This year, the classic event in the Swiss Alps, the Grand Raid BCVS, entered its 31st edition. Boris Zerban took part in what is probably the most extreme one-day race for mountain bikers on 21.8 for BIKE AID. From Verbier to Grimentz on a route over several passes, covering a total of 125 kilometres and 5,000 metres of altitude gain. The figures already suggests that this race will be a great challenge for all participants. But it is not only the figures mentioned above that are responsible for the special reputation of the race; in addition, the routing makes it a truly exceptional experience.
THE EARLY BIKER…
5:40 am on the central square in Verbier. Three Alpine horns sound the reveille at dawn. Some riders are already doing easy laps to warm up their legs before the start. Fortunately, the weather is showing its best late summer face. The early temperatures in Verbier are around 10 degrees Celsius. The sun is still hidden by the high surrounding mountains.
The starting signal is given punctually at 6:30 am. The race starts immediately into the first uphill section. Many amateurs are seduced by the brisk pace of some well-known professionals who lead the large field of participants. The wiser course of action is probably to find one’s own rhythm and manage one’s energy over the long day. After a climb of approx. 800 metres in altitude, a fantastic flowing but still very cool descent and further somewhat shorter climbs and descents, we head to Nendaz. The first 1,000 metres of altitude have been conquered. Eating and drinking regularly during this phase of the race is crucial for later success.
FROM ELEVATION TO ELEVATION
The next section leads through beautiful forest scenery to Hérémence. Caution is always advisable on the descents. Again and again there are very steep and fast passages with loose stones, where you could quickly suffer a tyre puncture or possibly a fall. 2,000 metres in altitude have now been absolved. The morning cold has been replaced by sunshine by now. Now the 1,000-metre ascent to Mandelon begins. A challenging mountain trail with a fantastic panorama awaits at the top. Unfortunately, the trail demands full attention and does not leave much time for views of the Matterhorn and other four-thousand-metre peaks of the Wallis Alps. Steep descents, deep ruts, loose scree, blocked sections … the trail has it all! Again and again you have to get off the bike for a short while to pass obstacles that cannot be navigated. That costs time and energy. You are rewarded with a long and unproblematic descent to Evolène. You now have a little more than 3,000 metres of altitude in your legs. A quick stop for refreshments and then it’s off to the seemingly endless next section of the race up to the Pas de Lona at around 2,800 metres. On the sun-exposed route, the perceived temperature now increases from kilometre to kilometre, instead of decreasing as expected due to the increasing altitude. This is where it becomes clear who has eaten well on the first sections of the race.
After having felt quite good on the ascent to Mandelon, my legs slowly got noticeably tired. Not only the cheering spectators had a motivating effect, but admittedly also every rider who started at a shorter distance and who I was able to overtake. At an altitude of approx. 2,400 metres, the legendary pushing passage of more than 300 metres awaits you up to the Pas de Lona at the lofty height of almost 2,800 metres above sea level. And all this with already more than 100 kilometres and 4,500 metres of altitude in your legs. At this section, this year’s overall winner Andreas Seewald, who used to be successful as a mountain runner as well, literally ran away from his competitors for the victory. My tempo was certainly a bit slower. Although with a time of about 38 minutes, I was still among the fastest 10 percent of my age group. Not least this pushing section and the long final descent, which becomes very technical and steep towards the end, make the race probably the toughest marathon race ever.
The descent to Grimentz requires us to mobilise all our remaining strength. Your fingers hurt from the constant hard braking, your arms hurt from holding on to the handlebars and your legs hurt anyway. Relieved, exhausted and very happy I reached the finish in Grimentz after a riding time of 8:30.00,9 without any crashes or defects and was able to achieve 17th place out of 136 starters in the Masters 2 age group on my debut on such a long course.
Renowned MTB rider Alban Lakata won the Masters 2 age group in seventh place in the long-distance event.
This article was submitted by: BIKE AID