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.
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.