The 2nd edition of the Perskindol Swiss Epic is in full throttle, and we want to know what’s behind it as much as you do. We found Joko Vogel, the organizer of this 6-day stage race in beautiful Switzerland, willing to answer some questions about the race. Day 1 & 2 have come to an end yet, so find a tiny little selection of the images we took on the first days below as well 🙂
Could you give us a short introduction about yourself: Who are you and what do you do when you don’t organize the Swiss Epic?
I am the joint partner of one of the most renowned below-the-line marketing agencies Compresso of Switzerland. Next to the PERSKINDOL SWISS EPIC I am the organizer of the world’s largest non-stop ultra-cycling event TORTOUR.
In my spare time I cycle a lot, play soccer and enjoy some time with my wife in London.
How did you and your partners find each other & get together – and then… How did you decide upon organizing this particular race?
So far there was no mountain-bike stage race event in Switzerland like the Swiss Epic. A race mainly on single trails, an event where working together as a team to reach a goal, where the experience in the mountains, an adventure and the community spirit are in the focus. This event had to be created, so I had to find the right partners for that. Dany Gehrig and Thomas Frischknecht were both hooked by the idea – with them on board we could realize this idea.
What moment during the initial preparation indicates the moment you thought “That’s it – let’s do this thing!”
As explained above, I realized very soon, that there is a real need for such an event, and that it could be an event with a huge potential. So it was easy or even a logical step to launch the event.
What makes Swiss Epic different from the rest? Why should anyone ride this race instead of any other?
There are many aspects speaking for our race. We offer a race on finest singletrails, a race course with thrilling flow but technical sections too. The whole race in an amazing Alpine backdrop, leading through little typical Valais villages, following ancient water irrigation systems called Suonen, crossing vineyards, pine-woods and other great landscapes. Riders experience Swissness, culture, local food, Swiss quality and precision – this in a great mountain bike community. Further riders can fully focus on their mountain bike adventure, since starting places can only be booked with an all-inclusive package. They do not have to bother about their luggage, they enjoy amenities such as full-board accommodation, massage, bike-wash, bike-garage, laundry-service, race-food, finisher-shirts, and much more.
Fast forward to this year: what has changed since you first organized the race, and why?
75% of the trails are new. This means, for participants from last year it will remain very interesting. It is our philosophy to change the trails every year. Further we have introduced the EPIC 2-Day Package. This package offers mountain bikers the opportunity of riding the Swiss Epic in a short version – but with the full taste of the adventure. This package requires less preparation and gives a good idea of what the whole race week could be.
Regarding the event concept we did not have to do changes. 2015 is the year of the consolidation. He have started on a very high level last year, so this year we wanted to confirm and repeat the success of the first edition. So no big changes besides optimizing a few points.
How do you decide which routes to use for the race? And do you ride the complete course yourselves before the event starts?
Stefan Wolfisberg is our trail scout and knows the very best trails of the Alps. He is in charge of scouting the best trails for every stage, I think he does a good job. He finds the finest trails with a lot of flow offering the maximum of riding pleasure, still a challenge of course, but feasible for non-pros too. I have seen most of the trails on our test ride personally.
What’s the main difference between the Swiss Epic and the Swiss Epic Flow?
The length (300 km for SWISS EPIC FLOW versus 400 km for SWISS EPIC) of the race and the total m.o.g. (8000 m.o.g for SWISS EPIC FLOW to climb instead of 15.000 m.o.g. for the SWISS EPIC race). Some uphill sections in the SWISS EPIC FLOW race are being done with shuttles.
Which race format is most popular, and why do you think that’s the case?
The race format SWISS EPIC is the race with the biggest number of participants, the biggest category is Epic Men and the best sold all-inclusive package is our Comfort package. The popularity of the long race format for sure is due to the UCI athletes, who can gain their UCI points only when riding the long format, further many ambitious and passionate mountain bikers like the challenge of the length/m.o.g to achieve, they enjoy riding uphill as much as down.
What does your day look like during the race; which tasks do you have during the day?
The first edition was very tough work for all of us, since we had no experience values. The second edition is more relaxed for us, what offers me more time to determine improvements for the future. Further I have more time for meetings with authorities, partners, sponsors, potential sponsors. And – most important – I have much more time to be in contact with pro-athletes and participants too, as I would like to have as much direct feedback as possible. I want to know how they feel, how they experience the event, the trails, the organization. This way we get a lot of very useful inputs and inspirations.
What have you learned from ‘creating’ a race like this?
At the event you get the result of all the preparatory work. How well-conceived the event is, or how well the event has been prepared. Once the event is happening, you cannot make major changes. It is a huge satisfaction, when feedback from participants, media, partners and authorities is as positive as it was last year and as it is this year too.
What will you do differently next year?
Next year’s race will happen the other way round. We will start in Zermatt, ride via Grächen to Leukerbad and finish in Verbier. This offers a completely new race course to the participants. There will be even more flow than this year, stage 4 will be the flow-day with more downhill than uphill meters. We will organize an event, which is still is a tough challenge but not as tough and hard as 2014 and 2015. Therefore less uphill meters and less kilometres in total – but with the full flow-experience, offering an unforgettable mountain bike adventure on the Alps’ finest single trails.
There will also be a new Corporate Category in 2016 that will see three two-person teams share a starting position, and the Budget package featuring basic accommodation offers riders the chance to participate in PERSKINDOL SWISS EPIC at a lower cost.
What will you do as soon as the race is over?
Sit on my road bike and prepare for the TORTOUR Mallorca mid October.
Thank you Joko for taking time to answer our questions during these busy days and good luck with the epic remaining days of Perskindol Swiss Epic!