19 Jan Stage 1 – Leumann (SUI) & Paris (FRA) fastest to conquer difficult snow conditions.
After a hotly contested time-trial prologue yesterday, riders were face with some daunting climbs up Chalberhöni and Eggli. Due to difficult track conditions, riders embarked on a slightly shortened Stage 1. From the Promenade in Gstaad, riders rode along the picturesque Saane river towards the historical village of Saanen, which is known for its famous ancient chalets as well as the little airport, which is one of the coldest areas in the valley. Once the riders passed through Saanen, the route guided them up past Chalberhöni toward the top of Eggli (Land Rover Mountain Prize). The 7km climb up the Eggli, forced riders to conquer 590m of climbing, in what proved to be extremely challenging snow conditions. Becoming harder and steeper towards the end, some riders were forced to brave the final meters on foot. The final downhill on the sledge trail claimed the GC hopes of a few riders. Those who managed to manoeuvre their way down, faced a final 2km fight to the finish.
It was Alexis Paris (FRA) who conquered today’s stage in the shortest time, crossing the finish line after 1:09, just over 2 minutes ahead of Joris Ryf (SUI), with Nicola Rohrbach (SUI) finishing a mere 4 seconds behind. In the UCI Women’s category, 2017 GC winner Katrin Leumann (SUI) secured the stage win with a time of 1:35:30. Nadine Rieder (GER) secured second place, coming in just over 2.5 minutes behind the winner. Hielke Elferink (NED) finishing 3rd with a 10 minute gap. Both the men’s and women’s Qloom Leader Jerseys changed hands. Katrin Leumann (SUI) and Joris Ryf (SUI) are the new leaders of the 2018 Snow Bike Festival.
Tomorrow see’s riders faced with the Snow Bike Festivals longest stage (35.3km). On the route from Gstaad, via Turbachtal, Lauenen, Lauenensee and back, rider face 759m of climbing, and weather permitting, stunning scenery at the Lauenensee.