Swiss marathon champion, Ariane Lüthi headlines a distinctively international field of elite women for the 2019 Swiss Epic. The five day, S1 Union Cycliste Internationale stage race is set to take place in the Graubünden canton from 20 to 24 August. Alongside the local Swiss heroine is New Zealand’s Samara Sheppard; while the pair will contest for victory against teams from across the globe.
Lüthi won the inaugural edition of the race back in 2014 and will be eager to add the 2019 title to her palmarès. The Kross Factory Racing star splits her time between her native Switzerland and the sunny climate of South Africa. Winning on home soil remains very important to her though. “I’m really looking forward to racing the Swiss Epic again, after missing the 2018 race” the three-time Swiss marathon champion said. She will be representing Poland’s largest charity, Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy, alongside the three-time Kiwi Cross Country champion Sheppard.
“I really love the race” Lüthi enthused before pointing out: “The Engadin Valley in particular is very popular with visiting mountain bikers. It’s really one of the most beautiful areas with lots of purpose built mountain bike trails.”
Hielke Elferink, who has unfortunately been forced to withdraw from the race with a knee injury, has a wealth of local knowledge. “I’ve lived in Davos for two and a half years now and though I am Dutch, I somehow feel so much at home in the mountains” Elferink smiled. “The riding is really great. You will find so many options with your bike” she promised.
“Riders will have to tackle long climbs; which could take about 45 minutes. But once we are at a certain level it could be that we are sent into a very nice alpine trail, which kind of stays at the same altitude and has a lot of short steep climbs, combined with nice technical parts. I expect a very hard, but super nice week of racing. The area you will cross is a true paradise” she concluded with a wry note to her voice, knowing that she would be missing the ride through paradise.
Two riders who will not be missing the amazing riding are Adelheid Morath and Bettina Janas. The German combination have ample stage and marathon racing experience between them. Morath in particular, has a point to prove after a disappointing World Cup campaign. Having bested her former Absa Cape Epic teammate, Lüthi, in the Epic Series’ flagship event this March Morath will be hoping to showcase similar form in Graubünden.
She and Janas will also have to best the Swiss combination of Corina Gantenbein and Kathrin Stirnemann if they are to have any hopes of success. The 2014 and 2017 Cross Country Eliminator Champion, Stirnemann needs no introduction. Alongside her own impressive palmarès is her family’s recent history with the Swiss Epic too. Her younger brother Matthias won the men’s race in 2018 alongside Andri Frischknecht. Gantenbein meanwhile is returning from nearly a year off racing, due to glandular fever, but having placed eighth at the 2017 Cross Country World Championships she has an undeniable racing pedigree and could be more than a match for Stirnemann’s power.
Another all-Swiss pairing are the young-gun team of Ramona Kupferschmied and Chrystelle Baumann. At just 21 Kupferschmied is the youngest woman and by a three-year margin to her partner Baumann the youngest elite woman in the race. What they lack in experience they will no doubt seek to make up for with youthful enthusiasm and boundless energy. Over five challenging days that might not be enough though, but Kupferschmied and Baumann are sure to learn a significant amount.
Stage race experience is hard-earned. No one outfit has earned more over recent years than the Centurion Vaude squad. The team, which is sponsored by the German bike and mountain sports brands, will be represented in the women’s race by Alice Pirard and Stefanie Dohrn. The pair last raced the Swiss Epic together in 2016 when they placed fifth overall.
The final elite women’s team to watch as the Swiss Epic unfolds is the ABRO / Fairtree team of Jennie Stenerhag and Katie Lennard. Stenerhag is, along with Lüthi and Morath, the third pervious winner in the women’s field. The multiple Swedish marathon champion is returning to her best form after an injury hit 2018 and will be partnered by South African, Lennard.
To follow the women’s racing action from the 2019 Swiss Epic mountain biking fans can visit www.swiss-epic.com.
The race will also feature extensive live coverage on social media, with regular updates and highlights from the event on Facebook, @SwissEpic; Instagram, @swiss_epic; and YouTube, Swiss Epic.