The trails from St. Moritz to Davos were filled with drama on the Queen Stage of the SPAR Swiss Epic, as a crash put the Adelheid Morath out of the race and nearly ended Kim le Court’s campaign too. Torpado Bulls capitalised to win the stage, while in the men’s race Daniel Geismayr and Martin Stošek had a coming together, but stayed upright. Wilier Pirelli then outsprinted Canyon Northwave for line honours.
Stage 4 of the 2023 SPAR Swiss Epic – from St. Moritz to Davos, on Friday, 18 August – was action packed. Crashes and near misses, rather than head-to-head racing, provided the drama as Torpado Bulls and Wilier Pirelli emerged victorious on the day. Katazina Sosna and Irina Lützelschwab were the beneficiaries of a crash which brought down Adelheid Morath and Kim le Court, in the UCI Women’s race. While Daniel Geismayr and Wout Alleman outsprinted Martin Stošek and Marc Stutzmann, in the UCI Men’s, after Geizmayr and Stošek had flirted with disaster in the run in to the finish.
The Queen Stage of the 2023 race took the teams from St. Moritz to Davos along a 73 kilometre course. The route took in 1 950 meters of climbing and included the highest point of the race, the summit of the Scaletta Pass at 2 606 meters above sea level. It also included a spectacular finale, from Scaletta down towards Davos, along the Dürrboden Trail and a series of forestry road descents through the Dischma Valley.
Having started the day with a 20 minute lead over the Davos Klosters team, the Elysator Efficient Infinity Insure squad had only to mark their rivals. “Around 25 kilometres into the day we were climbing a forestry road which was going to drop into a singletrack,” Vera Looser began the explanation of the day’s most dramatic incident. “We were going quite fast, because Kim and I wanted to lead into the singletrack to control the pace. As Kim looked behind to check where I was Adelheid changed her line, bringing them both down.”
It was immediately apparent that both Morath and Le Court were in significant pain. The European Marathon Champion was first to her feet but was holding her shoulder and palpating for bones out of place. Le Court remained curled up in the foetal position before slowly rising and remounting her bike under the watchful eye of Looser.
“Kim is like my little sister, to see her hurt like that also breaks my heart,” a visibly emotional Looser confessed. “I know how strong she is, she was walking things she would normally ride. But she still wanted to finish. I said to her; ‘Kim, if you want to stop. we can. It’s only a bike race.’ But she kept telling me; ‘No, I want to finish. I will finish.’ Her fighting spirit was amazing! Hats off to her.”
Having waited together for a moment to see what each team’s plan was Looser and Le Court pushed on, while Bettina Jannas remained with Morath. The German was taken from the course to hospital where it was revealed that she sustained a broken collarbone. The Mauritian was able to battle her way to the finish line, but never looked comfortable on the bike throughout the final 50 kilometres of the stage.
Torpado Bulls’ Katazina Sosna and Irina Lützelschwab were just behind the top two women’s teams when the crash took place. They continued to ride their own tempo and eventually won the stage, ahead of the riding wounded Elysator Efficient Infinity Insure team and the CANNONDALE VAS ARABAY WOMEN.
“We didn’t celebrate because it’s not nice to win like this,” Sosna stated. “You want to win when you are the best team on the day, but not like this,” her teammate Lützelschwab added. Nevertheless, the victory and Morath’s withdrawal moves Torpado Bulls into second position on the UCI Women’s overall standings. They are 35 minutes and 34 seconds behind the women in the orange CIOVITA jerseys. Yet, with Le Court set for a hospital visit on Friday afternoon and an uncomfortable night ahead of the final stage, that 35 minute lead suddenly appears very fragile.
In the UCI Men’s race the drama was confined to an incident which did not bring any of the main contenders down. It only occurred late in the stage however, but did lead to a few heated words on the finish line, before peace was made. Earlier the two top teams were once again in a class apart. Canyon Northwave and Wilier Pirelli climbed away from the rest of their rivals on the lower slopes of the Scaletta Pass, before Stošek and Stutzmann pushed on to build a 1 minute lead over the summit.
“We had quite a gap to make up on the descent and took some risks, maybe we were a bit kamakazi,” Allemann admitted. “We rejoined Canyon Northwave and then knew we were all-in for the win. Daniel and Martin had a bit of a coming together, but that’s also racing.”
The teams continued to battle it out right to the finishing straight, where Allemann got the jump on the rest of the group. This left Geismayr to sprint against Stošek and Stutzmann. The Austrian Marathon Champion pipped the Czech rider by the narrowest of margins. Which handed Willier Pirelli their second successive stage victory, but did nothing to change their overall deficit to Canyon Northwave.
“We had some contact, with 10 kays to go, with Dannie [Daniel Geismayr] so we were discussing that after the stage,” Stošek revealed. “It’s over now though. We talked about it right after the stage, which is the best way to deal with these things, and now its fine.”
While the top two UCI Men’s teams’ general classification standings were not affected by the outcome of the day the Bulls did move up a spot into third overall. Simon Schneller and Axel Roudil Cortinat finished the stage in third, nearly 4 and a half minutes ahead of BUFF MEGAMO in sixth. This vaults the Bulls over Hans Becking and Peeter Pruus going into the final stage.
Stage 5 of the 2023 SPAR Swiss Epic is an alpine tour of the best trails around Davos. The 66 kilometre course includes 2 150 metres of climbing and features local singletrack highlights like the Alps Epic Trail, the Junkerboden, thee Ischalp Trail and the Bolgen Trail. The steepness of the climbs and the ruggedness of the descents will certainly prove a challenge for Le Court in particular, if she is able to start the grand finale.