start rolling again, at the highest level!”

“I think we will be able to fight for top positions” Stošek confirmed. “Obviously it has been almost half a year since we raced together at Cyprus, at the start of the season. But I believe we can find a rhythm again and achieve a good result. We are lucky that we have been racing in the Czech Republic already, so we have taken part in a number of races this summer. That means we know what form we’re in heading into the Swiss Epic.”

“I am really looking forward to racing in Graubünden” Stošek enthused. “I’m sure it will be an amazing experience on and off the bike, as well as big fun for us. Of course, during the stages we’ll have to keep our focus and stay safe, but I will try to enjoy the scenery as much as possible too.”

Despite his long career, Hynek is unfamiliar with the riding in Graubünden. “I don’t know the location” he confirmed. “But I expect awesome trails and fantastic riding, as is usually the case in Switzerland. Of course, I’m also expecting tough and long climbs. Those are my favourite part of racing in the Alps.”

To follow the progress of the Future Cycling Northwave team in their race through Graubünden visit www.swiss-epic.com. Each stage of the race will be covered, live, on the event website with regular updates, live rider tracking, as well as photos and videos from the trails of Laax, Arosa and Davos.


Kulhavý and Andreassen Team-Up for Swiss Epic

Despite both having been members of the Specialized Racing team for years, Jaroslav Kulhavý and Simon Andreassen have never raced as a team before. The pair will be making their debut as a squad, in Graubünden, at the Swiss Epic.

The battles between Jaroslav Kulhavý and Nino Schurter are stuff of legend. In 2012, the Czech got the better of the Swiss rider in the London Olympics. Four years later Schurter got his revenge. Their cross-country battles have carried over to stage racing too, with Kulhavý having won three Absa Cape Epic titles, to Schurter’s two. In 2020, the battle ground will be Schurter’s home canton of Graubünden and the two old foes will do battle once more. This time, though, Kulhavý has a new partner, the young Dane, Simon Andreassen.

Competing as Specialized Racing the pair team up for the first time. “It will be a big honour for me to ride next to Jaro [Kulhavý]” Andreassen admitted. “He is one of the most successful stage racers ever and I am sure I’ll be able to push myself even further with him alongside me. I am really looking forward to teaming up with him at the Swiss Epic and see what we can do together.”

Simon Andreassen and Christoph Sauser of Investec Songo Specialized 2 during the Prologue of the 2019 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa on the 17th March 2019.
Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic
PLEASE ENSURE THE APPROPRIATE CREDIT IS GIVEN TO THE PHOTOGRAPHER AND ABSA CAPE EPIC

CST Post.NL Bafang: The Ultimate Swiss Epic Dark Horses?

It may be unfair to characterise two such talented riders as dark horses for the Swiss Epic title. Their cross-country pedigree suggests they will be fast, but their infrequent stage racing experience leaves question marks as to just how high up the overall general classification Mārtiņš Blūms and Sebastian Fini could finish.

Sebastian Fini and Martins Blums of CST Sandd during the final stage (stage 7) of the 2019 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from the University of Stellenbosch Sports Fields in Stellenbosch to Val de Vie Estate in Paarl, South Africa on the 24th March 2019.
Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic
PLEASE ENSURE THE APPROPRIATE CREDIT IS GIVEN TO THE PHOTOGRAPHER AND ABSA CAPE EPIC

Based on raw talent alone there is no arguing that the CST Post.NL Bafang pair of Mārtiņš Blūms and Sebastian Fini are among the riders to watch in the 2020 Swiss Epic. Their cross-country skills and explosive power will serve them well on the trails of Graubünden, but how will they compare over five challenging days against some of the best mountain bikers in the world? Only time will tell. Though they are feeling bullish about their chances.

“For the Swiss Epic I expect to be in the fight for the top five overall and for podium spots on individual stages” Blūms predicted. “That would represent a great achievement; because the Swiss Epic is a great race and the 2020 field is very strong, too. It provides us with a good chance to compete against the very best riders. After the Covid-19 disruptions and cancellation of races, our schedule for the rest of the year does not include enough race days. Our attitude is thus to take every opportunity we can to race.”

“My motivation to race is very high, and after two XCO races since the restart, I believe I’m ready to line-up at the start of this great race” the Latvian added. “I did a lot of training during the Covid-19 time, so I can say that I’m well prepared for the Swiss Epic.”

His partner, Fini, is equally keen to get going in Graubünden. “Mārtiņš [Blūms] and I have never raced the Swiss Epic before, but are expecting a hard and fun race in the Alps” the Danish cross-country champion explained. “I believe we can be in the fight for a top spot in the overall, but stage victories would be good too. It’s important for us to work well together and have a good race, as our primary goal. I also believe that the Swiss Epic can make us even stronger for the XCO season, which now begins in September.”

Hailing from Latvia and Denmark respectively Fini and Blūms will need to adapt quickly to the high mountains of Graubünden. The highest points in either country, at 311.5 and 170.89 metres above sea level, mean that neither are naturally adapted to the thin air of the alpine passes. During the 2020 Swiss Epic, the route never dips below 750 metres above sea level, with much of the race taking place at nearer 1 500 metres; therefore, to achieve a stellar result, the CST Post.NL Bafang pair will have to race outside of their comfort zones.

One of Blūms’ two races thus far have been at altitude, however. He secured a very credible fourth place, in the Proffix Swiss Bike Cup race in Leukerbad. While Fini makes his season debut, in a Czech cross-country race in the ski resort of Zadov. They appear to be doing all they can to ensure they are ready for the challenges of the Swiss Epic. To see how they perform visit our website from the 18th to the 22nd of August.


Annika Langvad set to race the Swiss Epic with Haley Batten

The UCI women’s race at the 2020 Swiss Epic, in Graubünden, is sure to draw attention; especially as it is headlined by Annika Langvad and Haley Batten.

Annika Langvad from team Investec-songo-Specialized during stage 6 of the 2019 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from the University of Stellenbosch Sports Fields in Stellenbosch, South Africa on the 23rd March 2019
Photo by Xavier Briel/Cape Epic

Specialized – Racing’s Annika Langvad is arguably the most dominant marathon and stage racer of her generation. No man or woman, of her era, comes close to matching the Dane’s palmarès. She has wracked up 5 Absa Cape Epic titles, from 5 starts, 5 XCM World Championship Wins, and the Leadville 100 course record, to go with her UCI MTB World Cup overall title and the 2016 XCO World Championship stripes. She is now set to attempt to add to her perfect Epic Series record when she starts alongside Haley Batten, in Graubünden this August.

The pair, like many of the other elite competitors, will be using the race to build towards the MTB World Cup races in late September and October; as well as the MTB World Championships which are scheduled to take place in Leogang, Austria, from the 5th of October.

The resumption of racing brings a semblance of normality back to a sport that has been in limbo since March. Like every rider who was gearing up for the Absa Cape Epic; the Covid19 pandemic has turned Langvad’s year on its head in a matter of days. “It was a weird and difficult few days, leading up to the race in March” the 2016 Cross-Country World Champion confessed. “The challenge was that nobody had dealt with anything like this before, so there was no real experience to lean on. We really had to try and navigate, as best we could, with the information that we could find. But most importantly we had to try to act responsibly and wisely. Everything seemed quite surreal. I only understood the true size and impact of the situation once I was back home, watching everything escalate worldwide.”

“Of course, it was sad to hear that races had to be postponed or cancelled” she added, reflecting on how the virus impacted her sport. “But at the same time, it was quite obvious that we were dealing with something that was much bigger than bike racing. That said, I found some normality in riding my bike. At first, at least, because there was so much uncertainty about everything. During that time my daily training routines were one of the only stable elements I could rely on.”

“Then, as time moved on, I felt the challenge of having no clear goals or dates on the horizon” Langvad revealed. “Also, without any ‘natural’ breaks in training, due to the lack of racing, I started feeling a bit tired mentally and physically. I soon realised that I needed to pay attention to getting quality rest as well as putting in quality training.”

It has not been all hard work or focused recovery for the 36 year old, however. “This summer was the first, in my 10 years of professional racing, where I had the time for other activities” she smiled. “I’ve been spending a lot of time with projects in the garden. It’s my second year of having a garden and I actually kept the plants alive this year! Thomas and I also started spear fishing. We have so much coastline in Denmark. It’s really great fun. I love feeling like a complete rookie at something and discovering new things. So, all-in-all, this summer has really called for a new approach on many things.”

Shifting her focus to the restart of the 2020 racing season Langvad stated: “The Swiss Epic fits perfectly into my preparations towards the World Cup season. I really look forward to getting back on the start line. There’s no better way to get going with the racing again than to start out with Swiss Epic. I’m very excited about this!”

In 2020, Langvad will race alongside the 21-year old Batten. “I’m so thrilled to be teaming up with Annika [Langvad] for the Swiss Epic” the Quest University Canada student enthused. “Since 2020 is my first season with Specialized Racing and with so little racing so far this year, I think that this will be a great opportunity for me to ride, train, and learn from the world’s best. We performed well together in the Cyprus Sunshine Epic, in February, and I believe that at the Swiss Epic we will have another chance to grow and perform as a team. Annika is extremely experienced in these types of events and is also a fun personality to be around, so although there will be some hard days, I know she is really the best person I could have as my teammate to tackle the stages with. I’m up for the challenge!”

The challenge will also give Batten the opportunity to race and explore Graubünden in a way she had never been able to before. “Besides the Lenzerheide World Cups and World Championships, I have not done much racing in Switzerland” she confessed. The Swiss Epic has been on her to-do list for a couple of years.

“Many of my friends and competitors have already raced the Swiss Epic” Batten recounted. “I have heard so many great stories about the challenging racing and beautiful terrain from the riders who took part. Ever since then I’ve been hoping that I would get the opportunity to see what the excitement is all about. So, I’m looking forward to experiencing the adventure this year. I’ve done a bit of riding from St Moritz and Davos, so I know that the region of Graubünden is exceptional and I think this event will give me a unique opportunity to really explore the area.”

For mountain bike fans looking to explore Graubünden, vicariously, through the racing and experiences of the Swiss Epic competitors, the race’s website is the perfect online destination. Visit our website to find out all about the region, the stages and the host towns. Then, from the 18th to the 22nd of August, fans will be able to follow the racing action live through real-time ride tracking, social media updates, photo galleries and daily highlight videos; all of which can be found on the race website and the Epic Series mobile application.


New Alpine Inspired Trophies for the Swiss Epic

For 2020, the Swiss Epic’s overall and category winners will be rewarded with new trophies. Designed and built by Remo Brülhart, who is based in Davos, the trophies are constructed from locally sourced Swiss Stone Pine and Larch wood. Crafted into an alpine-inspired design, the trophies represent a celebration of all things Graubünden, tying together the race, landscape and local artisans in a symbolic emblem.

Swiss Stone Pine and Larch trees are the perfect materials for the new trophies. The Stone Pines are alpine trees which only grown between 1 200 metres and 2 300 metres above sea level. This means that the majority of the Swiss Epic’s route takes place within Stone Pine habitat. Larch, meanwhile, is a more widespread cold-climate tree; these trees play a major role in the scrubbing of CO2 from the earth’s atmosphere. This is due to their vast northern hemisphere range and the fact that Larch are the dominant plants in the boreal forests.

The trophies’ raw wood finish, which displays the tree’s growth rings, lends a unique natural design to each trophy. Showcasing years of plenty and years of austerity, by the width of each ring, is particularly poignant in the context of 2020.

The trophies are not just visually appealing, however, though their classic clean lines will surely ensure that they will demand pride of place in the winner’s trophy cabinet or on their mantlepiece. The raw conifer smell provides the trophies with an additional subtle charm. Memories are often evoked by aromas and the smell of the Swiss Epic trophy is sure to bring a fond smile to the victors’ faces for years to come, reminding them of time well-spent in Graubünden.

In addition to the trophies for the final overall and category podium finishers, there will be several special medals awarded during the finisher’s function. Hosted on the finish line in Davos, special medals will be bestowed for non-racing achievements. Some of the riders to be honoured there include the oldest and youngest finishers, along with the best-dressed team. These riders will be rewarded with a unique, alpine-inspired medal to celebrate their achievements.


Centurions in the Alps

A former Swiss Epic winner returns to Graubünden with a young partner to take on the 2020 race. While the Centurion Vaude-Radon women’s team combines one of 2019’s podium finishers and the reigning German cross-country champion.

Daniel Geismayr is among the world’s most accomplished mountain bike stage racers. The multiple Austrian Marathon Champion has a Swiss Epic title to his name and an Absa Cape Epic bronze medal on his palmarès. In 2020 he returns for another tilt at the Swiss Epic title, partnered by Ben Zwiehoff, in the colours of Centurion Vaude. While the team, which specializes in marathon and stage racing, has partnered Germany’s cross-country champion, Elisabeth Brandau, with Stefanie Dohrn as team Centurion Vaude-Radon.

With all four of the Centurion Vaude and Centurion Vaude-Radon athletes being based in Germany or Austria they were able to train outdoors throughout their countries’ Covid-19 lockdowns. “Corona has had little impact on my training” the squad’s senior member, Geismayr, revealed. “But I haven’t had as many race days as I would usually have had, compared to previous years. That is the same for everyone though, so it is strange but at least not unique.”

Germany’s management of the pandemic allowed Zwiehoff to train to a point that he believes he is stronger heading into the truncated racing season. “We had no further lockdown-problems and I had no training-issues” the 26-year old confirmed. “I was able to use the time to bring myself me up to a better level than I’ve been at before. Because of this I’m really looking forward to proving myself and my form at the Swiss Epic.”

“I’m really excited to come back to racing” Zwiehoff enthused. “My last race was the Andalucía Bike Race, where I placed second in early March, so it is nice to restart with the next big one of the stage-race-calendar!” The Swiss Epic is also a race in which Centurion Vaude has traditionally performed well. Geismayr won the men’s race with Jochen Käss in 2017 and in 2019 Dohrn placed second alongside Alice Pirard.

“Last year, Alice [Pirard] and I did not expect to end up in second position overall, given the high quality of the 2019 women’s field” Dohrn reflected. “We were really happy about that and, of course, Team Centurion Vaude wants to end up in a good position this year too. It was a close race last year and, I think, this year will be even closer; because there are a lot of super strong women’s teams set to participate.”

Securing a partner has not be plain sailing for Dohrn, however. She was set to race alongside 2019 third place finisher, Samara Sheppard. The New Zealander unfortunately had to withdraw from the race. “For Samara [Sheppard] it is sadly not possible to travel to the Swiss Epic, so I will be racing with Elisabeth Brandau” Dohrn confirmed. She is incredibly strong and also super. I’m honoured, in fact, to race with her.”

“Because of Covid everyone’s plans, including my own, are changing every month or sometimes every week even” Brandau sighed. “That, has its challenges. But because of those changing plans I now get the chance to start the Swiss Epic. Centurion Vaude’s plan was changed by riders from outside Europe being unable to travel to Switzerland while my plans were impacted by the cancellations of UCI Mountain Bike World Cup races. Now that my participation is confirmed, I’m really happy to get the chance to be able to race Swiss Epic, especially with the great support of Stefanie [Dohrn]’s team.”

“It is also great to be able to race with a fellow German rider. I’m sure we will do our best together” Brandau continued. “Racing as a team is special; it’s not always about being super-fast alone, but rather about working together to maximise each other’s strengths and minimise each other’s weaknesses. If we bring our experience together will have a great week on the bike the goal of a podium place is very achievable.”

The men’s team are also among the favourites for a podium position. They recognise the Swiss Epic field is arguably the strongest yet in the race’s seven edition history. “The line-up is so cool this year” Zwiehoff said. “For me, it’s an honour to race against some of the biggest names in the sport. But Dani [Geismayr] and I will try our best to finish the Swiss Epic in the most successful way. Maybe we can also go for a stage win…” “I think the race has never seen a field as strong as the one assembled for this year” his teammate Giesmayr added. “But this fact motivates me even more. I’m looking forward to racing at the highest level again.”

For mountain bike fans who share the Centurion Vaude and Centurion Vaude-Radon riders’ enthusiasm for the Swiss Epic the race can be followed live on www.swiss-epic.com. The racing starts, in Laax, on the 18th of August and wraps up, in Davos, on the 22nd. In total it takes in 320km through the high mountains and majestic valleys of Graubünden.


2020 Swiss Epic Elite Men’s Field attracts more stars

With the 2020 Swiss Epic just a few weeks away, the Elite Men’s field continues to swell with names of the world’s best mountain bikers. The battle on the trails of Graubünden is sure to be fierce as BMC Fischer and BUFF SCOTT are added to the fray.

The 2019 runners up are excited to return to Graubünden and make their presence felt. Photo Marius Holler

BMC Fischer’s Casey South and Noah Blöchlinger were the surprise team of the 2019 Swiss Epic. The pair raced to second overall, complete with a stage win on Stage 3. In 2020 the field assembling in Graubünden is arguably stronger than it was last year, but the young pair are not letting that intimidate them.

“Because we were both in good shape, we didn’t see ourselves as an underdog team for the 2019 Swiss Epic” South explained of their performance 24 months ago. “Deciding and setting our goals for the race, over coffee and cake, we had thought that a top five position would be great; and possible. After the first stage we realized that it was very possible and got hungry for more great stages. We took the race day-by-day and always gave our best, spurred on by the results from the day before.”

That stage-by-stage attitude should serve them well in 2020, “We don’t put pressure on ourselves because of our great results last year” South philosophised.

“It’s same, same, but not different this year. Our team will be focused on a good team spirit and the joy of hunting out the big guns on a bike. No pressure, no worries!” laughed the dual Australian/Swiss national.

He and his Swiss teammate Blöchlinger are clearly excited to test themselves against the world’s best. They do not, however, believe that they have much of an advantage, being locally based. “We think that the advantage is not that we are Swiss riders, but great mates on and off the bike” South pointed out. “Our game plan is not to wear out any brake pads during the Swiss Epic. We love the trails and are used to riding fast down them. Very fast.”

Another team that will throw their proverbial hats into the ring is the BUFF SCOTT MTB team. Both Konny Looser and Francesc Guerra have showed in previous editions of the Swiss Epic that they can be forces to be reckoned with. In their debut race as a team for BUFF SCOTT they are among the undoubted favourites for a podium position. Though only time and the trails will tell if they are able to convert their talent and billing into a stellar result, this August.

Konny Looser and Francesc Guerra have not raced together yet, so the Swiss Epic is perfect to test their partnership.

The disruptions caused by Covid-19 have meant that the pair have yet to race together, as a team in 2020. Having joined the Spanish team ahead of the 2020 season Looser was penned in to race the Absa Cape Epic with Enrique Morcillo Vergara. Since The Untamed African MTB Race’s cancellation all racing was put on hold until July, meaning Looser has yet to really get much of a chance to bond with his Iberian teammates. “We haven’t even raced together yet” the Swiss rider noted.

That should not be a major problem however. “We know each other from some races from the past” Looser reassured. “I know the Swiss Epic very well and I also know the area as well as Francesc [Guerra’s] strengths. He is a really good climber, which is one of the key factors you need to succeed at the Swiss Epic.” “I know Konny is used to compete in Switzerland, with its high-altitude mountains, long climbs and technical descents” Guerra added. “I’m from a town close to Barcelona. It’s situated just 225 metres above sea level and the environment is really different from Graubünden. But I will try to offset this handicap with my skills as a good climber and the help of Konny [Looser], my local guide. We might not have raced together yet, but we have a good relationship off the bike and this is also really important in stage races.”

“The Swiss Epic has provided some of the best trails I have ever ridden” Guerra praised. “Like I said before, I live in an area which simply just cannot offer that type of riding. But it’s not just the trails that bring us back to Graubünden. It is also the chance to compete against many of the best XCM and XCO riders in the world. That is really a big motivation for entering. I know how hard this race is; but as long as I can, I will be on the start line, willing to suffer and enjoy the real mountain biking on offer in the Swiss Epic.”

Both Looser and Guerra have come close to victory at the Swiss Epic before. They are highly motivated to put in a stellar performance in 2020, “I always think about winning, but after finishing fourth twice before, in 2017 and 2018, and taking into account the number of top riders who will be on the start line this year, the realistic goal would be to aim for the final podium” Guerra speculated. “Nevertheless, in racing anything can happen so now my main goal is to arrive in Laax in the best shape possible. From there the focus will be on putting good performances on every stage, with Konny.”

To follow how BMC Fischer and BUFF SCOTT perform during the 2020 Swiss Epic visit our website. The race takes place from the 18th to the 22nd of August. Mountain biking fans can watch the action live on the race website, which will feature racing updates on social media as well as daily stories, videos and photo galleries.


Riding with Bulls

Team Bulls return to the Swiss Epic, en masse, for the first time since 2014 when Karl Platt and Urs Huber placed fifth. With three teams in the 2020 race through Graubünden, the German outfit will be aiming to place multiple teams in the top ten.

Despite being one of the dominant teams in the Epic Series’ flagship event, the Absa Cape Epic, Team Bulls have failed to warm to the Swiss Epic. The German team have only made one start in the race in their neighbouring country. That was back in 2014. Now, six years later they return in force; with three squads ready to contest for the title. The Bulls Heroes, Bulls Legends and Bulls Youngsters.

Urs Huber, who along with Karl Platt finished fifth in 2014, will partner Simon Stiebjahn for the Bulls Heroes. The pair are Team Bulls’ best bet for a podium position. Both riders are seasoned stage race campaigners and are looking forward to showcasing their skills to an Epic Series audience on terrain they know well. Platt, meanwhile, will partner multiple Marathon World Champion Alban Lakata for the Bulls Legends; while Martin Frey and Simon Schneller line up as the Bulls Youngsters.

The Team Bulls riders unanimously agreed that the cancellation of the Absa Cape Epic affected them all. “The Absa Cape Epic cancellation was a big disappointment” Lakata, one of the squad’s most senior members, allowed. “It took me some time to digest that. But I found new ways to motivate myself to train. I did different challenges and projects to keep myself motivated, without any races in sight. Now, finally, we have a new provisional race schedule and with the Swiss Epic, there is also a big goal ahead of us, to work hard for.”

“The first weeks after the Absa Cape Epic was cancelled was a strange time” added Stiebjahn. “We had worked hard for our season’s highlight. Not being able to showcase how hard we’d worked in the build-up to the race made the cancellation harder, initially. But then, when all the other races started to be cancelled, it became increasingly difficult to motivate myself.”

“So, taking a little break turned out to be really important” Stiebjahn clarified. “Now a racing calendar is slowly taking shape again. It obviously includes the Swiss Epic and my motivation has come flooding back. I believe hindsight will show it was the right decision to take it easy in April and rather to start focused training once the motivation of having races to peak for returned.”

The usual flow to the season has been disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic, but that has meant a shake-up to the way many elite mountain bikers have scheduled the later part of their year. “It has resulted in a different style of season and that makes it exciting” Stiebjahn said, looking for the silver lining. “It’s a new situation for everybody and everybody has to handle the situation. Honestly, I would say I’m even more excited to race now than I was at the start of any previous season for years.”

The restart to racing will not be an easy one for the German team. They have been unable to fit the Swiss Epic into their programme in the last six years. “I would have been interested to race the Swiss Epic regularly, in the past years” the only Swiss rider in the squad, Huber, revealed. “But our calendar is usually more than full, between May and September. The Swiss Epic is not an easy race either. It’s definitely not an event which you can just add on top of a busy schedule. Now is the perfect time to come back, however. It will be great to have an Epic Series race to ‘start’ the season with. Instead of the Absa Cape Epic in March we have the Swiss Epic in August, which is sure to make this year even more unforgettable.”

“The Swiss Epic is a very tough race” Lakata said, echoing Huber’s sentiments. “In previous years, with too many hard races in the summer time, I simply couldn’t fit it in. I had difficult decisions to make in the years since 2016 when I last took part. But I enjoyed my three previous Swiss Epics and I’m looking forward to racing it again.”

Martin Frey, of the Bulls Youngsters, agreed: “We’re looking forward to taking part in a well-organized and highly prestigious stage race, especially one that should suit our strengths. After so many events had to be cancelled, we’re glad such a prestigious event will be run. We expect steep climbing, technical descents and a competitive field; all the ingredients a great mountain bike stage race has to offer.”

Though Huber has always performed well in Africa and Australia, where he has won the Absa Cape Epic and five Crocodile Trophies respectively, he is eager to showcase his talents on home soils. “The style of track would be nothing new for us, because it’s more natural for us to ride in this kind of terrain than outside of Europe” he stated. “For me it’s a great feeling to race against the best teams in the world in my own country. I think it’s a little advantage to be on home terrain, but the competition will be super strong. In every race Simon [Stiebjahn] and I try to focus on ourselves and it will be no different in the Swiss Epic. We will be happy if we can give our 100% every day and enjoy racing again. If we reach that, the result comes naturally.”

To see if the results that the Team Bulls riders’ motivation levels suggest they are capable of come tune in to the Swiss Epic, from 18-22 August. The event’s website will feature racing updates, highlights and all the stories from the trails of Graubünden.


Legend returns for 6th Swiss Epic

One of the winners of the inaugural Swiss Epic, Ariane Lüthi, will be returning to the race for the 6th time. This time racing alongside Belgium’s Alice Pirard.

Ariane Lüthi and Alice Pirard are among the most experienced teams in the 2020 Swiss Epic’s elite field. The Team Andermatt Spur combination have five and four finishes to their names respectively. Lüthi was also one of the race’s inaugural winners and the pair shared the podium in 2019, when Pirard finished second and Lüthi third, alongside their then partners.

Both riders have been racing at an elite level for over a decade. Despite that experience, the COVID-19 enforced stop to racing – and disruption of life in general – was an unexpected and challenging development. “The break from racing has further increased my motivation to compete” Lüthi was keen to emphasise. “Alice [Pirard] and I have already raced the Swiss Epic together, so we know how to approach this race as a team. This experience certainly gives us greater confidence. We know that pacing ourselves well is crucial in the Swiss Alps, in particular, and when racing at altitude, in general.”

“Most of all, I am really grateful that we’ll be able to race” Pirard added.” That is, at least, how it looks now! There are a lot of question marks, when you haven’t raced for so long. That said, we will enjoy the Swiss Epic to the fullest; because, who knows, it might be the only race we’re able to do in the 2020 season.”

As the COVID-19 situation continues to improve throughout Europe it looks increasingly likely that more events will be able to take place. That aside, as marathon and stage race specialists the five-stage race in Switzerland’s largest canton remains a priority for Lüthi and Pirard. “The Swiss Epic will be a big goal for Alice and me” the reigning Swiss marathon champion confirmed. “We will come prepared to compete at our best.”

“Although we’ll come to Graubünden with great ambitions, there are too many uncontrollable variables to say that we are aiming for a certain result” Lüthi continued. “Therefore, no matter the race, it is always wise to aim for our best personal performance rather than a result.”

While they will be focusing on performances and hoping the results follow, Team Andermatt Spur’s riders will also be enjoying the fantastic hospitality of the Swiss Epic. “It’s one of the absolute best stage races” Pirard enthused. “The general form of the race stays the same year-on-year, but the route changes for every edition. We get to race long climbs and breathtaking downhills; both with incredible views of the Swiss Alps. It’s those views that bring me back every year!”

“The route and the organisation of the event have always been great” Lüthi stated. “Stefan [Wolfisberg], the route designer of the Swiss Epic knows how to put a smile on our faces. The trails we take down the mountains are absolutely epic. The Swiss Epic really takes the progression of the sport into account, while some other races still feature way too many boring gravel road descents.”

“Apart from the route, the Swiss Epic has been progressive in terms of media exposure and gender equality as well” Lüthi praised. “They try and cover the categories equally and offer equal prize money to the Elite Women and Men. The Swiss Epic even goes as far as having a non-drafting rule between the gender categories, which makes the racing fairer. This is still a rarity in marathon and stage races unfortunately. The next step will be that the women get a separate start, but from what I’ve heard, that could be implemented at the Swiss Epic this year.”

To watch Ariane Luthi, Alice Pirard and their fellow elite women race the Swiss Epic visit our website. The race gets underway in Laax, on Tuesday the 18th of August, and finishes in Davos, on the 22nd.


Champions return to Graubünden

Trek Pirelli, racing as Trek Selle San Marco at the time, won the 2019 Swiss Epic after a flawless team performance. Michele Casagrande and Fabian Rabensteiner were aided to the title by Samuele Porro and Damiano Ferraro. In 2020 the quartet return with a third support team in tow, ready to defend their crown.

The 2019 Swiss Epic Champions are determined to repeat their flawless performance from last year.

Michele Casagrande and Fabian Rabensteiner return to the 2020 Swiss Epic as the race’s defending champions. The Trek Pirelli outfit, who won the 2019 edition as Trek Selle San Marco, hail from Italy and had to get permission from their national federation to travel Switzerland. With the legalities and logistics settled, the squad will travel to Graubünden in force; boasting three confirmed teams, with a fourth potentially joining for the title defence.

In 2019 Casagrande and Rabensteiner’s race victory was built upon teamwork with Samuele Porro and Damiano Ferraro. The four riders proved perfect foils for each other’s tactics. For this year’s Swiss Epic, Simone Avondetto and Gioele de Cosmo have been added to the Trek Pirelli roster. This strength in depth could be pivotal to the Italian squad’s plans as they are up against the strongest ever field assembled in Graubünden.

No mention of Italian riders can be complete without acknowledging the toll that Covid-19 has taken on that country. “This pandemic changed everything in our lives” Casagrande stated. “From our lifestyle, to our way to appreciate simple things. I have tried to stay positive during these months, kept on training at home and, most importantly, enjoy every moment with my family.” “It has been a really long and turbulent period” Porro added. “The situation was constantly changing and it was therefore impossible to plan the competitive season. Needless to say, I cannot wait for the Swiss Epic! Finally, we’re working hard towards a goal once again!”

“I think in these last few months we all realized that bicycle racing is not the most important thing in life” Rabensteiner philosophised. “But it is my job at the moment and so it was important to my life, and the lives of my fellow athletes. The Coronavirus pandemic didn’t change my perspective; but it highlighted to me once more, how much I love my job.”

“The time was definitely not easy,” Rabensteiner continued. “But nevertheless, I tried to stay focused and motivated on training. I tried to take it day-by-day, rather than thinking about the weeks that lay ahead of training on the rollers. Little rewards, after training sessions, helped keep my spirits up; for example, I often made myself a homemade pizza after training.”

Like most avid mountain bikers, the long period without travelling for training or racing was strange to the Trek Pirelli team. “We are not used to staying at home for too long” Ferraro commented. The Swiss government’s rigorous guidelines and the race’s strict adherence to those and other best-practice risk mitigation protocols allayed his and his team’s fears. “With the right precautions we are looking forward to finally begin traveling and racing again” Ferraro emphasised.

Having already noted the presence of the formidable SCOTT-SRAM teams on the start list, Trek Pirelli know that repeating last year’s success will not be easy. “The 2020 Swiss Epic will be a unique and unrepeatable event” Porro prophesied. “The best riders in the world will be at the start in Laax and everyone will have a great desire to win after this long period without competitions.” SCOTT-SRAM and the defending champions are not the only squads with multiple cards to play, or the last of the big names to be announced.

“The race will be more tactical this year” predicted Casagrande, having heard who the as yet unannounced big team are. “But we always race with two teams, so we are really good in team play!” “I don’t feel pressure being the defending champions” Casagrande’s partner, Rabensteiner said. “It is more an honour for me. We will again give our best; and then, let’s see what it brings…”

Whatever the 2020 Swiss Epic, in Graubünden, brings Trek Pirelli will be ready. With three teams, and a potential fourth, they have the strength in numbers to outmanoeuvre their rivals. Though only time will tell how the racing will play out. Tune in, from the 18th to the 22nd of August, on our website swiss-epic.com to watch the action unfold.