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Men in Yellow and Women in Orange Double-Up on SPAR Swiss Epic Stage Wins

By Swiss Epic, 08/19/23, 2:45AM HST


Both the UCI Men’s and Women’s category leaders, Canyon Northwave and Elysator Efficient Infinity Insure, added second stage victories to their 2023 SPAR Swiss Epic hauls. Their win sees Martin Stošek and Marc Stutzmann add nearly 5 minutes to their general classification advantage after Stage 2. While Vera Looser and Kim le Court increased their lead to 14 minutes. 

Stage 2 of the 2023 SPAR Swiss Epic took the 300 teams from Lenzerheide in a south easterly direction towards St. Moritz; on Wednesday, 16 August. The day was dominated by the ascent of the Albula Pass, which not only looked imposing on paper, with a summit at 2 312 meters above sea level, but proved as decisive in reality as both the men’s and women’s winning teams used it launch their attacks. For Martin Stošek and Marc Stutzmann, of Canyon Northwave, it was the lower slopes and forest trails which provided the launch-pad. While Elysator Efficient Infinity Insure’s Vera Looser and Kim le Court attacked on the steepest asphalt ramp, half-way up the climb. 


The 81 kilometre route featured other challenges too, including the technical trails from Tschividains to Alvaschein and the climb across Moor Plateau Alp da Staz. In total the day included 2 350 meters of vertical ascent, views of ancient architecture like the 800-year-old Romanesque church at the foot of the pass, and breathtaking Swiss scenery like the 1000-year-old stone pine forests on the Moor Plateau. Most importantly though, the course provided opportunities to attacking racing. 


Adelheid Morath, of Davos Klosters, was the first to seize upon those opportunities as she dragged her teammate, Bettina Janas, and the women in the orange CIOVITA jerseys clear of the rest of the UCI Women’s field. Morath’s tempo was never high enough to put Looser and Le Court in trouble however. The general classification leaders were able to shadow Janas while Morath yo-yoed off the front, speeding up and slowing down in a futile bid to get the Elysator Efficient Infinity Insure women to break their tempo. 


The quartet started the Albula Pass climb together; with their nearest rivals on the trails, Torpado Bulls, nearly 10 minutes back. “I wanted to attack early in the climb already,” Le Court explained. “But Vera suggested we should rather be patient. Then around half-way up the pass we heard Bettina ask Adelheid to ease off slightly. We both accelerated then.” 


That move paid dividends rapidly as they quickly established a 2 minute buffer. Though the Davos Klosters team were able to compose themselves and hold the gap to under 3 minutes for the rest of the stage they were unable to bring Looser and Le Court back. For the second day in a row the Namibian/Mauritian combination rode to stage honours. Adding 2 minutes and 36 seconds to their overall lead, which now stands at 14 minutes and 9 seconds over Janas and Morath. Katazina Sosna and Irina Lützelschwab, of Torpado Bulls, were third on the stage and remain third on the UCI Women’s general classification standings. 


In the UCI Men’s race a select group had formed in the early kilometres with Canyon Northwave, Wilier Pirelli, BUFF MEGAMO, Bulls, Team Laax and SCOTT Racing vying for positions in the lead into the Albula Pass. Despite having ten riders for company, when the trails steepened Stošek and Stutzmann were able to ensure they were at the front. The men in the yellow CIOVITA leaders’ jerseys upped the pace, dropping Gioele de Cosmo and Jacopo Billi first. Next Wout Allemann began to suffer, but the European Marathon Champion dug deep and worked his way back up towards his teammate, Daniel Geismayr. 


Still when Canyon Northwave accelerated again Wilier Pirelli were powerless to resist. Stošek and Stutzmann gradually extended the advantage they had established on the forested lower slopes of the Albula on the asphalt middle section of the climb. By the time they crested the summit they had a 3 minute 40 lead over the chasing group; of Wilier Pirelli, BUFF MEGAMO, Bulls and Team Laax. They worked to extend that advantage by another 40 seconds over the final 30 kilometres, while Allemann and Geismayr dangled off the back of the bunch contesting second place on the stage. 


After 3 hours, 20 minutes and 40 seconds of racing Canyon Northwave crossed the finish line in St. Moritz. Simon Schneller and Axel Roudil Cortinat outsprinted Hans Becking and Peeter Pruus, as well as Fadri Barandun and Konny Looser for second. Geismayr and Allemann had to be content with fifth. As well as with conceding an additional 35 seconds, to the day’s winners, compared to the 4 minutes 24 which the other three teams ceded to Stošek and Stutzmann. 


“With legs like this we can keep this gap and hopefully even rest a bit in the coming stages,” Stošek jested. Before clarifying: “No, in stage races there’s no resting, but this lead means we don’t have to attack every day. That will hopefully allow us to conserve energy. Because, like I said yesterday, anything can happen. A big gap doesn’t mean you will win the race, especially after Stage 2. We have to stay focused and keep taking it day-by-day.”


Canyon Northwave’s lead after two days of racing is 7 minutes and 52 seconds over Wilier Pirelli, who are themselves only 29 seconds ahead of BUFF MEGAMO. In fourth and fifth on the general classification standings Bulls and Team Laax are tied, after 6 hours, 4 minutes and 21 seconds of racing. 


That should change on Stage 3 however. The day’s route starts and finishes in St. Moritz, exploring adventure seeker’s playground which is the Engadin Valley. “I was here for altitude training a few weeks ago, so it feels like home to me,” Looser smiled when asked about the trails. “I love the Engadin; the trails are amazing. Tomorrow, we do all the flow trails around St. Moritz and I’m really excited for that!” 


Looser’s excitement is justified as the 68 kilometre stage, despite including 2 400 metres of climbing, certainly features the best mountain biking in St. Moritz. Highlights include the Marmotta Flow Trail, the WM Flow Trail, the Olympia Flow Trail and the Foppettas Flow Trail. The day also provides an imposing challenge with the climb to the highest point in the race, at 2 680 metres above sea level, at the summit of Munt da San Murezzan.