Graubünden resident, Nino Schurter and his SCOTT-SRAM teammate Lars Forster rode to a dominant stage victory on the opening stage of the 2020 Swiss Epic. The 60-kilometre route, which started and finished in Laax, provided ample technical trails for the Swiss pair to exert their dominance on.
The 2020 Swiss Epic got underway in Laax on Tuesday, 18 August. Graubünden, the race’s host canton and title sponsor, could not have hoped for a better result; as Nino Schurter, a native of the region, won the opening stage. Schurter and his SCOTT-SRAM teammate, Lars Forster, were in a class of their own once the trails headed downhill.
They had to battle for the right to dominate the singletracks, however. 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. 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. 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.
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.
On Wednesday, 19 August, Stage 2 of the 2020 Swiss Epic takes the race from Laax to Arosa. The route skirts one of Graubünden’s most iconic landmarks, the Rhine Gorge. It is a day backloaded with climbing, gaining 2 600 metres in elevation in 75 kilometres. The heartening fact for Schurter and Forster’s rivals comes in the form of the final climb only reaching its summit 5 kilometres from the finish line. The lack of technical singletracks between Rot Tritt, at 2 007 metres above sea level, and Arosa should nullify SCOTT-SRAM’s formidable technical advantage.
To see if Trek-Pirelli and Centurion Vaude can leverage their advantage on long climbs, on the second stage of the Swiss Epic, tune in from 08:00 (Central European Summer Time/GMT +2). Visit www.swiss-epic.com to follow the action live.
Results: 2020 Swiss Epic | Stage 1