Matt Eagar was one of the thirty eight South Africans to start the 2018 Perskindol Swiss Epic. He and his riding partner, Dane Coppin, were fortunate to have received an invite through Absa Pride; after Coppin and his father rode the 2018 Absa Cape Epic as part of the ‘Pride’. Among the excitement of a trip to ride mountain bikes in the Swiss Alps, both Eagar and Coppin might have misjudged the fitness and skill levels required to complete the race; but they loved it none-the-less.
“Coming from South Africa, looking at the route profiles – the distances and the meters of climbing – you think you can get away with it… But when you are here it’s a bit different” a slightly overawed Eagar revealed. “Nothing in South Africa could have prepared us for the descents. Just endless, super technical, downhills. Your brakes are on fire. Your hands are on fire. Dane was a bit more aggressive on the descents than I was, and we saw a few tyres cut up. But wow, super enjoyable. Definitely dropper post country!”
The real challenge for Eagar and Coppin came in the final fifteen kilometres of Stage 4, which on paper had appeared to be one of the easier stages. The Valais region is renowned for its superb weather, with an average of three hundred sunny days a year, but it does rain from time-to-time too and the penultimate stage of the Perskindol Swiss Epic took place under cloudy skies. The already technical singletracks in the closing kilometres of the day were doubly difficult after the overnight rain and made the stage tougher in Eagar’s estimation than the Queen Stage the day before.
“Chatting to most of the other South Africans here, even the guys who have ridden the Absa Cape Epic before agree that the Perskindol Swiss Epic is harder” Eagar confided. “Although the Absa Cape Epic stages are a lot longer this jams all the challenges you would expect from an Epic stage into sixty or seventy kays.”
With talk of challenges, long climbs and technical descents dominating the post-stage chatter one might think the experience was one of exclusively Type-B fun. That Eagar was quick to point out was not the case: “The riding is really rewarding, the landscape is so beautiful and the trails you get to ride on during the Perskindol Swiss Epic are truly unique.” The pair soaked in the scenery and the challenges, finishing the race in 94th place overall and 42nd in the Open Men’s category.
Words it seems fall inadequately short when attempting to describe the unique experience of the event though. It certainly is challenging, but within those challenges lay the spectacular rewards of breath-taking alpine scenery – sheer cliffs, ice white glaciers and mountain peaks towering into the sky. There were iconic Swiss scenes too, mountain villages clinging to precipitous slopes and dairy cattle grazing in lush fields – complete with Swiss bells of course. The Perskindol Swiss Epic provided an immersive Swiss experience and one that visitors are unlikely to discover outside of a mountain bike stage race.
For more information about the event, including details about the 2019 race please visit www.swiss-epic.com.