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Queens of the Epic to Contest 2023 SPAR Swiss Epic Title

By Swiss Epic, 08/11/23, 2:00AM HST


The SPAR Swiss Epic, a legend status event in the global Epic Series of mountain bike races, will see some of the world’s best stage racers do battle in Graubünden, from 15 to 19 August. Among the elite fields are the defending SPAR Swiss Epic and Absa Cape Epic women’s champions, who reignite their 2022 tussle.

Hosted by Switzerland’s south eastern Graubünden canton, the SPAR Swiss Epic is one of the world’s premier mountain bike stage races. It boasts five days of incredible racing; taking in high mountain passes, deep alpine valleys, scenic dual tracks and spectacular singletracks. The riding is challenging but rewarding, and the racing is sure to be furiously competitive. 


The 2023 race takes place from the 15th to the 19th of August, starting in the Bike Kingdom of Lenzerheide. Taking in 339 kilometres of breathtaking riding the route includes 10 850 metres of climbing and 10 800 metres of descending, as well as a visit to the internationally renowned resort village of St. Moritz, as it makes its way to Davos. Alongside a stacked field of UCI men’s teams are a select but powerful UCI women’s line-up. 


Headlining the impeding women’s battle are the defending SPAR Swiss Epic and Absa Cape Epic champions. The contest between the Davos Klosters and Elysator Efficient Infinity Insure teams is also a rematch of the 2022 SPAR Swiss Epic, though Vera Looser and Kim le Court have grown significantly as a stage race partnership in the last twelve months. 


“The SPAR Swiss Epic is really where it all started for Kim and myself” Looser reflected. “We have known each other for quite a while, but we had never raced a mountain bike stage race together. The SPAR Swiss Epic showed us last year, that we make a good team. Not only on the bike, but also off the bike, which is very important if you spend so much time together. It is great to come back to the Swiss mountains with Kim and hopefully take it a notch up.” 


The Namibian/Mauritian pairing placed third last year, behind Bettina Janas and Adelheid Morath as well as Janina Wüst and Debora Piana. Though that was hot on the heels of both Looser and Le Court racing the Commonwealth Games road race and mountain bike cross-country events. Since the SPAR Swiss Epic they went on to win the 2022 FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay race (an Epic Series Classic status event) and the 2023 Absa Cape Epic


“After winning the Absa Cape Epic, in March this year, together we obviously aim for the top step at this year’s SPAR Swiss Epic” Looser emphasised. “Although the profile looks very different to the Absa Cape Epic, I still believe we have a good chance. There will be teams on the start line, who we didn’t race in the Absa Cape Epic, so I am sure it will be a good battle for the podium spots.”


“Given that we came third last year with quite a few mechanicals, we are for sure excited to come back to take that top step,” Le Court grinned. “I also do believe that Vera and I have grown as riders on and off the bike. So, we shall be back this year with a bit more ‘punch’ to give.” 


In Janas and Morath, Looser and Le Court have seasoned and formidable opposition. The Davos Klosters team have won the two editions of the SPAR Swiss Epic they have started together, with Morath having notched up a third victory back in 2015 alongside Sally Bigham for good measure too. To add extra intensity to their impeding battle the recent UCI Marathon World Championships saw all four members of the top two teams taking part. Morath claimed a brilliant bronze medal, to showcase her form heading into the SPAR Swiss Epic. While Looser was seventh, Le Court was tenth and Janas finished sixteenth. 


As a frequent representative of the final host town, Janas knows the trails of Graubünden better than most. “We both just like mountains!” she laughed when asked what her and Morath’s secret to SPAR Swiss Epic success is. “We like to ride uphill as well as technical downhills. In this respect, we particularly like the SPAR Swiss Epic routes. We can play to our strengths there and harmonise well with each other as a team.” 


The UCI women’s race battle will not be limited to the Davos Klosters and Elysator Efficient Infinity Insure teams however. Katazina Sosna and Irina Lützelschwab, of Torpado - Bulls, will also be in contention for race victory, as well the Cannondale Vas Arabay team of Monica Calderon and Tessa Kortekaas. The Triskelions, Amy Henchoz and Jane Barr, as well as Aurélie Halbwachs and Sarah Hill, racing in the colours of St. Moritz, should be in contention for a top five placing or even a podium spot if one or more of the favoured teams faulter. While Bike Hub’s Kylie Hanekom and Ila Stow, Next Ride’s Chrystelle Baumann and Sandra Stadelmann Hushi, and Giordana Bikearena Zermatt’s Larissa Rossner and Melanie Eichmann will likely be locked in a hotly contested contest for the minor places in the top ten. 

In the UCI men’s race the defending champions, Willier Pirelli will have their work cut-out for them too, if they are to add a third SPAR Swiss Epic title to their team’s palmarès. Daniel Geismayr and Wout Alleman will face off against Canyon Northwave’s Martin Stošek and Marc Stutzmann as well as Simon Schneller and Axel Roudil-Cortinat, of the Bulls. Hans Becking, of Buff Megamo starts the race fresh off victory in the Andorra Epic Pyrenees. The Dutch Epic Legend will race alongside Estonian Peter Pruus. 


Cannondale Vas Arabay’s Roberto Bou Martin and Miguel Munoz, as well as Swiss local Casey South, who will start alongside Jakob Dorigoni, for Torpado Factory, are also teams to watch. As are the Grischa locals by Laax team of Fadri Barandun and Konny Looser. Frequent Epic Series campaigners, KMC will be represented by Teus Ruijter and Tim Smeenge in Switzerland. Pierre Billaud and Rémi Groslambert, of the Frenchy team, and the SCOTT Racing combination, Gioele de Cosmo and Jacopo Billi, round out the squads in the top ten pre-race rankings. 


Dark horse teams, who have not contested enough UCI marathon events in 2023 to rank highly, include the Infinity-BiXS and USA Cycling Athlete Development Pathway teams. The former contains 2016 and 2021 champion, Lukas Flückiger. While the latter has been represented by athletes of the quality of Christopher Blevins and Keegan Swenson in the past. Americans Noah Warren and Kyan Olshove might be unheralded names now; but if they repeat Blevins and Swenson’s third position of 2018, they will be well on their way to following in the footsteps of the now established stars. 


Mountain biking fans will be able to watch the 2023 SPAR Swiss Epic live, on the Epic Series’ YouTube channel. The race will be broadcast live daily, by combining footage from the Bulls media eBikes the videography team and amateur riders taking part in the race. Though a partnership with the SPAR Swiss Epic will be able to share the perspectives of open, masters, grand masters and mixed category teams as they attempt to conquer the Alps.