The second edition of the Snow Bike Festival recently took place in Gstaad, situated in the Bernese Oberland region of the Swiss Alps, welcoming riders and fatbike businesses from an astonishing 18 different countries.
The weather surely played its part as the village was transformed into a winter wonderland with really good snow fall in the week leading to the event delivering the perfect landscape and terrain for the event. Incorporating a trade element, exhibitors and sponsors advertised and displayed their brand and products inside and around the village hall.
The Snow Bike Festival is a stage race consisting of 3 stages as well as the Rocky Mountain Eliminator Night Race. The riders accumulate points on each race as well as on the eliminator race which then ultimately decide the winner of the men and women category. Each stage also had a Land Rover King and Queen of the Mountain prize for the first man and women rider respectively to arrive at the dedicated climb of each stage.
The Snow Bike Festival started the Thursday night with the riders, supporters and media being welcomed in the race village with dinner and an entertaining evening programme with Dan Nicoll (South Africa) and Christian Rocha (Germany) the masters of ceremonies for the festival. The race village was wonderfully decorated with all of the different countries flags that was represented at the Snow Bike Festival hanging from the roof in the hall.
The first stage began 09:30 on the Friday morning, having the start time perfectly calculated to accommodate the train schedule. It was especially cold with temperature hitting double figures below freezing. The riders told reporters afterwards that the water pipes on their backs froze as they went past the little airport in Saanen which is known to be the coldest part of the valley. The climb of the day for stage 1 were near the end and it was up the Eggli. Johann Tschopp known for being an excellent climber distinguished himself from the rest with his brilliant climb and secured the victory for stage 1, as Tomas Misser who came in second could not catch him in the downhill to the finish line, situated at the bottom of the Eggli ski slope each day. Daniel Gathof came in third to conclude the podium for the men riders. In the women’s race Hielke Elferink from Rocky Mountain and the current dutch champion proved to be too strong for the rest of the competition as she won comfortably. Alba Wunderlin riding for Rocky Mountain came in second followed by Laura Turpijn.
The second stage which started on Saturday morning was warmer than Friday morning – a welcome change from the cold of the previous day. On top of the Eggli where the riders were welcomed with their first water point after a climb the sun was shining brightly providing for excellent photographs.
The highlight of stage 2 was the long and steep downhill, this worked in the favour of Tomas Misser and he used that to his advantage as he was crowned as the winner of Stage 2 after a photo finish between him and Johann Tschopp after an exhilarating sprint. Daniel Gathof wrapped up the podium. The podium for the women’s remained unchanged from stage 1.
Saturday night delivered more excitement as the Rocky Mountain Eliminator Night Race kicked off at the bottom of the Wispile slope. The riders were lined up in 4 riders per heat with the first two riders of each heat going through to the next stage. The final was between John Owen, Tomas Misser, Konny Looser and Julien Conan with the latter walking away with the honours. Hielke again proved her dominance and won the final of the women race. Afterwards the crowd moved over to the race village for dinner and then celebrated the spirit of the event with a party.
The third and final stage on Sunday was again greeted with fantastic weather and provided for excellent riding conditions. The start was again in the promenade in Gstaad and from thereon took the route to Lake Lauenen, it is a scenic route chosen as the lake itself is one of Gstaads’ most beautiful charms.
There was a very special appearance on stage 3 as Christoph Sauser lined up in the starting line to take part in this marvelous event. Regarding the actual race of stage 3, Johann Tschopp won the stage but it was unfortunately not enough to secure him the overall winner prize as the number of points that Tomas Misser got for the eliminator race leapfrogged him to the top of the table. Daniel Gathof finish second on stage 3 and third overall together with Julien Conan. To conclude the overall winners for the men’s race are: Tomas Misser in first place, Johann Tschopp in second and with Daniel Gathof and Julien Conan sharing the third place. For the women Hielke Elferink won the stage and the race, Laura Turpijn came in second on the day and third overall and Alba Wunderlin came in third on Sunday and ended up second overall.
The final prize giving was symbolically in the promenade in Gstaad to wrap up an extremely successful edition of the Snow Bike Festival.
Follow the SnowBike Festival on Twitter for next year’s announcement.
Photos courtesy of Snow Bike Festival – GSTAAD