Thursday’s Stage 3 of the Perskindol Swiss Epic served up a wet and muddy day, which played into the hands of Team Spur’s Ariane Lüthi and her Belgian partner, Alice Pirard. Race organisers were forced to shorten the stage due to severe rains forecast, the already short stage was cut to just 42km with some 1700m of climbing.
Team Spur had intended to target this stage, as the technical trails suited the pair’s superior bike handling skills. However, Ariane and Alice entered the stage with uncertainty as the shortened course eliminated the technical descents they were salivating over, and included an extra 200m of climbing. Yet their fighting spirit shone through, as they executed a tactical victory in Leukerbad. “We won,” exclaims Ariane. “That was a great day out for us, it was just really fun.”
Team Spur lost the wheel of overall leaders Team Meerendal/CBC on Stage 3’s first climb. But the ensuing technical descent allowed the team to make contact again. “It was on the 1000m or so of downhill after the first climb where we caught up with Esther [Süss] and Jennie [Stenerhag],” says Ariane. “We then hit the final climb up to the finish and they pulled away from us again.” Crucially, Ariane and Alice kept the leading pair in their sights.
Knowing the descent would be slippery with the rainfall, they worked to limit their losses on the climb with the plan to attack on the downhill run to the finish. “It was just technical enough and we managed to catch Esther and Jennie before the flat run in to the finish,” explained Ariane. From there it was a flat-out run to the line over the final couple of kilometers. A clearly elated Ariane and Alice crossed first, 24 seconds ahead of Team Meerendal pair.
Alice called the day’s racing as a highlight of her career. “It was incredible, going full gas downhill and catching Esther and Jennie in the final 2km. It’s one of the best days of my career on the bike.”
Ahead of the final two stages, Team Spur holds second on GC. Stage 4 today is a long one, riders will cover 85km with 2800m of climbing as they make their way from Leukerbad to Zermatt.