This year I focused on exploring some new places and races. As early as January I packed my fatbike and headed to «The Snow Bike Festival» high in the Swiss Alps. This is a four day snow biking stage race and festival based on the ski trails of Gstaad. The Swiss train system ran perfectly from the Airport. There were three different train stops to arrive to Gstaad, but they all ran smoother than catching one train in Norway! Luckily the snow dropped just at the right time and there was fresh stuff two days before the race! It was a very dry December and a lack of snowfall in the Alps.
My first impression was «this town is amazing all lit up». The first thing I did was go to a real Swiss Italian restaurant, where I ended up paying 900 nok, but the experience was worth it! The rest of my stay I ate dinner from the Coop food market. My luxury hotel breakfasts were superb and I could survive most of the day on just these buffet breakfasts! Outside the weather was perfect to ride and I explored the area on my fatbike. I had two days before the event started.
To my surprise all the Elite guys showed up on their sub 9kg xc bikes to win some uci points. I thought it was about racing fat bikes and the event does say any bike can be used and changed! The 20 m prologue was a short track x2 and was really cut up to a sloppy mess. It was very hard to find balance in slush and get any real power down! The fat tires just floated across the snow and I had a terrible time. Anyhow I still placed 11th.. I think! The top riders were also Cyclo Cross Pros and it was easier on narrow xc tires that could cut in for better traction. Some podium guys were here for training before the World Champs Cyclo Cross one week after the Snow Bike race.
The next stages were different. With perfect weather the trails were prepared nicely to a hard and fast road about six meters wide. Good tire grip was still needed but as the race went on tires where down sized to 2.1. I had my favourite fat tires Bontrager Barbegazi 4.7. Their weight – 1362g and 1364g. No chance to keep up with the top ten xc bikes.
On stage 1 and 2 there was a lot of climbing and all possible to ride on the compacted snow. We rode up to 2000 m alt. and then there were some crazy long downhills and a dropper post. Wide bars were therefore a smart idea on these fast sections. Each day was about 90 m full gas for the winners.
Just for fun I did a Night Eliminator just outside my hotel, and the event management asked me if I would like to take some Go Pro footages with their cameras!
The funny thing is that I made it through three heats to the finals of the top four riders, and I even had my own fan club cheering me on! I was already the fastest fatbiker, and 1st and 2nd were European and German Eliminator Champions! Serious business this Eliminator stuff! I missed 3rd spot by 1 second! My secret tip.. I just did not crash.
The final day was again a nice fast snow road. Full gas from the start just like any other mountain bike race. Top speed over 40km on the flat with a 32 tooth! I was fighting for the fastest fatbike and it was still some competition for that title! In the end I was 11th overall and won the fastest fatbiker. That was my original mission.
The winter bike festival was a very special and unique week for me, and it was not too cold as it was just around minus 5/10 C. Post race the air temperature was warming up and the snow was starting to rot! I think this new soft surface would have favoured the fatbikes and I think the xc bikes would have been in some real trouble! Just lucky we had such perfect conditions around Gstaad for this week.
I was in awe of the alps and riding my bike over them. A great week and I cannot forget this strange experience.
Written by Greg Saw