Stage 3 of the 2019 Swiss Epic saw riders tackle the Queen Stage of this year’s event, covering 80km between St. Moritz and Lenzerheide. With 2,200m of ascent and 2,450m of descent, riders were yet again in for a tough day in the saddle.
Winding up the spectacular Albula Pass, the highest point of the Stage came early on as riders climbed to the top of the pass before being rewarded with the flowing trail to Bergun. With the weather having cleared, the majority of the day was ridden in sunshine allowing teams to take in the magnificent views on their near endless descent to Filisur. It was onwards to negotiate the sparse forest terrain to reach the plateau between Lenz and Lenzerheide which offered riders passage into the ultimate bit of mountain biking fun – the World Championship XC 2018 track.
Out conquering the passes and trails alongside hundreds of riders from countries as far afield as Brazil, Ecuador and Spain were South African duo, Team Intrepid. The team made up of Denzyl O’Donoghue and Pieter du Preez are taking on their second Swiss Epic event, after last year’s race did not quite go to plan.
“It was very unfortunate. I misjudged things or overestimated my ability and I broke my foot. The Swiss Epic staff and the support staff were really helpful. They got me off the mountain and to the hospital. I spent 12 weeks on crutches; Pieter and I were pretty resilient about the experience – we sat down and said, ‘We’re going to do this again’,” explained Denzyl.
Except the pair decided to go a little further than simply going back to conquer the Swiss mountains. “We invented a campaign where we collect money for children and people who suffer from cancer. We got sponsors for the Absa Cape Epic which we finished this year, and now we’re doing all three Epic Series Legend races [the Absa Cape Epic, the Swiss Epic and the Pioneer] in the same year with the idea of collecting money for charities that support cancer patients,” Denzyl said. “Up until now we’ve collected R275,000 and we hope that we’ll raise half a million Rand by the time we complete the Swiss Epic and Pioneer,” he added.
The team have been enjoying the course thus far while raising funds for a great cause. “It’s just a fantastic course, and you know these days I think everyone knows someone very close to them that has cancer and CANSA Active is just a fantastic charity to support; we want to thank everyone that supported our cause,” Pieter said. “We’re from Cape Town and the climbing has been challenging, but it’s been great out there and really enjoyable.” he added.
By finishing the race this week, Denzyl and Pieter will be well on their way to becoming Epic Legends – a special group of riders who have completed all three Epic Legends races by finishing the Absa Cape Epic in South Africa, the Swiss Epic in Switzerland and the Pioneer, fueled by Nutri-Grain in New Zealand.
“I don’t know if anybody else has done all three in the same year!” Denzyl laughed. “We did three Absa Cape Epic races consecutively and we’re doing these three Epic Series races as a team consecutively so it will be five Epic races in three years,” he said with a smile.
Looking forward to the next few days of riding, Denzyl and Pieter aren’t shying away from the challenge of the climbs and the distance to cover. “Personally, I think the Swiss Epic must be challenging otherwise it’s not the Swiss Epic. So, I have to be in pain at some point during the day but when I’m staying here [in Switzerland] and now look at you, I must feel good. That’s what I’m hoping for during the next few days. I don’t want to end up with a heart attack, but I must feel tired and feel that I earned the ride,” a motivated Denzyl explained.
Pieter’s outlook on the journey of completing the Swiss Epic is one we can all take to heart. “It’s a fantastic challenge, we’re just looking forward to the end of each day and to be here in one piece. We take it day by day and kilometre by kilometre. Hopefully we’ll get to the end in Davos eventually on Saturday and have a good party!”.
For more of the 2019 Swiss Epic action, tune into www.swiss-epic.com from 08:30.