On August 16th, two teams from Italy and one each from Spain and Switzerland embarked on the approximately 550 km long “Tortour” from Schaffhausen to Chur and via central Switzerland back to Schaffhausen. In the world’s longest ultra-cycling race, the individual teams showed their best side and competed for the “challenge”. The 1:30 a.m. start was marked by tension, full concentration and great anticipation. A special atmosphere surrounded the riders, who completed the first 180 km in darkness accompanied by their teams. Shoulder to shoulder with Olympic champions, Swiss champions and former Tour de France winners, the teams powered their way through the individual stages and battled up the steep sections with gradients sometimes exceeding 15%.
A particularly superb experience was the sunrise and the transition to the Alpine region of Switzerland, where the especially steep stages awaited the riders. But thanks to the loud, motivating cheers from supporters and spectators, these too were successfully mastered. Cool temperatures at night, bright sunshine at midday and heavy thunderstorms in the evening accompanied the athletes throughout the day and made the already difficult task a real challenge. The riders eventually arrived at the finish line with exhausted legs, but bursting with pride and elated to have taken part in this unique event. The fantastic experience bonded together team members who had not known each other well beforehand. Photographs, stories and experiences are still exchanged to this day.
The Alpenbrevet, the second cycling highlight this year, represented an even more formidable challenge. The race organizer reported a chilly 4 degrees at the start and 12 degrees during the race. With only a few of the riders being familiar with the mountains in Switzerland and with safety being paramount, besides having fun, it was critical in these conditions to be prepared for it. And the athletes were in fact greeted with fog, drizzle and falling snow at the 6:45 a.m. start in Andermatt. After warming up through the first few kilometers, the riders were able to find their own pace in the ascent to the Susten Pass.
By the first pass, at an altitude of around 2,260 m, it became evident that the race would prove to be a genuine test of endurance for some of the riders. With energy newly replenished, everyone negotiated the speedy descent and rode back up the Grimsel and Furka passes or the Nufenen and Gotthard passes. The weather, unfortunately, failed to take a turn for the better throughout the entire race. So, regrettably, the six riders from the Czech Republic and their three colleagues from Portugal and Germany were unable to glimpse much of the otherwise stunning Alpine panorama. Upon arrival at the finish, the riders first had to get warm and eat something to counter the effects of their physical efforts. Despite the conditions, the RONAL GROUP Cycling Team achieved excellent results. While feasting on a typical Swiss dinner, and with feet warmed once again, the riders were able to exchange stories of the difficulties they had encountered and share a laugh about some of the things they had experienced or witnessed during the race.
The unparalleled experience of these two events has demonstrated how well the teams are bonding through such common challenges. and evolving together across cultures. Congratulations to all participating riders on their achievements! We shall continue to hold similar events in the future!