Centurions in the Alps

A former Swiss Epic winner returns to Graubünden with a young partner to take on the 2020 race. While the Centurion Vaude-Radon women’s team combines one of 2019’s podium finishers and the reigning German cross-country champion.

Daniel Geismayr is among the world’s most accomplished mountain bike stage racers. The multiple Austrian Marathon Champion has a Swiss Epic title to his name and an Absa Cape Epic bronze medal on his palmarès. In 2020 he returns for another tilt at the Swiss Epic title, partnered by Ben Zwiehoff, in the colours of Centurion Vaude. While the team, which specializes in marathon and stage racing, has partnered Germany’s cross-country champion, Elisabeth Brandau, with Stefanie Dohrn as team Centurion Vaude-Radon.

With all four of the Centurion Vaude and Centurion Vaude-Radon athletes being based in Germany or Austria they were able to train outdoors throughout their countries’ Covid-19 lockdowns. “Corona has had little impact on my training” the squad’s senior member, Geismayr, revealed. “But I haven’t had as many race days as I would usually have had, compared to previous years. That is the same for everyone though, so it is strange but at least not unique.”

Germany’s management of the pandemic allowed Zwiehoff to train to a point that he believes he is stronger heading into the truncated racing season. “We had no further lockdown-problems and I had no training-issues” the 26-year old confirmed. “I was able to use the time to bring myself me up to a better level than I’ve been at before. Because of this I’m really looking forward to proving myself and my form at the Swiss Epic.”

“I’m really excited to come back to racing” Zwiehoff enthused. “My last race was the Andalucía Bike Race, where I placed second in early March, so it is nice to restart with the next big one of the stage-race-calendar!” The Swiss Epic is also a race in which Centurion Vaude has traditionally performed well. Geismayr won the men’s race with Jochen Käss in 2017 and in 2019 Dohrn placed second alongside Alice Pirard.

“Last year, Alice [Pirard] and I did not expect to end up in second position overall, given the high quality of the 2019 women’s field” Dohrn reflected. “We were really happy about that and, of course, Team Centurion Vaude wants to end up in a good position this year too. It was a close race last year and, I think, this year will be even closer; because there are a lot of super strong women’s teams set to participate.”

Securing a partner has not be plain sailing for Dohrn, however. She was set to race alongside 2019 third place finisher, Samara Sheppard. The New Zealander unfortunately had to withdraw from the race. “For Samara [Sheppard] it is sadly not possible to travel to the Swiss Epic, so I will be racing with Elisabeth Brandau” Dohrn confirmed. She is incredibly strong and also super. I’m honoured, in fact, to race with her.”

“Because of Covid everyone’s plans, including my own, are changing every month or sometimes every week even” Brandau sighed. “That, has its challenges. But because of those changing plans I now get the chance to start the Swiss Epic. Centurion Vaude’s plan was changed by riders from outside Europe being unable to travel to Switzerland while my plans were impacted by the cancellations of UCI Mountain Bike World Cup races. Now that my participation is confirmed, I’m really happy to get the chance to be able to race Swiss Epic, especially with the great support of Stefanie [Dohrn]’s team.”

“It is also great to be able to race with a fellow German rider. I’m sure we will do our best together” Brandau continued. “Racing as a team is special; it’s not always about being super-fast alone, but rather about working together to maximise each other’s strengths and minimise each other’s weaknesses. If we bring our experience together will have a great week on the bike the goal of a podium place is very achievable.”

The men’s team are also among the favourites for a podium position. They recognise the Swiss Epic field is arguably the strongest yet in the race’s seven edition history. “The line-up is so cool this year” Zwiehoff said. “For me, it’s an honour to race against some of the biggest names in the sport. But Dani [Geismayr] and I will try our best to finish the Swiss Epic in the most successful way. Maybe we can also go for a stage win…” “I think the race has never seen a field as strong as the one assembled for this year” his teammate Giesmayr added. “But this fact motivates me even more. I’m looking forward to racing at the highest level again.”

For mountain bike fans who share the Centurion Vaude and Centurion Vaude-Radon riders’ enthusiasm for the Swiss Epic the race can be followed live on www.swiss-epic.com. The racing starts, in Laax, on the 18th of August and wraps up, in Davos, on the 22nd. In total it takes in 320km through the high mountains and majestic valleys of Graubünden.