Already a few weeks ago, the Perskindol Swiss Epic 2016. I was super excited to be on the startline of this great race again. This time, like the first edition two years ago, with Esther Süss. The route changed and went from Zermatt, via Leukerbad to Verbier, in 6 days.
This race stays one of my favourite stage races. The beautiful mountains, super nice and also technical trails, long climbs, great organisation, the whole package.. it's super. Both physically and mentally it is also a challenge. I think there are not much other races where the climbs are so long. But that is also very nice because then you will have long downhills also!
I knew that riding this race with Esther meant I should come with a good form. Especially in the climbs, Esther is super strong. And I think my form was good. Recovered well after Norway and also did some proper trainingrides before going to Zermatt for the prologue.
This was a new experience to us. We started on top of the mountain, over 3100m! Then starting with a long downhill is not something we were used to. But it was super fun! Of course we also had to climb that day, but the climbs were pretty short. The altitude and the high intensity made it very hard though. We came in 3rd and were happy to start the week like this! Still, we both knew that the real time differences would come and count once the long stages are starting.
We had a good week together! After 2 days of riding we could work as a team together very well. Esther was setting a good pace at the climbs, which I could just follow and where we had a good speed too! Of course I had to suffer, but that's part of the job :)I think that's even part of what I like the most of this sport sometimes... hehe.. In the downhills it was the other way around, I was leading and trying to find some good lines :). We could see that we were riding strong, because we were closing the gap to the 2nd team (Ariane Kleinhans and Corina Gantenbein) a few times.
The difference between the winning team, Jolanda Neff and Allessandra Keller, was clear. They were too strong for us. Respect for their super strong race! Behind those two, it was a much closer fight. We could give Ariane and Corina good comptetion. Which made it very interesting. Esther and I managed to get the 2nd place in 3 stages! Where the last stage was the most spectacular one! Almost all day we were riding in a group. Most of the time it was us chasing on 3rd. But it was close, we could see them riding all the time. At the very last climb, almost on top, I attacked. I gave all I had left.. everything, I thought it was just 100 meters till the last downhill... Then.. Coming at the point where I thought the downhill should start, the road went to the left, further up! OOOOOOHHHH, that killed me. I had to take an easier pace now and thought, okay, that was it. 3rd today! Also good. Easy peddeling up the last meters.. Then the last downhill started for real. Because of the rain it got pretty tricky. But somehow we were fast :) and we closed the gap, again!!! With some interesting corners Esther managed to get in front of our group too, so that it would end in a sprint finish! Which we won, haha.. We were proud! So cool to finish the race like this. :)
So, looking back, I think I had one of my best weeks this season during this race. I was ready to suffer and to ride as hard as I could. We had a great result with 2nd and 3rd places in the stages, and 3rd in GC. Also the downhills went really good, smooth, no crashes but still fast. And I loved it. And.. also, besides all the suffering, the views stay amazing! It is so nice to see all those big, high mountains.. great!! I want to thank the Wheeler team for all their help during this week. We had the best mechanics and physio's and just only could concentrate on the race! Esther thank you for the nice week and the good partnership!!! Strong ride.