The 2018 Perskindol Swiss Epic kicked off five days of challenging yet rewarding mountain biking in Bettmeralp. This year’s edition sees riders navigate some 50 municipalities in the fairytale-like Valais region, while surrounded by jagged Alpine peaks. Riders cover 50-80km each day with 1800-2800m of climbing before arriving in Zermatt at the foot of the Matterhorn on Saturday. 334 athletes left the race village this morning under clear skies, setting off on a 63km loop, culminating in the main obstacle of the day – a tough 10km climb back up to the traditional Swiss village. Dark horse team BMC Fischer Price struck the first blow in the men’s category, snatching victory from team Scott-SRAM. Swiss riders Martin Fanger and Noah Blöchlinger crossed the line on stage one 55 seconds ahead of Matthias Stirnemann and Andri Frischknecht. The decisive move of the day was made early in the race with an attack on the very first rise. Scott-SRAM, BMC Fischer Price and jb Brunex Felt Factory Team’s Thomas Litscher and Max Foidl broke clear of the group. However on the fast descent from the Fiescheralp to Fiesch, bad luck struck jb Brunex Felt – Litscher sliced his tyre, which could not be repaired, forcing them out of contention. With their ears pinned back, BMC Fischer Price went all in for the stage, taking line honours and the overall race lead. Scott-SRAM hung on for second and coming in third was Team BiXS after a steady effort from Konny Looser and Hansueli Stauffer.
In the women’s field, team Canada’s Catharine Pendrel and Haley Smith looked set to take the stage all morning, passing the checkpoints in the lead with a small margin over Team Thömus’ Alessandra Keller and Katrin Stirnemann. But their ride was not without incident. “There was a moment of inattention and I hit a rock that knocked me off the track and into a cow fence,” said the two-time world champion Pendrel at the finish line showing a scratched cheek. With the hare ahead, Team Thömus moved up to the Canadians and gained contact with them in time for the final technical section, where they made their move. The Swiss riders pressed home their advantage to gain 36 seconds and take the win and the overall lead. Keller was delighted. “I have never worn a leader’s jersey before. For sure we want to keep it till the end and try our best but we want to enjoy ourselves too!” said the newly-crowned under 23 world champion.
Results Stage 1
1 – Alessandra Keller / Katrin Stirnemann (SUI – Team Thömus)
2 – Catherine Pendrel / Haley Smith (CAN – Team Canada)
3 – Barbara Benko / Anne Terpstra (BUL / NED – Team GHOST FACTORY RACING)
1 – Martin Fanger / Noah Blöchlinger (SUI – Team BMC Fisher Price)
2 – Andri Frischknecht / Matthias Stirnemann (SUI – Team Scott S-RAM)
3 – Konny Losser / Hansueli Stauffer (SUI – Team BiXS)
women’s weekly beef cheeks