With six weeks to go, one thing is certain: the Raid Evolénard will indeed take place. And while many details still need to be worked out, most of the important points are clear. Whether you are an elite rider who wants to participate in the European Championships, a popular rider who wants to take part in the Garmin Bike Cup, a youngster who is preparing for the Raiffeisen Kids Cup or a spectator, you will find most of the answers to your questions in our event program!
To summarize the situation, the race will be a light one, under the principle “Ride & Go home”. No infrastructure, no canteen, no shower; after the race the runners will have to go home and spectators will not be allowed in the start and finish areas. No registration will be possible on site and race numbers will be sent directly to the runners. A race office will be available before all for foreign runners, who will be able to collect their numbers, or to solve last minute problems. All runners over 12 years old will have to take a COVID-19 test to be allowed to start.
The elite races of the European championships will be able to run with stricter standards beforehand but without too many constraints on the day as they are part of the performance sport allowing the program of these races to remain unchanged for the moment. The master categories of the European championships will be limited to 15 runners, to follow the current rules. The organizers are hopeful that this number will increase rapidly.
On the Garmin Bike Cup side, the adult category starts are also limited to 15 people per start at this time. The start location has been moved outside the village to ensure a one-way flow and to minimize interaction between riders of different categories. The junior and cadet categories will start from the same location, but with no restriction on numbers.
For the children who participate in the Raiffeisen Kids Cup, the number of participants will not be limited, but the number of accompanying persons will be strongly restricted. The departures will take place as usual at the Hérens Arena from 13:25. A FAQ page has been set up to keep you informed of the evolution of the measures to follow. Do not hesitate to write us if you have any other questions!
After a one-year hiatus due to the coronavirus, the titles of European Mountain Bike Marathon Champion will be put back on the line on June 20th in the Swiss Alps in Valais. The region is already well known to specialists in the discipline, having hosted the 2019 world championships in Graechen, and preparing to host the mountain bike world championships in all disciplines in 2025. For the 2021 European championships, organization has been entrusted to Raid Evolénard, a popular mountain bike race that has twice organized the Swiss championships and will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year.
The Raid Evolénard, a race that’s getting bigger and bigger
The Raid Evolénard has grown to become an unmissable event, attracting the best marathon mountain bike specialists, as well as amateurs of all levels and budding cyclists. Contributing to the success of the race are a route that crosses one of the most beautiful valleys of the Valais with a demanding, technical and fun nature, a friendly atmosphere, excellent services and races that are entirely free for children.
Estonian champion Greete Steinburg, winner of the last edition of the Raid Evolénard, fully agrees: “I’ve done a lot of races, but the Raid Evolénard stands out with its excellent organization, its friendly atmosphere, its magnificent single tracks and its breathtaking views”.
Former Belgian champion Frans Claes, 2nd of the elite race in 2019, shares this view: “As much as I find the climbs difficult, I appreciate the descents and the magnificent panorama. With so many technical single track, this race is an exception on the Swiss mountain bike marathon circuit”. And with the new track adding elevation and technical single track sections for the European Championships, Claes is unlikely to change his mind.
New routes for the European Championships
The route for each category will begin with a loop around Evolène, which will give the public the opportunity to witness the opening battles for position up close. The course will then take the racers to higher points in altitude compared to the first loop in past races, introducing them to new, highly technical singletrack sections that may require them to carry short portions. The traditional final climb to Béplan, culminating at an altitude of nearly 2500m, remains to guard the gateway to the podium. In the end, the course will cover 77km and 3900m of difference in altitude, with almost all the descents singletrack.
For Arnaud Rapillard, former winner of the MB Race, who has already had the opportunity to recognize the course, things are clear: “This is a real mountain bike course, which is bound to crown a great winner. The race time will clearly go beyond 4 hours for the best and the choice of the mountain bike, a fully, will quickly become obvious “. The women’s course will be a little less demanding, with 70km for just over 3400m of positive elevation gain. Older riders taking part in these championships will be entitled to a lighter version, with “only” 65km for just under 3000m of difference in altitude.
Championships open to all European licensees
Registrations are open from Wednesday, February 24th on the UEC website: https://bit.ly/3azeKRX. As the regulations stipulate that the position on the starting line for the master categories will be determined by the order of registration, participants are advised to register early. Contrary to the World Championships, there are no selection criteria to be fulfilled to participate in the European Championships. It is sufficient to be European and have a license from a federation affiliated to the UEC.
All information about the race is available in the technical guide, which can be consulted on the race page: www.raidevolenard.ch/euro_xcm_21. While the evolution of the situation due to COVID-19 is difficult to predict, the organizers are working in close collaboration with the local authorities and Swiss-Cycling to establish a health plan in accordance with UCI and UEC guidelines, in order to ensure the safety of both the athletes and their teams and the many volunteers involved on the organizational side. A detailed plan of the measures to be followed will be available on the race site in the coming weeks. Should the races unfortunately have to be cancelled, the registration fees will be refunded, with the exception of an amount of 10 euros to cover part of the costs incurred.
Ariane Lüthi has one of the best track records in marathon mountain biking. However, she had to wait until her tenth attempt to finally win a medal at the World Championships. She looks back with us on a very special season, marked by Covid of course, but also by the emergence of new names in the women’s marathon mountain biking scene!
The Corona pandemic severely affected the MTB season, as many races were cancelled or postponed. How did you experience this situation as an athlete and how did you manage to stay motivated to train for goals that were constantly pushed back?
The cancellation of the Cape Epic not even two days before the start was a big disappointment and was very unexpected for me. I was totally focused on this race and although I followed the news a bit, I didn’t allow the thought that the race could be cancelled because of Corona. My body built up a certain tension and in order to keep it, the possibility of cancellation did not exist for me. When it did happen, suddenly all the tension fell away. That felt very strange.
The cancellation of the other races was not difficult to cope with, as it was rather foreseeable. After the European Championships and SM were canceled in June, I took a break and took it a little easier in terms of training for a few weeks. This gave me time to occupy myself with things other than sports and that was extremely good for me. After that, I was more motivated than I had been in a long time to get the best out of myself. Looking back, I noticed that after ten years of racing a lot, a certain fatigue must have crept into me to give the last percent. Of course, it was a huge advantage that in Switzerland, unlike in other countries, we could always train outdoors and race again as early as July. That, and the fact that my main goal, the marathon world championships in October, never shifted, certainly made it easier for me to stay motivated.
The bronze medal at the World Championships is probably one of your greatest achievements. Can you tell us more about how the race went?
The race consisted of a relatively flat 10 kilometer approach and return to and from a 30km loop, which we completed twice, – so a total of 80km. The course was not really technically challenging. There were only a few bumpy descents on jeep tracks, but there were a few crisp climbs in it, where you had to concentrate not to have to dismount. At the end of the first climb a group of 6 could break away. I just couldn’t keep up, respectively decided to save some energy. Shortly after the second aid station around kilometer 24, I was able to catch up again, as the leading group was tactical on the asphalt sections. On the second lap two riders dropped out of the lead group until finally Ramona, Maja Wloszczowska and Yana Belomonia were able to break away at the front. Robyn de Groot and I fought to catch up in 4th and 5th place. In the last downhill, before the last, rather flat and fast 10 km back to the finish, I could distance Robyn. Going into the flat section I was still in doubt whether I should wait for my South African colleague in order to have a better chance of reaching the top 3 in cooperation with her. Somehow I had a feeling that one of the three top riders would fall back. Shortly after, I saw Yana in front of me. I thought to myself, “it’s now or never” and attacked her so that she couldn’t keep up. But Yana didn’t react much, because she was apparently in too much pain from her fall in the last downhill, which I didn’t know about at the time.
After ten World Championship appearances, this performance is certainly also due to the experience you have gained in your career. What do you think was the decisive factor in you reaching the podium?
There are certainly more talented riders than me, so everything really had to be right for me to achieve this podium finish, including the necessary racing luck. The basis for the result was very good form. My numbers looked better than ever. But then the experience definitely helped me to implement the right tactics. In the race in Sakarya it was crucial that I rode according to my possibilities, let the leaders pull on the climbs and didn’t go with the cross-country riders by hook or by crook. The knowledge I gained from other races gave me confidence in my own abilities and I didn’t lose faith immediately when I was left behind.
Apart from the World Championships, what is your assessment of this season?
Before the Cape Epic I had problems with a viral infection and couldn’t really shine at the preparation races and of course as defending champion I wasn’t happy with second place at the SM, but otherwise it was a very good season for me. It’s not easy to get into the shape I had at the World. Just to get those numbers was a great feeling and of course I was blown away with the result at the World.
You finished second at the Swiss Championships behind Steffi Häberlin and at the World Championships another Swiss woman won, Ramona Forchini. What do you think of these new women who are making their mark on the Swiss mountain bike marathon scene?
The last few years it was always about the same names that fought for the jersey at the marathon championships. This year was definitely different and it is extremely pleasing to finally have young blood in the field. When Irina Lützelschwab distanced herself from the field, we chasers asked each other if she was actually Swiss or not, since we didn’t know her yet. Steffi, Ramona as well as Irina are obviously very talented. I really hope that they will continue to liven up the marathon discipline.
What can we wish you for the upcoming season?
Good health is always good and if I have a second wish free, then gladly the European champion jersey in Evolène. 😉
Between the World Championships in Graechen in 2019 and those planed for 2025, the Valais will remain in mountain bike marathon mode next season, since the Raid Evolénard will host the European Championships on June 20. A great challenge for this race, which has already organized the Swiss championships twice in recent years.
Big ambitions for the 25th edition
Over the years, the Raid Evolénard has become an unmissable event, attracting the best marathon mountain bike specialists, as well as amateurs of all levels and young riders.
Among the ingredients that have contributed to the success of this race are a track that crosses one of the most beautiful valleys of the Valais, a demanding, technical and fun route, a registration fee that remains well below the standards of the marathon circuit, services that meet expectations and races that are entirely free for children.
After hosting the Swiss Championships in 2016 for the 20th anniversary, the organizers have decided to set the bar even higher for the 25th edition. By winning the European championships, the organizers have a magnificent opportunity to promote both the Raid Evolénard and the Valais to mountain bike enthusiasts on a continental scale!
A mountain bike weekend open to all
To satisfy both the popular and the elite, the Raid Evolénard will take place exceptionally over an entire weekend. On Saturday, the popular riders will set off as in previous editions, as part of the Garmin Bike Cup, on the 62km, 35km and 24km courses.
The youngsters will take the opportunity to inaugurate the new courses, set up for the 2020 edition, which unfortunately could not take place. In the evening, many activities will be planned in collaboration with Evolène-Région Tourisme, to give a festive character to the event.
Very serious things will start on Sunday with the start of the different elite and masters races for both men and women.
New routes for the Europeanschampionship
The organizers were keen to set up competitions worthy of the event, by proposing new courses specially created for the occasion. The course for all categories will begin with a loop around Evolène, which will give the public the opportunity to witness the start of
hostilities up close. The course will then take the racers to higher points in altitude than usual on the first loop, and will introduce them to new, highly technical singles that will
most likely require them to carry their bikes on different portions of the course. However, the final climb to Béplan, at almost 2500 m.a.s.l., will still be key to separate the wheat from the chaff. In the end, the track will spread on 77km for 3900m of difference in altitude, and almost all the descents will be on singles. For Arnaud Rapillard, the rider of Team Tschopp who has already had the opportunity to recognize the course, things are clear: “We have here a real mountain bike course, which will inevitably crown a beautiful winner. The race time will clearly go beyond 4 hours for the best and the choice of the mountain bike, a fully, will quickly become obvious “.
The women’s course will be slightly less demanding, with 70km for a little more than 3400m of positive elevation gain. Older riders competing in these championships will be entitled to a lighter version, with “only” 65km for a little less than 3000m of difference in altitude. Registration for the open categories will open on Wednesday, December 16 at noon, while for the licensed categories they will start later!