Grand Raid Cristalp Valais, SUI

Date: 24.08.2013

Description: Marathon Race

125km, 5000m of climbing, 6.15h
3rd place, 6.14min behind winner Urs Huber

The Grand Raid is the oldest (24th edition) marathon race in Europe and for me the first race ever back in 1991. I was still a school kid going there with my mom. She gave me a way too big jersey of hers without pockets. I remember well how badly I bonked, but luckily I found some bars on the ground which other riders lost. I have to admit that back then I only rode from Hérémence the short course. Never in my life I could have finished the Verbier route in one day!

As you can imagine to climb 5000m is not a piece of cake… the Grand Raid has it’s reputation to be one or not even the hardest marathon race in the whole world. Not only course wise, but also the weather can change pretty quickly in the big mountains. This year many rides with they’re bikes got air lifted out of the Pas de Lona (the last monster climb) because it started to rain and the temperatures dropped close to freezing point.

I have chosen my 2014 Epic bike with Fast Track S-Works tires in front and Renegade Control in the rear. My mind and bike setup was downhill tuned. I knew the uphills will be hard, but I wanted to make the winning move in the long rocky downhill to the finish.
My plan almost blew off in the “wall”, the running section up the Pas de Lona. Urs Huber ran into there so fast that he quickly opened a gap of 30meters. Luckily my steady pace was fast enough, so I could close it towards the end of it. I have never seen so many spectators in such high altitude screaming and cheering. Each one of them had to hike up there.

By the way we top riders had a front runner, some even more then one. Because of the shorter course riders it is so busy up there, that you need a “bodyguard”. He can also give you food and bottles. Thanks a million to Yves my very best runner and also to Christine who got rally driven around 23432 corners by Valentin to be in time for all my feeds.

After the “wall” we descended down for a shot while and then an other mean but much shorter climb was waiting for us until the final descent which my mind was completely focussed on.
With 6km to go there is a rough single trail followed by a faster super rocky path. Urs Huber went crazy on the open roads before, but I knew my time will come in the technical section. I could pass him leading into the trail, and I did not realize that he crashed out a short while afterwards. In the one switch back when I could check back I did not see him any more. I must have still pumped with adrenaline, so I raced way too fast into the following super rocky path. I must have hit a rock very unfortunately so I double flatted. I’ve chosen to fix the front and hoping my rear carbon wheel will survive the ride to the finish. It did not! After I ripped off the tire I ended up walking and getting passed by Huber and also Lakata. As you can imagine I was really disappointed to lose a race like this, but that is the Grand Raid, the mother of all marathons!

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