First impressions from the Swiss Epic 2017

Written by Denise Dierauer, guest commentary of Mountains Team

When living in a place of no mountains…

… how do you prepare for the Swiss Epic mountain bike race in Zermatt, which is known for its most epic trails and some of the world’s best riders?

🇨🇭 Believe that Swiss genes make you ride fast
🗨 You talk about the event a lot (literally everyday and all day for Denise)
🏔 Spam your friends and family with pictures of Zermatt
🚴 Ride around London with the Swiss Trail Bell
🧀 Eat cheese from the Valais region
📖 Carry the rider book in your handbag when going out

Recognizing that we need to be creative in our training to not be completely cooked after the very first climb at the Swiss Epic race, we chose to go down the city-people road. This included some countryside loops on the road bike, riding fixed gear bikes in the Olympic Velodrome, playing with dumbbells side by side with the big boys in the gym, some group HIIT sessions in flashing light and a muscly guy screaming at you and strange yoga poses (which was a novelty for Mario).

Training for Swiss Epic mountain bike race Zermatt
Preparation for the bike race: road biking. (c) Denise Dierauer

Was it enough? – Well, let’s talk about today’s Prolog.

Graechen treated us with beautiful sunshine in the morning and a delicious breakfast (we had at least three trips to the bread counter, yum!). All excited and keen to give all we have, we took the cable car to Hannigalp. The gorgeous views on the way up there were a real treat. A last Ovosport (energy bar) and many pictures later we arrived at the Start Zone of the mountain bike race.

With cablecar to the starting point of the mountain bike race Swiss Epic Zermatt
First uphill: With the cablecar to the starting point of the race. (c) Denise Dierauer

Local kids were cheering on the riders and waving their flags. We rode up to the ramp to queue for our team time trial at 11.17am and enjoyed the spectacle. Denise tried to not look at her Garmin as her pulse peaked up to 170 before we even started the first climb with a just over 1000 feet elevation gain.

Too much excitement and fast looking riders we reckon.

Gladly the policy says that it is allowed for team mates to push each other uphill or carry both bikes on the parts that are too steep to ride. Thanks Mario!

So, once we had that climb under our belt, the purest of the purest pleasures awaited us. A truly flowy and fast downhill on over 10km exhilarating riding confirmed why this area of Switzerland is so proud of their nature and known for their trails. The first section of the descend started on just over 2400m elevation and felt very alpine with great views to the snow covered peaks of the Alps reaching into the sky. The lower part of the trail was in the forest with rooty and sometimes rocky singletrails. All very rideable and so much fun. Routes were very well marked and perfectly prepared, combining natural trails with some man made parts open only for the Swiss Epic race in Zermatt.

After a last climb where we had a bit of a race with some other riders we arrived in beautiful Graechen with a cheerful crowd welcoming arriving riders. What a first day – and 5 more stages to come with the final days in Zermatt. Matterhorn, we look forward to meeting you!


About Swiss Epic mountain bike race:

  • What: 6 day singletrail mountain bike event through the Swiss Alps | in 5 stages from Grächen to Leukerbad and the mountain bike destination Zermatt
  • When: 11 – 16 September 2017
  • Who: Ambitious amateur athletes and professional cyclists in teams of two
  • Landscape: quaint mountain villages, vineyard terraces, historic Suonen irrigation channels
  • Side facts: Swiss Epic mountain bike race is an annual event with changing routes
  • This years highlight: More downhill than uphill kilometres
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