TORQ fuelled Pro Mountain Bike Marathon rider, Sally Bigham, reports in from her win at the Swiss Epic, a challenging 6 day stage race in Switzerland.
On Saturday, after 400km and 15000m of climbing over 6 days, on demanding and technically challenging trails, my partner, Adel Morath (GER), and I, won the prestigious Swiss Epic at the base of the spectacular Matterhorn in Zermatt! Riding in the Swiss mountains was incredible and despite full throttle racing, we were able to draw extra energy and motivation from the truly breath-taking vistas! The stage towns, Verbier, Leukerbad, Grachen and Zermatt (especially the last two, as they were traffic free, apart from electric taxis), provided idyllic places to rest and recover afterwards.
This was the first time that Adel and I had raced together, so we were uncertain how the relationship would work, especially competing against the well established duo of Annika Langvad and Ariane Kleinhans (Specialised RECM), who were the defending champions and race favourites. After a hard crash the day before the race started in Verbier, I was uncertain whether I could compete, but our team physiotherapist was able to work daily on my injured hip, which enabled me to make it to the finish in Zermatt – albeit in a lot of pain!
Losing over 3 minutes to Annika and Ariane in the Prologue wasn’t the start that we wanted, but with the long stages to come we were feeling optimistic. The long climbs suited Adel and me and during Stage 1, we were able to catch and pass Annika and Ariane, but with 1 km to go, we lost the lead and finished 50 seconds back in 2nd position. On Stage 2, it was clear that the fast pace of Annika and Ariane had started to take its toll and we were able to take our first stage win and with it, the coveted yellow leader jerseys!
Over the following stages we were able to gradually build our lead and focus on riding smoothly and consistently. With the relentless climbing and technical descents there’s no time for recovery, increasing the risk of mistakes. Adel and I rode really well together; throughout the race we had no crashes or mechanical issues – testimony to the great partnership we formed.
Stage races are brutal, but the Swiss Epic is especially so and nothing is ever certain until the finish. This was clearly highlighted in the men’s race, where the leaders, Centurion Vaude, lost their lead on the final stage and on the last day, BiXS-Stockli rode into Yellow for the first time. Despite our gradually increasing lead, Adel and I were fully aware that the race wasn’t won until crossing the line in Zermatt!
Now I’m taking some days off and will rest my hip in the Cote D’Azur, before heading to the Azores for a UCI World Series Marathon race. It’s nice not to wake up at 5.20am for breakfast 😉