What would you consider to be a big day of descending? Maybe 1,500m if you’re climbing under your own steam? Perhaps 2,000m if you’re on an e-bike? Even 4,000m if you’ve got the luxury of an uplift vehicle or a ski lift? How about nearly 21,000m of descending? That’s exactly what Ralph van den Berg and Silvan Marfurt accomplished on 20 July, 2021 in the Swiss resort of Davos, breaking the unofficial world record for the most vertical singletrack descent in a day. Photographer Martin Bissig was there to capture the day and interview the pair after the event.
Martin Bissig: Hi Ralph and Silvan! You’ve just put a few exciting and no doubt exhausting days behind you. What actually drove you to attempt this extremely challenging feat?
Ralph: My absolute favorite tour is the Davos Bahnentour, with its descent of 10,000 vertical metres. It’s something I do a few times every year. Then I saw that the 2015 trail world record had gone up to over 20,000 vertical metres. I thought that was pretty exciting, and saw it as a challenge. But at the time, I wasn’t fit enough. The first time I’d planned to do it was in 2018, but I kept putting it aside. But in early 2020 the idea of doing it really took hold of me, and I contacted the Records Institute of Germany to get the rules and then I committed to tackling the world record.
MB: Can you explain the rules of the world record? It would be too easy to just ride down a hill on a gravel road twenty times...
Ralph: It’s not that easy and the rules were set by the previous record holders. First, “one day” means 16 hours and not one minute more. We could have done more within 24 hours, but the rules only allowed us to ride for 16 hours. We were not allowed to ride the same trail twice. Of course, for some trails the beginning and the end were the same, therefore the rules allowed us an overlap of trails of up to 25 per cent. We could only use public transport and a car for shuttling – the use of a helicopter for example wouldn’t have been possible. As for the trails, 75 per cent of them needed to be singletrack or technical mountain bike trails. Lastly, the use of e-bikes was not allowed and the start and the end of the world record had to be at the same spot.
MB: Sounds exciting! You definitely have to put a lot of planning into a challenge like that. What did you do to prepare?
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