Ariane Lüthi and Alice Pirard won the final stage of the Perskindol Swiss Epic on Saturday, 16 September to finish second overall on GC in the women’s category. “What a great week of racing!” commented an ecstatic Ariane after the finish of the 45km final loop around Zermatt, which included some 1900m of climbing. The Team Spur-Wallonie pair finished in 3 hours and 24 minutes, six minutes ahead of the Meerendal CBC outfit of Jennie Stenerhag and Esther Süss who did enough to win the overall.
“It was tight racing and a good fight throughout,” Ariane said. “Congrats to Esther and Jennie for the win though – what a successful year they’ve had, winning the Absa Cape Epic and various other stage races.”
“We’re just happy to have challenged them as much as we could,” she said.
The final stage was a continuation of the theme from throughout the week’s racing: Ariane and Alice dominated on the descents and over technical terrain, while Meerendal CBC owned the climbs and tempo flat sections.
“Today we could get away and stay away, however,” Ariane said. “The first climb was really steep towards the end and went to almost 2600m altitude,” she explained. Meerendal managed to get a two-minute cushion on Team Spur-Wallonie on the climb, but the descent down the other side was technical and they took full advantage.
“We caught Jennie and Ester really soon [after the climb]. We managed to drop them and continued to increase our gap to two minutes at the bottom of the last climb. From there we stayed ahead of them before the last downhill which was a huge success for us. It was the first time all week we could stay away on the climb.”
“We knew if nothing happened to them they would win the race, but we still raced flat-out to the finish, so we were super happy to take the stage win.”
Aside from the win on Saturday’s fifth and final stage, Team Spur-Wallonie also won the Prologue over 19km in convincing fashion and took charge of the weather affected Stage 3 for a total of three stage wins. The third stage served up a wet and muddy day and race organisers were forced to shorten the stage due to severe rains forecast, the already short stage was cut to just 42km with 1700m of climbing.
As on the final stage, they made their move here on the final descent and kept the pressure on through the last flat section and finished 24 seconds ahead of Süss and Stenerhag. On every other stage Meerendal-CBC crossed first with Ariane and Alice in second. But even those second places were not gifted.
The week served up its share of challenges for the pair too, including a double puncture on Stage 1, but throughout they endeavoured to manage their losses and stay positive, while having a good time on the beautiful trails. “Alice was a great teammate and we had so much fun together,” Ariane said.