Swiss combination Alessandra Keller and Kathrin Stirnemann of top UCI World Cup outfit Team Thömus have their sights set on the win at their ‘home race’ – the Perskindol Swiss Epic. Not only is their headline sponsor Swiss, they’re also managed by former Swiss mountain bike pro Ralph Näf (himself a former XCE and XCM world champion).
Coming off a recent win at the UCI World Cup short track race in Andorra – trouncing several former or current world champions including big names such as Jolanda Neff, Annika Langvad and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot – Alessandra Keller looks set to become a dominant force in women’s mountain biking. She’ll pair up with trade teammate Kathrin Stirnemann, also a former world champion in the XCE (cross-country eliminator) discipline.
“Every time we put a number board on our bikes we want to do well,” said Stirnemann. “But we also want to enjoy the race and we are just super excited and are looking forward to an awesome event with great trails and good people.”
Their main rivals include the pairings of Catharine Pendrel and Haley Smith of Canada and the Ghost Factory Racing duo of Anne Terpstra and Barbara Benko.
“Yeah, I think Catharine (Pendrel) and Haley (Smith) are going to be super-strong, so will Anne (Terpstra) and Barbara (Benko) – and we’re looking forward to some exciting racing,” continued Stirnemann. “I think it will be interesting to see how all the cross-country specialists are going to handle a stage race.”
While Alessandra and Kathrin have never officially raced together as a unit, both riders will be carrying some form going into the race. Add to that a strong friendship, complementing riding styles and Kathrin’s stage race experience, and the two may very well be the team to beat come September.
“We’ve never raced as a team but we train a lot together and are such good teammates and friends,” added Stirnemann. “I’m sure we’re going to be a good combination. I have a lot of stage race experience – I’ve done the Cape Pioneer in South Africa twice before and raced the Absa Cape Epic with Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja.”
There will be a strong Stirnemann presence at this year’s race with Kathrin’s brother, Matthias, looking to add the Perskindol Swiss Epic title to the Absa Cape Epic crown he won last year with partner Nino Schurter.
“My brother, Matthias (winner of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic), is also racing and will be going for the overall so it would be great, of course, if we both ended up winning our categories and can celebrate together.”