Stage 2 Leukerbad – Leukerbad was in the road- or trailbook today. Unfortunately, we are still facing some bad luck. But let me tell you our ride story from the start. Not really highly motivated after yesterday’s extra tour, we hit at 8:30am the road. The climb starts and soon we are leading the Flow race pack into the sun at Dauberhorn. Finally walking and stumbling an extra steep slope to the top. Here starts the very long and demanding descent. And it soon becomes more demanding as we run into the Epic field and have to pass tons of riders walking and slowly riding down the hill. And there it happens: Marco hits a big rock and his rear Maxxis Ikon 2.25″ tire is cut open. The EXO protection couldn’t avoid this cut and it takes a good while until he can fix the tire with a Park Tool inlay so that the inner tube doesn’t create a big bubble at this spot. This costs us about 20 minutes, also as we are forced to stay oftentimes in the narrow trails behind slow riders.
We go down all the way to the Rhône river valley, then start climbing again on finest trails. One more highlight is rolling over the 134m long suspended Bhutanbridge. One more shuttle bus and gondola later and down the hill at the finish line, we place still 4th in the daily ranking and stay second in the overall ranking, with 28 minutes behind our Swiss enduro competitors. But we are still 17 minutes ahead of the team following us and ranking third.
After the race, we do a tech workshop on Marco’s Ibis: first, we replace the rear tire to a beefier Maxxis Ardent 2.40″. Then we replace the brave workhorse XX1 rear derailleur which worked flawless for 2 years on several bikes. Marco had 2 chain drops at the crankset during Swiss Epic and we want to be safe for the next stages in terms of shifting, drive and chain management and go for a new XX1 rear derailleur. The race course is not smooth and descending every day between 3000 and 4000 vertical meters on bumpy terrain can leave some traces on the material. XX1 is holding up to this task really well, and my small specification count in our garage shows that many racers are relying on the robust and good working 1x11speed wide range drivetrains: 10 out of 19 bikes are equipped with XX1 or X01.
Tomorrow’s stage will bring us from Leukerbad to Grächen, with 2 mountain climbing aid devices aka gondola or shuttle bus. We hope to have a great ride without any more defects or even crashes. And we plan to at least get back some lost minutes…