Weather is what it is on race day and the alpine weather was certainly doing its best to challenge us! After the previous stage’s sub zero temperatures and firm snow, a warm overnight front turned snow to rain up to the higher reaches of the Gstaad valley. The organisers had no choice but to reduce the 29km of racing and 786m of climbing to just over 17km in order to keep the route flowing and avoid the snow turned slush that now lined the valley trails. A shame, but the show goes on with all the vigour and enthusiasm that every rider has brought to this festival of snow biking.
Undeterred, all riders rallied at the start line, ready for the final fling of the Snow Bike Festival. No one was sombre, rather, all eager to get going despite the drizzle! The first few kms were the same as stage 2, a great idea, to get legs and body quickly warmed up. The section of singletrack was more of a slip slide affair this time around, a real, one leg out, balancing act to keep upright and keep the front wheel pointing forward! Still have yet to use the front brake.
The 1st climb up wasn’t as long as stage 2, soon taking a dive back down deep snow tracks, even the fatbikes today were struggling in the wet snow, but still faring much better than the 29er riders, who were mostly walking/falling, but they soon sped past once back on the asphalt sections! The best of the snow trails were sprinkled inbetween sections of asphalt to keep the race as flowing as possible, making it still hugely fun and to not keep riders out too long in the near freezing rain conditions.
Still highly competitive at the sharp end of the UCI and amateur races, we were all grins mid-pack, having our own mini races between other riders we had got to know. 15km shot by and we were soon perring over the edge of the final descent, down the same piste as yesterday. Not so easy to navigate the snow this time though, one leg out just about holding the balance until the front wheel took a dive into deeper snow! Kudos to the few riders who made it all the way down on 2 wheels, for me it was a bit of a run on the bottom half.
The final km really was a sprint this time! Avoiding the now super slushy valley bottom trail, rolling asphalt took us to the finish and the warmth of the festival tent. Not quite how anyone wanted to finish the festival, but that’s outdoor sport for you and fun was had out en route everyday.
Big thanks goes to the volunteers, out there in the damp, cold conditions, making sure that every rider was safe and well fed/watered at the feed stations. Also to Fred of Fredy’s BikeWalt in Gstaad who loaned the Trek Bikes Farley for the event. A superb handling and versatile fatbike that can be adapted for wheel sizes from 27.5×3.8 up to 27.5×4.5. If you need a bike to rent, any advice or gear, he’s the guy!
Photos by Wayne Reiche