Because of bad weather forecasts, the organisers decided on Wednesday evening to make some significant changes to the race. The start for all categories would be on the S-chanf which meant that instead of 137km and 4000hm, the race would be 47k and 1000hm. Quite a different race all together.
At first, I thought, how crazy this was. Hardly worth travelling to Scuol for this new route, especially as I had a tough week teaching in school. Additionally, I couldn’t complete my training program fully as a problem thumb joint from the last race, flared up and I had problems gripping the handlebars. I tried to relive the problem thumb with treatment to reduce the inflammation… I wanted to race at Scuol as I am doing well in the overall standings and every race counts.
With this in the background, I left straight after school on Friday, but this time alone as Erich needed to keep the shop open over the weekend. Dani Wyder jumped on board in Pfäffikon, and I was really grateful for this company. Also, as it was raining hard, progress to the race was slow. As we drove into Engadin, I pointed out the feed spots where we would meet the following day. We arrived in Scuol at 7:30pm, collected the start number and headed to the hotel in Ftan…. Where I was so hungry I took a beeline for the food before going to the room.
The start was at 8:30am, 2 hrs later than planned but we were up at the same time, 5am. After breakfast at this early hour, I prepared my kit, got things sorted and made my bidons. 6:30am saw us on the way to S-chanf and the start area. There wasn’t any signage at S-chanf but fortunately it’s a small place so it was easy to find the start line. I got warm on the rollers with some small chats with people before lining up in the start box. We were “neutralised” until the official track so we wouldn’t risk the jostling chaos of a mass start.
Finally, we were released to race and the pace really picked up. I was focussed on the win today even though I was telling myself it was “just” about getting points for the overall rankings.
I was pretty fired up after reading a preliminary report from Martin Platter:
“In the women’s category, Bike Marathon Classics leader Esther Süss is not likely to be as confident as she is with the track cut – the 44-year-old’s favourite terrain is long and steep climbs, which may open up the possibility for a youngster Rider like Alessia Nay from Zizers, who was one of the early contenders for the middle distance last year, or Janine Schneider who, like Nay, is only 23 years old.”
I wanted to ride off the front and got away well at the start and placed myself in a group that had gaps opening and closing all the time. Then I found myself out on my own and took a little speed out and moderated the pace… the group caught up and I took my place again.
The riding was a little nervous… position battles which weren’t productive and risky as well. Everyone together would be quicker than a lone rider… So, the inevitable crashes happened which was dangerous and I needed to be alert to be able to react. I managed to avoid falls several times….
Before Zernez I had an image of myself lying on the ground after a fall… but I snapped my focus back and avoided all the problems around me. After many small kickers and crossing the Ofenpassstrasse in Zernez, the “longer” ascent arrived and I could match the pace well and keep up.
Next, to Lavin, where Dani stood for the second time. After Lavin, we went up again a little longer to Guarda and Ftan. Still a bit higher and then down on the scooter route. On this downhill I saw everything ahead and I could have ridden a lot faster, especially around the corners, but that did not fit with the ego of many a man, so I left it, because I did not want to risk anything on the last few kilometres.
Down through Scuol to the Inn, but instead of over the bridge we had always ridden, we turn left and took the next bridge and rather steep ramp up to the finish. Here I couldn’t quite keep up with the men, because they could pile on the gas, but I lacked the raw power!
Nevertheless, I was able to win the race and even set a new course record. With my time I was also able to pick up the prize of the fastest day! Thank you very much, the Sponsor !!
I would also like to thank Dani, who had given his time and accompanied me to Engadine. Since I was traveling so fast on the course, he could not quite keep up with me and missed me in Guarda.
Thanks also to the whole organizational team putting on the National Park Marathon, who had to send in some night workers to organize everything on such short notice. They worked hard to ensure every participant was at the start at the right time and could pick up their bag at the finish.
It always takes a brave and bold decision to shorten races, but it was absolutely right! Also, the solution, that „every track“ had its own launch, I found great! Otherwise there would have been even more falls.
With this, I wish you all a good start to the new week.
Translation from @rickharrison
📷 Martin Platter