If you think of a marathon stage race, chances are you’ll come up with imagery from one of the oldest and greatest of them all – Transalp. This year, Transalp celebrates its 19th anniversary of crossing the alps from north to south.
Having recently changed from eight days to seven, Transalp has also seen dramatic changes in the route. While riders once bemoaned the endless lengths of gravel roads, it’s more common now to hear riders exclaiming how hard some of the singletrack sections are. You’re unlikely to cross the Alps without riding on gravel roads – and you wouldn’t want to, it would take too long – but the organisers are constantly improving the route.
The 19th edition has attracted one of the strongest fields in the race’s history. It’s led by defending champions of Centurion Vaude, new-fledged German marathon title winner Markus Kaufmann and his teammate Jochen Kaess. However, if the most dominating athletes of the 2013, 2014 and 2015 races want to celebrate again, they have to hold some strong opposition at bay.
A hard task which gets even harder as some competition is wearing the same jerseys.
As the team management of the Ravensburg based squad confirms, there won’t be any kind of team hierarchy over the course of the first stages. As a result, Austria’s very own Daniel Geismayr and Hermann Pernsteiner, who had secured the 1-2 punch for Centurion Vaude last year finishing second overall, are allowed to chance their luck.
Nevertheless there are a few more teams ready to take home the Transalp glory.
While 2016 Cape Epic winners Urs Huber and Karl Platt as well as Tim Boehme and BIKE Four Peaks winner Simon Stiebjahn will ride to win again for Team Bulls, two Topeak Ergon Racing teams are also lining up.
Austria’s Alban Lakata, the 2012 Transalp champion, will tackle the seven-stage event with his Czech teammate Kristian Hynek again, who recently finished the Dolomiti Superbike as second. And new pair Jeremiah Bishop and Erik Kleinhans are definitely more than just a support back-up.
Besides this well-known circle of podium aspirants there are even more ambitious teams who have definitely the skills to mix it at the top. One of the strongest pair of them has just been put together for the world’s most challenging race for teams of two.
Luis Mejia (COL) and Uwe Hochenwarter (AUT), who wrapped up the 2016 Four Peaks as respective second and third overall will enter the race for CBZ Asfaltos-7CSports-Rocky Mountain.
Italian racers of Wilier Force 1, Johnny Cattaneo and Tony Longo who won the Alpentour-Trophy a few weeks ago, are also aiming high – just like their fellow countrymen of Scott Racing Team Juri Ragnoli and former road bike ace Christiano Salerno.
And there are even more Transalp experienced pairs which already have underlined their strength with several top-10 results in previous race editions: Austrians Lukas Islitzer and Guido Thaler of Craft-Rocky Mountain Factory, Styrian athletes Manuel Pliem and David Schoeggl of KTM-Rad.Sport.Szene as well as the Sport Haschko Team consisting of Germans Frank Demuth and Andreas Kleiber.
Plus, it will be interesting to see how 2016 TOUR Transalp winner Johann Pallhuber will perform together with his Cannondale Livigno Rh-Racing teammate Mattia Longa.
And also Team Scott Denifl is a strong duo consisting of reigning Cross Country Eliminator world champion Daniel Federspiel and his fellow countryman Daniel Rubisoir who are both looking for some redemption for their unintended withdrawal back in 2008 due to illness.
It will be hard to go against the experience of Bulls or Topeak Ergon – but the reality is Kaufmann and Kaess have been the stronger team for the past few years. Seven days does present a lot of chances for upsets, be they mechanical or physical, and even slight errors will be very costly at the front of the race.
Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to source a complete start list to look through the women’s and mixed teams, nor the masters and grand masters for the race.
We have Rachel Fenton and Chris Pedder racing in the Mixed category, and they will report on the race day by day. So you can follow them here, or via social media.