Bärti Bucher is a familiar face around the Absa Cape Epic. The Swiss Grand Master has ten Untamed African Mountain Bike Race finishes to his name; along with 2 Masters, 1 Mixed and 3 Grand Masters category titles on his palmarès. He is perhaps best known though for drinking a beer on the finish line of each stage.
Bucher is riding the Perskindol Swiss Epic alongside his fellow countryman and Absa Cape Epic partner Hansjürg Gerber. The pair may not have worn the Grand Masters jerseys at the Absa Cape Epic this year, but they are rectifying that at the Perskindol Swiss Epic, on their home trails, where they lead the category after two days of racing.
Speaking about the difference between the two events Bucher explained: “There’s a big difference. In the Absa Cape Epic you have a lot of dust and it is very busy in the early part of the stages. There are over one thousand riders and everyone is moving up and down through the field, which makes it even more dusty.” In the Perskindol Swiss Epic the compact field of 334 starters make jostling for position, even at the sharp end of the race, less of a source of tension for the riders.
That’s not to say it is easy however. Bucher continued: “In the Absa Cape Epic you have one hundred climbs and descents. Here you only have maybe four climbs. But they are very long and if you go too hard on one… you will kill yourself” he said slipping into hyperbole.
He and Gerber, riding in the colours of BiXS/Bikeholiday.ch, are unlikely to misjudge their efforts; being the experienced riders that they are. Riding in local conditions also helps, as they are accustomed to training and racing on the long climbs and exceptionally technical downhills of the Swiss Alps. Their nearest rivals after two stages, 140 kilometres of riding and 5 400 meters of climbing, are the German Centurion KroGa106 team of Ralf Kropp and Patrick Gall.
To see if Bucher and Gerber can extend their 31 minute lead on the third stage, which starts and finishes in Grächen, log on to www.epic-series.app/swissepic/tracking. Stage 3 is the Queen Stage of the race and features a daunting 2 850 meters of climbing in just 71 kilometres.