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3,000 mountain bikers climb the Pas de Lona

Successful 25th Grand Raid with Alpiq support

Even the fittest mountain biker views the Grand Raid as a real challenge. The longest section of Europe's toughest mountain bike race covers 125 strength-sapping kilometres at punishing altitudes of up to 5,000 meters from Verbier to Grimentz. Even the shorter sections take their toll: the 93-km Nendaz–Grimentz section at an altitude of 4,000 meters, the 86-km Hérémence–Grimentz section at an altitude of 2,000 meters and the 37-km Evolène–Grimentz section at an altitude of 1,800 meters demand an iron will, toughness and tenacity.

This year's 25th Grand Raid on the penultimate weekend in August offered the 3,000 participants the best possible conditions. The splendid sunny August weather helped everyone to reach the finish even faster. A delighted Pedro (Team Les Tamalou), exclaimed, "We were one hour faster than last year". He and his two colleagues competed in Hérémence in the Challenge Alpiq category. This was the second time they had taken up the Challenge Alpiq and they were exhausted but ecstatic at having completed the section.

The virtually unconquerable Pas de Lona has its own unique history 17 kilometres before the finish, the bikers were confronted with the toughest of all sections – the ascent to the Pas de Lona. Because all contestants have to run – yes, run! - the last 1.5 kilometres up to the Pas de Lona (altitude 2,787 meters). This section just before the highest point of the race is so technically challenging and steep that even pros are unable to cycle it. The suffering on many of the faces was visible proof of just how tough it was to contend with the altitude and biting wind up there. Having arrived at the Pas de Lona and re-energised with bouillon, bananas and bread, the bikers soon had a smile on their faces again. With renewed vigour and enthusiasm they then attacked the picturesque final section along Lac de Moiry, where even the hardest biker heart was gladdened by the sight of the beautiful turquoise waters of the reservoir.

Marriage proposal at 3,000 meters above sea level Three years ago the Pas de Lona was the scene of a new chapter in its history: the story of Andrea and Thomas from Belgium. In 2011, after Thomas had been successfully treated for cancer, they decided to take part in the Grand Raid. Together with a friend, they took part in the Challenge Alpiq category, and on the Pas de Lona Thomas asked Andrea for her hand in marriage. One year later they married, and every year since then they have taken part in the Grand Raid. But this year Andrea was only a spectator and assistant, as she is expecting a baby.

Grand Raid and the Challenge Alpiq:
Alpiq has been partnering the legendary Grand Raid mountain bike race since 2010. The race takes competitors through the Alps of the Valais – and past the locations of our hydroelectric power stations. It took only one year for Alpiq to strengthen the partnership due to the excellent collaboration, and launch the Challenge Alpiq team category. Participants in the Challenge Alpiq compete in teams of three, with a substitute as an option. The category is becoming more and more popular every year, and in 2014 38 teams took part.