- Venue: Verbier - Grimentz (SUI)
- Date: 19 August 2017
- Distance: 125km
- Climbing: 5025m
- Position: 16th
- Time: 6h43
This was already the 28th edition of the Grand Raid! It must be one of the oldest marathon races in Europe, and also one of the most spectacular, hardest and special events.
Starting in the famous ski village of Verbier, the route follows along the mountains in the Valais region of Swiss to finish in Grimentz, after what I would call a pretty solid suffer session!
Apart from the kilometres, climbing, lovely area and expensive Verbier cappuccino's, what also makes this event special is that you can do shorter versions of the race, each starting closer to the finish, and the riders starting in Verbier gets so much respect, a warning call of "Verbier!" will always see the riders jump out the way and cheer you on with "Bon Courage!". And then there is the walk over the Pas de Lona... the top of the last climb force you off the bike for a 1km push gaining 300m altitude. I tell you, it is 20-minutes of agony, but so great with hundreds of people cheering you on to reach the top at 2800m altitude.
A big thank you to friend Michael Creedon for offering me and my 2 supporters the opportunity to stay in his apartment in Verbier. It gave us the chance to go a few days earlier and with that a day of playtime in the Verbier Bikepark. Pete, our team mechanic, was my trail-guide and showed me the best lines and I had to limit myself not playing the whole day long and murder my shoulders and arms making them useless for the race on Saturday ;)
I did not have my best race ever, also not my worst, and after sucking along the main group af 15 or so racers over the first climb, I had to let go and ride my own pace for this brutal race when we starting hitting some rolling terrain after an hour and a bit. From there I just kept my tempo climb after climb to finish in 6h43. I must admit a did go through a bad patch after a super silly crash going down a wet asphalt pass and a few days after the race while writing this, still struggling with a uncomfortably swollen leg.
This was my last race after 3 months in Europe, for sure one of my favourites, and made even more special this year with some great support from my Topeak Ergon Team, Pete and Torsten at the race. Even though I am not one of the team race winning bullets, it is heartwarming to get such fantastic support from the team!
Now for some mountain hiking training for next year!