The event, Raid Evolenard, took place in Evolene, Switzerland, on Sunday and the format was that of a Strava challenge.
Around 20 professionals competed over three segments on a 60km circuit that forms part of the course that will be used for next year’s European marathon mountain bike championships.
The sections between the segments were run at a training pace.
“I was the fastest of four women on the timed segments, which covered around two to three kilometres each,” said the 36-year-old Swiss cross-country marathon specialist.
The first segment started after a lengthy climb.
“It went really well and I felt great. It was perfect with the 30-minute warm-up, so I could push hard.”
The second segment took the riders into a valley. It was extremely steep, slippery and included a downhill trail.
“It hurt a lot, especially as it was almost two hours into the race because we obviously continue riding the whole time.”
The final segment started at the last climb, just before the riders dropped into the downhill section to the finish.
“It started at 2 100m of altitude and went up to 2 500m, so that was pretty high and I could definitely feel it.
“I struggled to get going, having had more than three hours and steep climbing in the legs, as well as the previous two segments.”
Luthi said one of the competitors, a local, coped much better with the altitude and pushed hard, so she struggled to stay with her.
“Only when we arrived at the last bit, I could overtake her and we sprinted for the finish.
“When I crossed the line, I just saw stars and needed to lay down in the grass for five minutes to recover.
“At the end I managed to come first in all the segments.”
The four-time Swiss marathon champ said it was good to feel the burn, which was a reminder of how hard racing could be.
“Mentally it got harder the more tired I became, but I felt great overall. I was in good shape as I’ve been training hard.”
She said the altitude was a challenge.
“I have to work on that if I want to do European champs at top level.
“It was also challenging to start racing again after just riding between the segments – you suffer like hell. It took a lot of self-talk and encouragement, as well as positive thinking.”
Luthi, who partnered with Canyon Bicycles earlier this year, said she was satisfied with her performance and eager to head into the season.
“It made my motivation to race again really grow. I’ve missed that real urge and I’ve found that again.”
Looking ahead, she will compete in the Engadin Bike Giro – a three-day stage race in Switzerland – next month.
“That will be a good test as I saw there will be strong competition.”
She added that the Swiss champs, scheduled for September, was a huge goal.
“We’re also waiting for the date of the European champs in Portugal.
“Another very big goal is the world marathon champs in Turkey, which has always been set for October 25 and I hope we’ll get to race that.”