Having a good day on the bike is a brilliant experience. You rail corners, you feel good on the climbs, there are no wrong turns, and the weather is great. Having a good day on the bike while racing is a more unique experience, especially when it’s in a paired stage race.
Yesterday was a tough day, with a combination of physical and equipment problems, combined with a course that probably didn’t suit the strengths of Imogen and I.
But today was different. We started at a good pace and settled into a group. The climb continued, groups split, and we decided we were happy where we were. And that was the difference today – we decided when to go and when to ease up.
The course hit a plateau after the first feed zone and there was a lot of rock. If you have grown up riding mountain bikes in Sydney, that’s no bad thing. Uphill, ledges, rock – that’s just a typical ride at Manly Dam, or reminiscent of the old Arcadia XC course. Imogen and I have done a lot of mountain biking in Sydney, and are both quitely proud of our technical climbing. We passed a few mixed teams.
Imogen ate more.
We bombed the descent.
With a long valley ride after the climb, having friends out on the road was amazing. Fate (ie a flat tyre) had meant that fellow Subaru-MarathonMTB.com Team Matt Bridge and Stu Spies were soon in our bunch. Along with a London Dynamo team, and a few more riders it meant we now were surrounded by racers with a long road history. Steady turns, no surging, and wheels that were good to follow.
Everything came together. Imo rode hard, and really utilised all the training she had done under the tutelage of Anna Beck. We took no wrong turns, we ate and drank enough, and rode to our strengths.
Crossing the line, finishing close to our friends from London, we were ecstatic. Today it clicked. Arriving into Brixen via the vineyards and a final run up the river into the medieval old town was a dream. With aqua frizzante on the line and cool water to chill feet and legs we were happy. Stu chatted to the Exxaro team, Imogen had a recovery apple.
Things kept getting better, our hotel had a pool, a hose to clean bikes, balconies in the sun – and strong wifi! So it was time for a results check, logging onto datasport.com.
We were 3rd on the stage in Mixed.
I screamed. Imogen screamed. We hugged. Stu came out of the shower and I hugged Stu.
Neither of us had expected this result, it was an additional bonus on having a great day on the bike, and a great race.
In the end, Sauser and his team mate Knox launched a final attack in the very last part of the stage, which featured a new design with the 400m climb on Kaiserberg to Spinges, but weren’t able to really break away together with Kaufmann and Kaess. Especially as the men in the Yellow Jerseys felt comfortably strong.
“They didn’t really break away,” said Huber in the finish zone. “We always knew that we would catch up again. So the attack didn’t really bother us.”
Borghild Loevset (NOR) and Sally Bigham (GBR) of Topeak Ergon Racing have clinched their second stage win in the women category (4:22:59.7). The bearers of the Pink Jerseys once again relegated Swiss racers Andrea Faessler and Cornelia Hug of Crazy Velo Shop Scott to the second rank (4:28:52.7)
Specialized Racing at least brought home the stage win. “It’s nice to have a win”, explained Christoph Sauser while also aiming for more. “Having one stage win under our belt doesn’t mean that we go home. We will keep on chancing our luck while keeping the pressure high.”
As is typical post stage during Transalp, riders lounge in cafes, in cold water, on the chairs put out by Craft and Sigma… and today seemed so well suited to that, even before realising our result. That was just the icing on the cake.
Stage 3 goes straight uphill from breakfast, with less than 60km of racing, but about 2900m of climbing.The men’s category is still pretty tight. Bulls have a good lead with perhaps one of the best credentialed Stage Racers, Karl Platt, and super strong Urs Huber. But the teams behind are strong and motivated. The mixed category seems amazingly dynamic, and the racing has been close at the start each of day so far. Bigham and Loevset are setting up a great new team dynamic, and look set to continue to prosper.