Bärti Bucher is a familiar face around the Absa Cape Epic


Bärti Bucher is a familiar face around the Absa Cape Epic. The Swiss Grand Master has ten Untamed African Mountain Bike Race finishes to his name; along with 2 Masters, 1 Mixed and 3 Grand Masters category titles on his palmarès. He is perhaps best known though for drinking a beer on the finish line of each stage.

Credit Absa Cape Epic

Bucher is riding the Perskindol Swiss Epic alongside his fellow countryman and Absa Cape Epic partner Hansjürg Gerber. The pair may not have worn the Grand Masters jerseys at the Absa Cape Epic this year, but they are rectifying that at the Perskindol Swiss Epic, on their home trails, where they lead the category after two days of racing.

Speaking about the difference between the two events Bucher explained: “There’s a big difference. In the Absa Cape Epic you have a lot of dust and it is very busy in the early part of the stages. There are over one thousand riders and everyone is moving up and down through the field, which makes it even more dusty.” In the Perskindol Swiss Epic the compact field of 334 starters make jostling for position, even at the sharp end of the race, less of a source of tension for the riders.

That’s not to say it is easy however. Bucher continued: “In the Absa Cape Epic you have one hundred climbs and descents. Here you only have maybe four climbs. But they are very long and if you go too hard on one… you will kill yourself” he said slipping into hyperbole.

He and Gerber, riding in the colours of BiXS/Bikeholiday.ch, are unlikely to misjudge their efforts; being the experienced riders that they are. Riding in local conditions also helps, as they are accustomed to training and racing on the long climbs and exceptionally technical downhills of the Swiss Alps. Their nearest rivals after two stages, 140 kilometres of riding and 5 400 meters of climbing, are the German Centurion KroGa106 team of Ralf Kropp and Patrick Gall.

To see if Bucher and Gerber can extend their 31 minute lead on the third stage, which starts and finishes in Grächen, log on to www.epic-series.app/swissepic/tracking. Stage 3 is the Queen Stage of the race and features a daunting 2 850 meters of climbing in just 71 kilometres. For more information about the race and to read about all the racing categories, visit www.swiss-epic.com.

Leaders’ jerseys swap shoulders in the Men’s and Women’s categories at the Perskindol Swiss Epic.

Stage 1 at the Perskindol Swiss Epic saw a surprise victory in the Men’s category, when BMC Fischer Price held a high rhythm on the final 10km to overcome the considerable efforts of team Scott-SRAM. Martin Fanger and Noah Blöchlinger found themselves in the coveted yellow leaders’ jerseys and a 55 second lead to defend.

The women’s race was even tighter – Team Canada led almost the entire stage but Team Thömus used their local know how to measure their efforts on the day and pick the perfect moment to pounce. Alessandra Keller and Katrin Stirnemann went into stage 2 leading by 36 seconds.

Both leading teams had their work cut out for Stage 2. Transitioning from Bettmeralp to Grächen, the route took riders via the ‘high road’ above the Rhone Valley, with views of the Matterhorn – their final destination. For many, the descent into Mörel would be a highlight, especially the saffron plantation, but there was still the final big climb before reaching second race village of the 2018 Perskindol Swiss Epic.

Stage 2 was one for the marathon specialists in the men’s field – BiXS Pro Team’s Hansueli Stauffer and Konny Looser prevailed over the 77km course, taking control of the stage on the final climb and resisted the efforts of Buff Scott and Scott-SRAM to take victory.

Earlier in the stage, it looked set to be a two-team battle between Scott-SRAM’s Matthias Stirnemann and Andri Frischknecht and Team USA Red’s Christopher Blevins and Keegan Swenson. “After the Mörel descent we kept a high rhythm on the first big climb and then it was just us and Scott-SRAM working together,” said Swenson.

Blevens then suffered a puncture at the bottom of the next descent. A hurried repair cost them more time, putting them out of contention. This left Stirnemann and Frischknecht in the lead alone, with a clear path ahead.

However the marathon specialists had other plans. Team BiXS’s Stauffer and Looser, who had also flatted early on, put in a strong ride in the flat section before the last climb and joined up with Buff Scott, setting off up the ascent in pursuit of Scott-SRAM. With Matthias Stirnemann struggling, Team BiXS and Buff Scott caught the overall race favourites. “Hansueli attacked – I waited till he was 100m away then I went across to him,” said Looser. Arriving at the line with 48 seconds over second placed team Guerra and Morcillo, the all-Swiss team had time to celebrate. Frischknecht and Stirnemann held on for third.

The overall race leaders BMC Fischer Price had terrible luck with four flats, finishing over 46 minutes down, relinquishing the lead to Scott-SRAM.

The women’s race took form early on with a neck-and-neck battle between Team Canada’s Haley Smith and Catharine Pendrel and overall race leaders Thömus RN’s Kathrin Stirnemann & Alessandra Keller. The two teams have revealed themselves as the on-form contenders to watch. It should come as no surprise, since Keller was crowned the under 23 UCI World Champion last weekend, Stirnemann is a former XCE UCI World Champion, Smith took 6th in the 2018 elite UCI XCO World Championships and Pendrel is a two-time UCI XCO World Champion and Olympic medallist.

Having learned a valuable lesson from yesterday’s narrow loss, Team Canada patiently waited for the right moment to make the decisive move. “Today was a super close battle, we were together at all the waterpoints, and then in the final tarred climb we pulled hard and got away.”

At the top, Smith and Pendrel had over a minute’s gap. Sensing their rivals’ weakness, they were keenly aware that this was a good opportunity to gain valuable time on team Thömus RN on the overall GC. They capitalised and stretched their advantage to 2 minutes and 55 seconds, earning themselves the coveted orange leaders’ jerseys.

Although their lead-up to the 2018 Perskindol Swiss Epic was far from ideal, with Terpstra’s ankle injury flaring up recently and Benko’s illness, Ghost Factory Racing still managed a creditable third.

In the masters category we saw leaders Dani Schnider and Oliver Imfeld put more time into their rivals to extend their advantage, as did Bärti Bucher and Hansjürg Gerber in the Grandmasters category. Florence Darbellay and Jérémy Huguenin now lead the mixed category by over 20 minutes.

This is the queen stage of the 2018 race. Host to the XCM UCI World Championships in 2019, the region features trails that pose the ultimate test of any mountain biker. This loop course shows the highest ratio of climbing of all five stages, with the panoramic views of Moosalp as the perfect antidote. Riders will need to pace themselves carefully – after Kalpetran, there’s a final sting in the tail.

1. BiXS Pro Team 2-1 Hansueli STAUFFER(Switzerland) Konny LOOSER (Switzerland) 3:49.44,1
2. BUFF SCOTT MTB TEAM 3-1 Francesc GUERRA (Spain) 3-2 Enrique MORCILLO (Spain) 3:50.32,4 +48,3
3. SCOTT-SRAM MTB RACING 1-1 Matthias STIRNEMANN (Switzerland) 1-2 Andri FRISCHKNECHT (Switzerland) 3:51.27,3 +1.43,2
4. SCOTT development MTB Team 11-1 Andrin BEELI (Switzerland) 11-2 Reece TUCKNOTT (Australia) 3:57.49,3 +8.05,2
5. Texpa-Simplon 4-1 Michael STÜNZI (Switzerland) 4-2 Franz HOFER (Italy) 4:02.03,5 +12.19,4

1. Team Canada 102-1 Haley SMITH (Canada) 102-2 Catharine PENDREL (Canada) 4:35.33,3
2. Thömus / RN Racing Team 101-1 Kathrin STIRNEMANN (Switzerland) 101-2 Alessandra KELLER (Switzerland) 4:38.28,3 +2.55,0
3. GHOST FACTORY RACING 103-1 Barbara BENKO (Hungary) 103-2 Anne TERPSTRA (Netherlands) 4:46.16,0 +10.42,7

1. Fitness Maréchal 76-1 Florence DARBELLAY (Switzerland) 76-2 Jérémy HUGUENIN (Switzerland) 5:01.09,4
2. auerpower.ch 85-1 Susanne TANNER (Switzerland) 85-2 Norbert AMGARTEN (Switzerland) 5:04.53,2 +3.43,8
3. MTRX-Racing Team 77-1 Benjamin MICHAEL (Germany) 77-2 Hannah KÖLLING (Germany) 5:14.20,2 +13.10,8
1. DANi SCHNIDER RADSPORT 121-1 Dani SCHNIDER (Switzerland) 121-2 Oliver IMFELD (Switzerland) 4:30.24,2
2. Cykelmagasinet 155-1 Kaare AAGAARD (Denmark) 155-2 Thomas NØRGAARD (Denmark) 4:37.01,8 +6.37,6
3. Mård Racing 170-1 Hans MÅRD (Sweden) 170-2 Henrik MÅRD (Sweden) 4:46.56,5 +16.32,3

Grand Masters
1. BiXS / Bikeholiday.ch 201-1 Bärti BUCHER (Switzerland) 201-2 Hansjürg GERBER (Switzerland) 4:29:48,0
2. Centurion KroGa106 220-1 Ralf KROPP (Germany) 220-2 Patrick GALL (Germany) 5:01.27,7 +31.39,7
3. Wimos 211-1 Walter SCHWIZER (Switzerland) 211-2 Ewald STROLZ (Switzerland) 5:02.40,7 +32.52,7