Grand Raid Cristalp
Words by Alastair McNeill
In its 24th year, the Grand Raid Cristalp is well established as one of the most arduous marathon MTB events in the calendar. If not overly technical it is certainly a test of endurance. The race carries decent UCI ranking points and therefore draws a strong field of professional riders; local boy and former World Cup winner Christoph Sauser was the favourite to win.
The full course leaves from the centre of Verbier and takes you on a 125km course which after 5200m of climbing finishes with a massive descent into the town of Grimentz. Whereas most of the road rides I have done in that part of the world focus on three or four big long climbs, the Cristalp’s ride profile makes it clear that whoever conceived this course had a much more devious plan in mind. It resembles the jagged profile of an ECG scan when the patient takes a turn for the worse. No flat sections and no respite. It also becomes clear that the going gets tougher on the second half of the course, culminating in the final push (literally, carrying or pushing the bike) up to 2800m on the unridable, steep and stoney Pas De Lona.
Lining up at 6.30am in the center of Verbier, I felt some nervousness about the day to come. Experience has taught me that you can never take a long day of riding up into the clouds of the Alps lightly. That said, I did not feel unduly nervous; slow and steady, enjoy the views going up, forget looking at the views going down and things should be fine. Long, almost certainly painful but hey, its all good, right? I felt fit enough to go the distance albeit without breaking any records, and having spent 2 weeks familiarising myself with the Canyon Nerve AL 9.9, was confident that I was on the right bike for the event. Fast forward 9 hours and I was sure of only 2 things. Never have I ever been so brutalised by a day riding in the Alps; and yes, my choice of bike had been spot on… Read More >