DYNAMIC DUO READY FOR EPIC SERIES TEST IN THE WEST

Sydney’s MTB quiet achiever Jon Odams likes to keep a low profile and stay under the radar, that is until the cranks start turning and the mud starts to fly. Then the quietly spoken Odams transforms into a vital part of the tight knit, ruthless and all conquering Johnston and Odams GIANT Australia Off Road duo.


Since the introduction of pairs racing in the EPIC Series Oceania in mid 2018, Johnston and Odams have dominated, with wins at Reef to Reef (2018/19) and Port to Port in May. Now they have their sights set on a 2019 series clean sweep, with Western Australia’s iconic four day MTB stage race Cape to Cape (16-20 October) next on their to do list.

MTB bikes have been Jon’s life since he was a teenager, when a couple of mates introduced him to the joy and freedom of the south Sydney’s local trails, where he was inspired by some national MTB legends.
“I lived in an area where there was a little bit of bush and the Royal National Park was not too far away. After a couple of rides around the street we started to ride in the National Park and I got exposed to riding with some really big names of the time, international level guys like Paul Rowney, Rob Woods and Josh Fleming, who all went on to do Olympics and stuff. I played a little bit of soccer before that but nothing really competitively but soon after I got my first MTB, I was racing within three months. I was in under 15s and I just loved it,” he recalled.

“Back then the State Series was pretty strong in both cross country and downhill and I did both. I won State Championships as a junior in both XC and downhill and raced nationals and started winning some national rounds and went to worlds in junior men downhill and got sixth which was pretty good. The downhill side of things was really exciting and downhill was massive. Back then it was a lot more extreme than cross country style of racing but now I think they have made cross country harder. Obviously there are stage races and stuff like that, which are a lot more exciting.”

For a few years Jon’s serious riding took a backseat to some distractions, in the form of cars and girls, but by his late twenties he was back into racing, super competitive and training up a storm.

“I live on the south side of Sydney, near Cronulla so the Royal National Park is the main one I ride in. There are lots of single tracks which are great fun and I have ridden them since I was in high school. I know them pretty well. It is about a ten minute road ride to the trails which is a good warm up and then there is about 100km of fire road and single track out there. The local Strava game is pretty strong as well, which raises the level of all the riders and definitely helps me push every time I go out training, which is good.”

Juggling racing at the elite level with a full time job and family commitments, is a tough ask, but experience has taught Jon to train smarter and more efficiently, and the recent results are proof that it is working.

“I average between 10 and 15 hours a week, which in the scale of things I don’t think is that much. But I am focused on making sure my recovery is really good and that I get the best value for the time I am putting in. Having kids and a family makes the time more valuable, so I am pretty focused and do a lot of research into the training and riding that I do.”

Jon said that the introduction of pairs racing in the EPIC Series has brought with it a different set of challenges and tactics, but it has also given him a brand new focus and lifted the standard of his riding.

“The pairs racing is very different to riding solo, but I am enjoying the category and hanging out with Brendan. It is definitely different as a pair and riding smarter together can change the race dynamics pretty quickly. It is great to be getting the results we have and our racing is going to go from strength to strength. It is wonderful to think that at Cape to Cape we are going for our third series win this year.”

“I have done Cape twice before. I did it four or five years ago when I was on the GIANT team as an Enduro rider and I think I scraped into the top ten. Then I did it again last year and got sixth but I didn’t have the smoothest ride. Over the summer break I have trained a lot harder and gone from being 4, 5, 6th sort of finisher to being able to ride with Brendan and make sure I am not the weakest one in our pairing all the time. Which is a pretty difficult thing to do.”

“Brendan and I have discussed that you can’t ride all three events in the same way, so I am preparing for Cape to Cape differently to how I prepared for Reef to Reef and Port to Port. There is not as much climbing but the racing is faster and the race stays together as a bunch a little bit more. I think that this one might play to our favour a little bit more.”

“All of the Epic Series races are awesome in their own way. The town of Margaret River is a super cool place to ride around in and hang out and it is definitely very different to the east coast where I am from. It will be a nice break but the racing does take the edge of the holiday factor a little,” he laughed. “I know Cape to Cape is Brendan’s favourite of the three Epic Series races in Australia and I really love the last day with all the single track, so I am looking forward to doing better in that time trial shoot out, some stage wins and going three for three. That is the plan.”

The State Government of Western Australia is proud to support the Cape to Cape MTB through Tourism WA's Regional Events Program.

Cape to Cape 2018 – MTB Stage Race, Western Australia 16 – 20 October 2019

Time Trial Wednesday 16 October, 2019

4:30pm Top 20 Elite Open Teams - Leeuwin Estate Winery, Stevens Rd, Margaret River Stage 1 – Cape Leeuwin 17 October, 2019

Start and finish: Cape Leeuwin - Distance: 40km - Climbing: 840m

Race start 9:00am Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, Leeuwin Rd, Augusta

Stage 2 – Boranup Forest 18 October, 2019

Start and Finish: Leeuwin Estate - Distance: 72km - Climbing: 620m

Race start 8am - Leeuwin Estate Winery, Stevens Rd, Margaret River

Stage 3 - Cowaramup - Middle Earth 19 October, 2019

Start and Finish: Colonial Brewery - Distance: 56km - Climbing: 540m

Race Start 8am - Colonial Brewery, 29 Osmington Rd, Bramley

Stage 4 – Margaret River Special Stage 20 October, 2019

Start and Finish: Margaret River Distillery - Distance: 37km - Climbing: 460m

Race Start 8am Margaret River Distilling Co - Carters Rd and Maxwell Rd, Margaret River

What to expect

  • GOOD MATES - When it comes to Stage Races you’d be mad not to bring a friend or two. Four days in the saddle will give you loads of time to point out what’s lacking in their riding technique and general personality. And it’s always handy to have someone to pull you up the hills on day four.
  • FUN TRAILS - We’ve scouted the funnest trails we could find, with loads of variety each day and achievable distances (30km min, 60km max). The perfect balance of enjoyable time on the bike and enjoyable time sipping beer.
  • COLD BEERS - Speaking of beer. We’re all for it. Very few things work up a thirst like a multi-stage MTB race. Which is why you’ll find we position our bar so close to the daily finish line.

EPIC NEW ZEALAND MOUNTAIN BIKE EVENT ON THE MOVE

The Pioneer Mountain Bike Stage Race is on the move, with organisers confirming the event will further evolve with a shift to the North Island in November 2020.

In its fourth year, the 2019 Pioneer, fuelled by Nutri-Grain, will be held from Sunday 1st December this year. The event starts and finishes in Queenstown, taking in a prologue and six stages totalling 433 km of riding and 12,540 metres of climbing, with Lake Moke, Alexandra and Bannockburn hosting overnight villages before the event finishes at the Queenstown Events Centre with a celebration dinner on the Friday evening.

IRONMAN Oceania Managing Director and race founder Dave Beeche says the internationally renowned event has enjoyed every moment in the stunning Central Otago region, but says it is time for the event to continue to live up to one of its pillar statements of ‘Ride Beyond’ and head to new trails for 2020.

“We have always seen the Pioneer as an event that celebrates New Zealand, one that brings international and local riders alike back year after year to enjoy world class riding trails, an epic challenge and get a taste of our legendary hospitality.

“To that end it is time to further evolve an event that is never standing still and always looking for new and innovative ways to engage with our riders and that international community. The Pioneer has already created lifelong memories and taken riders on some amazing trails, from Christchurch, Lake Tekapo, Ben Ohau, Lake Hawea, Snow Farm, Bannockburn and many more. And now in 2020 we will add to that impressive array of New Zealand’s best riding trails and stunning countryside at the yet to be disclosed new North Island location.

“The Queenstown and Central Otago communities have been wonderful hosts these past few years, as was Christchurch for our inaugural Pioneer back in 2016. I have no doubt the event will return to the region again in the future and take riders on another amazing week of riding.

“But our next step will add another chapter to the already storied history of this wonderful event and showcase a new and equally exciting area of the country to our local and international riders. Just as the Cape Epic – the pinnacle event of the Epic Series, is constantly changing and introducing new stages and locations, so too will The Pioneer. Our advantage in that sense is that we have an entire country to choose from, with a host of stunning scenery and a fast growing and amazing array of stage options on the New Zealand cycle trail network.”

More specific details of the new location will likely be revealed first to the 2019 riders, with an announcement expected at the event’s final dinner and presentations in Queenstown on December 6.

Beeche says the decision to confirm the move now has been made with current and future riders in mind.

“The Pioneer is an event that requires considerable planning by those riding and while we are not yet in a position to confirm the exact details of the new location for 2020, we felt it imperative to let the mountain bike community know of the move now to assist in their planning. That might be short term with a decision to enter the 2019 event in Queenstown, or longer term allowing them to plan for the new location in 2020.”

Beeche was at pains to stress that this is goodbye for now, but not forever to Central Otago.

“This is not the end of the trail for Queenstown and Central Otago, I have no doubt that the region might loom large in our future planning, but for the short term we are committed to an exciting and equally challenging new location, one that will live up to our unique Pioneer experience of Find Stunning, Find Welcome and Find Character over six days of epic riding.”

Riders wanting to enter the 2019 event and enjoy the stunning trails of the Central Otago can still do so. With ten weeks preparation time riders would not want to be starting from scratch but can certainly add the finishing touches to their base fitness and join riders from New Zealand and around the world in a stunning six-day journey taking in a mix of single track.

Already the event has attracted riders from 24 countries and will once again showcase New Zealand and the region to the world. In total 41 countries have been represented across the four years of The Pioneer.

In light of today’s news, organisers have extended the scheduled price increase for potential 2019 riders out to October 6, further details can be found at www.thepioneer.co.nz

2019 The Pioneer, Fuelled by Nutri-Grain, Overview

  • 433km of riding
  • 12,540m of climbing
  • MTB Single Track 22%
  • Cycle Trail 14%
  • 4WD Farm Track 37%
  • Sealed Rd 14%
  • Gravel Rd 13%

Land Rover Present a Rugged and Untamed Absa Cape Epic Route

The 2020 Absa Cape Epic will be The Race That Measures All thanks to a rugged and untamed route. Taking in 647 kilometres and 15 550 metres of climbing it will challenge and reward on the trails from Cape Town to Val de Vie.

The 2020 Absa Cape Epic

From the 15th to the 22nd of March 2020, the Absa Cape Epic will provide 1 300 mountain bikers with their toughest mountain bike challenge of the year. Rugged mountain passes and rocky singletrack ascents, though pristine fynbos await. As do sandy farm roads, between manicured orchards, and bone-rattling descents off ancient mountain ranges. This is the race that measures all on an untamed route, proudly brought to you by Land Rover, the Official Vehicle and Route Partner.

Longer than 2019, but with less metres of vertical ascent, the 2020 route uses the rocky African hinterland to provide the major challenges. It is a course for the nimble mountain goats, rather than the pure power machines. Expect punctures and mechanicals to have their say in the final general classification standings, as any moment of fatigue or undue risk could be punished severely. At 647 kilometres in length, with 15 550 metres of climbing, the bare numbers hide the true story.

Starting on the slopes of Table Mountain National Park, the 2020 Absa Cape Epic provides a familiar introduction to the event during the Prologue. Then it is transfer time, driving north to Ceres, ahead of Stage 1. Returning for the first time in a decade to the Western Cape’s deciduous fruit farming heartland and the famed Eselfontein trails. The opening marathon day sets the tone for the race, distance is rebuffed in favour of rugged technicality – it will be eight days in Land Rover heaven. Rocks, ruts, sand and off-camber corners fill the trails to Val de Vie.

The Queen Stage is early in the race, but Stage 2 is far from being head-and-shoulders more technical than the rest of the route. It explores the infamously tough Witzenberg Valley, a region where only the hard men and women of mountain biking thrive. Stage 3 continues the challenge, with a day back-loaded with climbing; including the race’s toughest ascent inside the final 20 kilometres of the day. The second moving stage, from Tulbagh to Wellington takes riders into a forgotten valley, into the Zuurvlakte.

Once in Wellington the trails become steeper and slightly smoother. The Wild Boar routes, which wind their way through the forested and fynbos covered slopes of the Groenberg and Hawequa mountains, provide much of the trills and many of the challenges too. Stage 5 is the steepest of the race, featuring 35 metres of elevation gain per kilometre, while Stage 6 is the penultimate and second longest of the race.

The Grand Finale takes riders from Wellington to Val de Vie for a fittingly glamourous finish to the World’s Premier Mountain Bike Stage Race. Reaching the last finish line is not easy. The Trail to Val de Vie’s 66 hard kilometres provide an appropriately rugged end to the 2020 Absa Cape Epic and ensure that every finisher earns his or her place in the Book of Legend.

Prologue

Sunday, 15 March

Distance: 20km

Climbing: 600m

Start Location: University of Cape Town

Finish Location: University of Cape Town

Table of the Cape

Cape Town’s iconic flat mountain provides fast and technical, at times, riding for the opening kilometres of the 2020 Absa Cape Epic, in Table Mountain National Park. Returning riders will be well briefed on what to expect; steep gradients heading both up and downhill, massive trail-side crowds and a flutter of pre-race butterflies. The race’s inaugural Land Rover Technical Terrain is provided by the now infamous Plum Pudding.

 

Stage 1

Monday, 16 March

Distance: 98km

Climbing: 1 800m

Start Location: Ceres

Finish Location: Ceres

Rating: 4 stars

Saddle Up

Not since 2013, has Stage 1 of the Absa Cape Epic dipped below the 100-kilometre mark. It is definitely no play-day though. Hard work lies ahead, to harvest the rewards of the exceptional Eselfontein trails, home to some of the oldest purpose-built mountain biking trails in the country. The Pipeline descent is one of the newer additions to the farm’s trail network and serves as the day’s Land Rover Technical Terrain.

 

Stage 2

Tuesday, 17 March

Distance: 94km

Climbing: 2 050m

Start Location: Ceres

Finish Location: Saronsberg, Tulbagh

Rating: 5 stars

Forgive My Sins

The Witzenberg Valley is undoubtedly one of mountain biking’s most challenging playgrounds, making Stage 2 a fitting holder for the title of Queen Stage. Sheets of sandstone provide the ultimate testing ground for man, woman and of course machine. No quarter is given by Mother Nature in this fertile valley. For those strong enough not to require one, there are rewards around every kink in the trail. The Skurfberg singletrack climb, through sandstone massifs, provides a challenging entrance to the Witzenberg Valley and the stage’s Land Rover Technical Terrain.

 

Stage 3

Wednesday, 18 March

Distance: 88km

Climbing: 2 100m

Start Location: Saronsberg, Tulbagh

Finish Location: Saronsberg, Tulbagh

Rating: 4.5 stars

The Winter Summit

With two converging mountain ranges to explore, Stage 3 of the 2020 Absa Cape Epic is not short on climbing. Nestled in the nook between the Groot Winterhoek and the Witzenberg Ranges, the Tulbagh Valley is not hasty to reveal its rewards. The stage features the first Dimension Data Hotspot sprint, down the town’s 300 year old Church Street and arguably the toughest climb in the race. Assegaaibos, a section of virgin trail, provides the Land Rover Technical Terrain.

 

Stage 4

Thursday, 19 March

Distance: 101km

Climbing: 1 950m

Start Location: Saronsberg, Tulbagh

Finish Location: CPUT, Wellington

Rating: 4 stars

The Forgotten Valley

After three days with precious few free kilometres the transition stage from Saronsberg, in Tulbagh, to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Wellington campus appears on paper to be an easier day. The first 100-kilometre plus stage includes more asphalt than any other in the race. It is however, anything but easy exploring one of the most truly untamed valleys in the Western Cape. A low range 4x4 worthy stretch of dual track, the Bull Run, is the designated Land Rover Technical Terrain.

 

Stage 5

Friday, 20 March

Distance: 85km

Climbing: 2 900m

Start Location: CPUT, Wellington

Finish Location: CPUT, Wellington

Rating: 4.5 stars

The Only Way Is Up

Short and brutally steep, on exhausted legs, Stage 5 will be a major physical and psychological hurdle on the trail to Val de Vie. In the past, stages like these have been dubbed play days, but there is little playful about this intense test. Challenging climbs are followed by white-knuckle singletrack descents. The Land Rover Technical Terrain – the Full Monty – cannot be ridden stripped of skill and wits so conserve your energy for the stage’s last dance.

 

Stage 6

Saturday, 21 March

Distance: 95km

Climbing: 2 300m

Start Location: CPUT, Wellington

Finish Location: CPUT, Wellington

Rating: 4 stars

Into The Wild

A saw tooth profile is exactly what riders do not want to see, come the penultimate day of the Absa Cape Epic. Riding through a private nature reserve, the presence of a zebra, eland, springbok and giraffe will serve as welcome distraction from aching legs. Rocky Horror mid-way through the stage, features the most fearsome name of any Land Rover Technical Terrain in the race and proves the theory of nominative determinism.

 

Stage 7

Sunday, 22 March

Distance: 66km

Climbing: 1 850m

Start Location: CPUT, Wellington

Finish Location: Val de Vie

Rating: 3.5 stars

The Trail to Val de Vie

Between Wellington and Val de Vie lie a final 66 kilometres of Untamed mountain biking. A last test to ensure that no finisher’s medal is handed over, without the realisation being driven home, that it was hard-earned. Bone Rattler marks the 2020 Grand Finale’s Land Rover Technical Terrain, after which it is a relatively smooth ride through Val de Vie’s immaculate grounds and lawns and into the Book of Legend.


2019 Swiss Epic delivers tight racing and unforgettable moments; sights now set on 2020 brand-new route

The 2019 Swiss Epic delivered exciting racing in the UCI Men’s and Women’s fields while a total of 574 registered amateur riders attempted the five-day mountain biking stage race in the Graubunden region of Switzerland.  Now sights are set for 2020 event featuring highlight-packed route of Laax – Arosa – Davos with general registration opening on 9 September 2019.

Adelheid Morath and Bettina Janas during Stage 5 of the 2019 Swiss Epic from Lenzerheide to Davos, Graubünden, Switzerland on 24 August 2019. Photo by Sam Clark.

It was a memorable and action-packed week in the Swiss Alps as the 2019 Swiss Epic unfolded in a fierce battle of willpower for the UCI Men’s and Women’s fields with mechanicals, illnesses, crashes, and exhaustion affecting performances and strategies.  Meanwhile, a total of 574 amateur riders making up 287 teams from 41 countries started their journey to the finish line, sharing the same exquisite but challenging trails with the professional riders.

Kicking off in a wet and cold Davos on Tuesday 20 August, riders were in for a muddy first stage from Davos to St. Moritz negotiating 3,000 meters of cumulative climbing over the 86km opening stage.  It was team Trek Selle San Marco and team Shimano S-Phyre that claimed the stage victories in the UCI Men and UCI Women’s categories respectively.

Heading into Stage 2, all eyes were on the race leaders with expectations high that they would retain their lead and pull another stage victory out the bag.  A 65km circular course around St. Moritz, Stage 2 was comparatively short but steep featuring panoramic views as the weather slowly started clearing to reveal the true beauty of the surroundings.  In sharp end of the racing field, the Trek Selle San Marco team of Michele Casagrande and Fabian Rabensteiner kept their lead firm, while the UCI Women’s category saw new stage winners in the form of KS Trek’s Adelheid Morath and Bettina Janas.

Stage 3 brought another transition as the race made its way from St. Moritz to Lenzerheide for the 80km Queen’s Stage. The technical trails and varying terrain including a section of the Lenzerheide Word Championships XCO course favoured the cross-country riders with team jb BRUNEX / Fischer BMC claiming the men’s stage win, while KS Trek held firm in the women’s field.  The penultimate stage of 48km around Lenzerheide during Stage 4 saw the return of the Trek Selle San Marco team across the line first while team KS Trek extended their lead in the women’s race with their third consecutive stage victory.

The Grand Finale between Lenzerheide and Davos concluded the week’s racing in spectacular fashion as team Trek Selle San Marco A wrapped up the overall title while Devonbosch Stellenbosch took the stage honours in the UCI Men’s division.  In the UCI Women’s division it was a dominant performance in the end by KS Trek with four stage wins and the overall title to add to their names.

A total of 253 amateur teams completed the 2019 Swiss Epic, along with a total of 28 individual riders whose partners were unable to complete the event.  A remarkable feat of riding as well as organisation, the 2019 Swiss Epic saw riders complete over 11,900 meters of cumulative climbing as 200 crew and 800 local volunteers from 14 local communities ensured a smooth race experience throughout.

The focus now shifts to 2020 as the Swiss Epic continues the tradition of changing its route year after year, bringing riders a brand-new experience in the scenic Graübunden region next year.  Enjoying the same warm and welcoming hospitality of the region, riders can look forward to a five-day stage race, from 18 to 22 August 2020. The journey will start in Laax where riders will spend two days traversing the trails before heading to the well-known Arosa village.  An Alpine resort village in the Schanfigg Valley, Arosa is known for its beautiful lakes, mountain slopes and trails.  After two days in Arosa, riders will transition to Davos, host of the sold out 2019 Swiss Epic start and finish, for pure mountain biking fun with breathtaking climbs and panoramic views.

The 2020 Swiss Epic will once again offer riders a full-service mountain biking experience with five nights in luxury Swiss hotels, breakfast and dinner in the race village accommodation, bike wash and servicing after each stage and door-to-door transport of the official Swiss Epic rider bags between their hotels. In addition, riders stand the exclusive chance to win one of 15 sought-after qualifying slots to the Absa Cape Epic stage race in South Africa.

General registration for the 2020 Swiss Epic opens on Monday, 9 September 2019 at 4pm CET.  To sign up to be notified when registration opens, visit the website here.


Back with a bang and riding for a cause

Stage 3 of the 2019 Swiss Epic saw riders tackle the Queen Stage of this year’s event, covering 80km between St. Moritz and Lenzerheide.  With 2,200m of ascent and 2,450m of descent, riders were yet again in for a tough day in the saddle.

Winding up the spectacular Albula Pass, the highest point of the Stage came early on as riders climbed to the top of the pass before being rewarded with the flowing trail to Bergun.  With the weather having cleared, the majority of the day was ridden in sunshine allowing teams to take in the magnificent views on their near endless descent to Filisur.  It was onwards to negotiate the sparse forest terrain to reach the plateau between Lenz and Lenzerheide which offered riders passage into the ultimate bit of mountain biking fun – the World Championship XC 2018 track.

Out conquering the passes and trails alongside hundreds of riders from countries as far afield as Brazil, Ecuador and Spain were South African duo, Team Intrepid.  The team made up of Denzyl O’Donoghue and Pieter du Preez are taking on their second Swiss Epic event, after last year’s race did not quite go to plan.

“It was very unfortunate. I misjudged things or overestimated my ability and I broke my foot.  The Swiss Epic staff and the support staff were really helpful. They got me off the mountain and to the hospital. I spent 12 weeks on crutches; Pieter and I were pretty resilient about the experience – we sat down and said, ‘We’re going to do this again’,” explained Denzyl.

Except the pair decided to go a little further than simply going back to conquer the Swiss mountains.  “We invented a campaign where we collect money for children and people who suffer from cancer.  We got sponsors for the Absa Cape Epic which we finished this year, and now we’re doing all three Epic Series Legend races [the Absa Cape Epic, the Swiss Epic and the Pioneer] in the same year with the idea of collecting money for charities that support cancer patients,” Denzyl said. “Up until now we’ve collected R275,000 and we hope that we’ll raise half a million Rand by the time we complete the Swiss Epic and Pioneer,” he added.

The team have been enjoying the course thus far while raising funds for a great cause. “It’s just a fantastic course, and you know these days I think everyone knows someone very close to them that has cancer and CANSA Active is just a fantastic charity to support; we want to thank everyone that supported our cause,” Pieter said.  “We’re from Cape Town and the climbing has been challenging, but it’s been great out there and really enjoyable.” he added.

By finishing the race this week, Denzyl and Pieter will be well on their way to becoming Epic Legends – a special group of riders who have completed all three Epic Legends races by finishing the Absa Cape Epic in South Africa, the Swiss Epic in Switzerland and the Pioneer, fueled by Nutri-Grain in New Zealand.

“I don’t know if anybody else has done all three in the same year!” Denzyl laughed. “We did three Absa Cape Epic races consecutively and we’re doing these three Epic Series races as a team consecutively so it will be five Epic races in three years,” he said with a smile.

Looking forward to the next few days of riding, Denzyl and Pieter aren’t shying away from the challenge of the climbs and the distance to cover.  “Personally, I think the Swiss Epic must be challenging otherwise it’s not the Swiss Epic. So, I have to be in pain at some point during the day but when I’m staying here [in Switzerland] and now look at you, I must feel good. That’s what I’m hoping for during the next few days. I don’t want to end up with a heart attack, but I must feel tired and feel that I earned the ride,” a motivated Denzyl explained.

Pieter’s outlook on the journey of completing the Swiss Epic is one we can all take to heart. “It’s a fantastic challenge, we’re just looking forward to the end of each day and to be here in one piece. We take it day by day and kilometre by kilometre. Hopefully we’ll get to the end in Davos eventually on Saturday and have a good party!”.

For more of the 2019 Swiss Epic action, tune into www.swiss-epic.com from 08:30.


The Quest for Epic Legend Status in the Swiss Alps - Part 2

Mike Blewitt, Craig Wylie and Gavin Wille are all in search of the final finisher’s medal in their Epic Series respective palmarès at the Swiss Epic. If they complete the Swiss Epic they will join the prestigious Epic Legends club.

Stage 2 of the Epic Series race, The Swiss Epic, took riders to the highest point of the race; the Laj Alv natural reservoir, at 2 543 metres above sea level. The route is back-loaded with climbing, with the day’s two most significant climbs falling within the final 25 kilometres of the 69-kilometre-long stage.

The potential Epic Legends featured today all live in Australia or New Zealand who have made the journey to the other side of the world in picturesque Switzerland.

Mike Blewitt, or Mr. Marathon MTB (as he is affectionately known), is no stranger to stage races and has made a career of the mountain biking industry from a racing and media perspective. Mike first encountered the Epic Series when he ventured to South Africa’s Western Cape in 2011 to tackle the Untamed African MTB Race – the Absa Cape Epic.

https://youtu.be/MJ_qZ_onuCU

A tough first bite at the Epic Series was enough to have him hooked and in 2017 he completed his first Pioneer, fuelled by Nutri-Grain in the backcountry of New Zealand, followed by a consecutive finish in 2018. The Swiss Epic hasn’t been smooth sailing for Mike though; his first attempt was back in 2015 where he was set to add another notch to his metaphorical Epic Series belt, but he was forced to withdraw due to illness. This year he is back and is set on claiming his Epic Legend status and accompanying medal, “I don’t want to count chickens before they hatch but getting the Epic Legend medal is a big motivator for me” he said.

After Stage 2, Mike and his partner, Imogen Smith, are currently leading the mixed category; Mike has completed done all other Epic Series races bar the Port to Port (which is next on their combined bucket list). Imogen is no stranger to stage races either and has her eyes set on her Epic Legend medal at the 2020 Absa Cape Epic.

Craig Wylie and Gavin Wille were given the title of Unlikely Legends, a title they are looking to ditch at this year’s Swiss Epic.

Craig and Gavin have quite a story that dates back long before they even set foot on the start line in Graubünden (read the history of these chaps here) and are both looking to claim their Epic Legends medals upon their safe return to Davos in roughly 250km and 8000m of climbing’s time. Yesterday they completed the opening stage in 06:39:57 and bettered their time today when they completed Stage 2 in 6:14:55 with smiles spread widely across their faces and plenty of energy in the reserves (the proof is in the victorious bunny hop). Craig said, “Back in 2017 we got everything wrong in the Absa Cape Epic, from a nutrition and game plan point of view. It’s just gotten better and better from last year’s Pioneer, fuelled by Nutri-Grain and now it is great!”. In comparing the Epic Series races, he admitted “They’re all tough. The Cape Epic is sandy and rocky, the Pioneer has tons of climbing, and the Swiss Epic has even more climbing per kilometre. But I cried more in the Cape Epic.”

Neither of the two have visited the Graubünden region before and Gavin had to admit that “Looking down to St. Moritz today was the best part. You simply cannot beat this view.” The pair then went on to compare the best and worst of each race: “The Swiss Epic wins hands down with the hotel comfort and sleep ins. And no bag pipes waking you up at 05:30 like at the Cape Epic!”

Legend of the Epic Series but not Yet an Epic Series Legend

Kross Racing Team star Ariane Lüthi has 8 Absa Cape Epic and 3 Swiss Epic finishes to her name. At the 2019 Swiss Epic she is aiming to add a fourth to her palmarès with New Zealand’s Samara Sheppard.

Lüthi is undeniably a legend of the Epic Series. Though she has yet to complete all three week-long Epic Series races and earn the coveted Epic Legend medal. The three-time Swiss marathon champion has three UCI women’s and two Virgin Active mixed category titles at the Absa Cape Epic to her name; to go with the two additional podium finishes in the Untamed African MTB Race and the title of inaugural champion of the Swiss Epic. In total she has notched up 8 Absa Cape Epic and 3 Swiss Epic finishes. At the 2019 Swiss Epic she is riding with New Zealand’s Samara Sheppard; the cross-country multiple national champion, who is making her first steps into the world of stage racing.

Sheppard was born in Clyde; 80 kilometres to the east of Queenstown, the starting point for The Pioneer, powered by Nutri-Grain. “I was born in Clyde, but grew up in Wellington, so it’s definitely on the list and I’m hoping to do it this December” Sheppard, a little guiltily, explained. She has however competed in the other Antipodean Epic Series events; Australia’s Port to Port, Reef to Reef and the Cape to Cape stage races. “Those events used to be single races, so I could race solo. But now they have all changed to be team races” the 2019 Port to Port champion said.

Having raced to solo success in the past this year has seen Sheppard step into team stage racing to great effect. In May she turned out with Australian cross-country champion Kate Mcilroy to win the Port to Port, Epic Series stage race in New South Wales. “The challenge in team races is to find someone you are compatible with, in terms of strengths. Ariane (Lüthi) asked if I’d like to do Swiss Epic and I’ve always loved riding in Switzerland, but it’s always been for cross-country racing. Now I’m getting into a bit more marathon racing so it was a great opportunity to ride with an experience rider and do this one” Sheppard recounted.

Given Lüthi’s palmarès it is unsurprising that Sheppard jumped at the chance to ride and learn from her. “The Epic Series races in Australia are no where near as challenging as the Absa Cape Epic, Swiss Epic or The Pioneer. Those three are just on another level of duration, difficulty and climbing. The ones in Australia have got a bit more singletrack and more kind-of fun, playing on your bike a bit more style of riding. But it’s cool that they form part of this big series from where riders can qualify for an Absa Cape Epic slot," she elaborated. “The vibe in those shorter races is also very chilled. You can just do it with your mate, without too much training, you just need to enjoy riding your bike. But to come over here everyone, not just the elite riders, have put in a lot of time working on their fitness. And that’s really crucial to making it through the five days. It’s a real challenge, even to the elite riders.”

Lüthi knows the challenge provided by the Swiss Epic all-to-well. She remains excited to take on the task though, aware that to the rest of the field her job of racing her bike around the globe seems ideal. “It is a great privilege to see so much from my bike” the well-travelled Swiss confessed. “I’ve just come back from a race in Romania. I’ve seen a lot of South Africa, especially the Western Cape with the Absa Cape Epic, and it’s really cool. I love the marathon racing in particular because you get to see a lot of a country.”

“You also get to meet so many people, especially at the Absa Cape Epic and the Swiss Epic” Lüthi continued, elaborating at the social side of stage racing which casual fans and non-riders miss out on. “These races bring a lot of people from all over the world together, which is absolutely fantastic. Unfortunately, at the Absa Cape Epic I’m so focused I almost don’t get the chance to talk to anyone. But I hope it will be better here. Already, we have quite an international team; I don’t know Samara so well. So, it’s great to get to meet and spend time with New Zealanders and Australians, which is really cool.”

The pair got the race off to a fantastic start in challenging conditions and managed to secure a second place on Stage 1.

Hopefully Luthi enjoys her Antipodean teammate and support crew during the week long Swiss Epic enough to pursue her racing ambitions into December this year. The Pioneer, powered by Nutri-Grain, is set to start in Queensland, on New Zealand’s South Island, on the 1st of December. The final event in the 2019 Epic Series calendar features 6 days of amazing mountain biking in the picturesque Southern Alps.


The Quest for Epic Legend Status in the Swiss Alps – Part 1

The 2019 Swiss Epic kicked off at 07:30 on Tuesday 20 August, in torrential rain, that turned the already challenging trails into a muddy slop that ensured even the most seasoned professionals got their money’s worth.

287 teams of two riders travelled from all corners of the globe to compete in this magnificent race that takes in some of the Graubünden region’s famed mountain bike trails.

In amongst those 287 teams are 12 potential Epic Legends. Epic Legends are individuals who have completed all three week-long races in the Epic Series, namely the Absa Cape Epic, the Pioneer, fuelled by Nutri-Grain in New Zealand, and the Swiss Epic. These 12 individuals all have the medal within their grasp and a tale of why and how they have gone about their quest so far; these are a few of their stories:

Antonio Faundez is from Switzerland and it is rather fitting that he has the opportunity to claim Legend Status in his home land. Antonio first ventured to South Africa in 2017 to participate in the Absa Cape Epic and it still holds a very sentimental place in his heart, “I love the Cape Epic. The size and the whole vibe in the race and the village; especially that I can ride with the best mountain bikers in the world on the same route!”

Upon completion of today’s wet and muddy stage, Antonio laughed, “Today’s stage felt like I was at The Pioneer again with wet weather, clouds and climbing it was awesome! I really hope I finish and can get my medal!” Antonio’s partner, Alex Kruger, has completed 10 Absa Cape Epics and says that someday he may make it to New Zealand to tackle the Pioneer – one thing’s for sure, Antonio and Alex sure have enough experience to put up a good fight, no matter the challenges ahead.

Alex and Antonio after Stage 1 of the 2019 Swiss Epic

Benjamin Ramirez and his partner Aldean Philip travelled over 10 000 kilometres from the Philippines with their girlfriends and mothers in tow as the trusted support crew. The team, who were a far cry away from the usual terrain that they ride in, finished today’s stage full of smiles, “We are having so much fun riding; the trails are flowy, but this is really cold for us coming from the Philippines!”.

Benjamin is set to receive his Epic Legend medal and status should he and Aldean cross the finish line in Davos in four days’ time. Benjamin receiving his medal will also be a huge stepping stone for Aldean, as all that will be left for him to do to claim his Epic Legend medal, is complete the 2020 Absa Cape Epic – for which they are already registered!

All the way from the Philippines, Aldean and Benjamin experienced some new conditions during Stage 1 of the 2019 Swiss Epic.

There are two current Epic Legends participating, Timothy Hammond, riding for DEVMCO Umhlanga Arch SPOT Africa became an Epic Legend when he took on New Zealand’s backcountry during the 2018 Pioneer, Fuelled by Nutri-Grain. Today’s muddy Alpine challenge had Timothy in the corner: “Today was cool, the trails were a lot of fun in the wet. I suffered a bit, but I think I’ve blown out the cobwebs with this really tough stage. The scenery was just spectacular – the old railway bridges, big pine forests and the long tunnel were all really cool features. Weather wise, it can only get better!”

Alexander Donaldson, from New Zealand, is no stranger to the current weather conditions being experienced in Davos. He became an Epic Legend at the 2018 Absa Cape Epic and is participating in the Swiss Epic for the second time. “I live and work in London and absolutely had to come over and experience the new route in Graubünden this year! It is fantastic and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for us throughout the remainder of the week.”

We’ll catch up with a few of the possible Epic Legends each day, so be sure to stay tuned.