Transalp Stage One: 88.85km, 2960m climbing
Chris and I were just saying yesterday as we were stuck in a traffic jam in Germany on the way to TransAlp that we are much more chilled out about bike racing than we used to be. Years ago we would carb load on pasta the night before and drink energy drink whilst travelling to 1.5 hour XCO races just to make sure we had enough fuel to get us through. Nowadays we eat normal food: pizza, meat with veg, basically whatever we feel like when we stop, or don’t stop as the case may be.
For me (Chris) today was all about patience, and the views, and a bit of nostalgia. My first outing at the Transalp, ten years ago, as a green, not very sporty 24 year old was simultaneously a baptism of fire, and also one of the most amazing and formative experiences of my cycling life. 2006 was a brute of a year, one of the longest routes, one of the years with the most climbing, and it was hot, really really hot every day. It nearly killed me, both uphill and down, but what doesn’t kill you makes you fall in love.
So it was pretty cool to ride past the fountain that Hamish and I dunked our heads in ten years ago at the end of the first stage from Fussen to Imst, before asking each other “okay, when the hell was this ever a good idea?”. We went to the same coffee shop where I had grabbed a macchiato with Mike, Naomi and my new teamie Nick on a rainy morning before the second stage in 2012, and then went to gridding, in pen A1 (eek).
Topeak Ergon dominate on day one at Transalp
Alban Lakata and Kristian Hynek clocked in a time of 3:28.51,5 taking over the overall lead with an advantage of 1.04,5 minutes on Austrian racers Daniel Geismayr and Hermann Pernsteiner of Centurion Vaude 2 (3:29.56,0).
Third place went to Karl Platt and Urs Huber of Team Bulls 1 (3:30.19,8; +1.28,3) who had been coming out first on the opening day of the one-week mountain bike stage race across the main ridge of the Alps over the past four years.
Defending champions from Centurion Vaude 1 Markus Kaufmann and Jochen Kaess came in with a gap of more than seven minutes being forced to settle for fourth (3:35.59,3) after Kaess had to deal with more than just a technical problem.
“I struck a bad patch. I had problems to breathe after I had bruised a rib in a crash at last week’s German nationals. Then I also had a flat four kilometres before the finish line so we lost a lot of time today.”
Across Pillerhoehe and Pfundser Tschey the winners from 2013, 2014 and 2015 had played a major role in the leading group of the ten best male pairs which got smaller and smaller over the course of the day until the top-4 of today entered the final climb together.
Then the Topeak-Ergon duo of Lakata and Hynek had the strongest legs on the 450 metres of climbing up to the green border at Norbertshoehe.
“Kristian [Hynek] was very strong today. He definitely dominated the finish. I’m happy that I was able to keep up his pace and that we had the chance to break away. I’m very pleased that we gained over one minute on this short distance, especially as the first day traditionally is kind of a scanning of your rivals,” said Lakata, who had triumphed back in 2012, after the stage which was ridden more than 10 minutes faster than two years ago.
Title aspirants show their strength
In the master category defending champions of Wilier Force 2 Massimo Debertolis and Andreas Laner took home the win in 3:52.05,5. Sally Bigham and Ben Thomas of Topeak Ergon Racing 3 dominated the mixed category (4:01.17,9) while Hansjuerg Gerber and Daniel Annaheim of baumat/bikeholiday.ch stood out in the grand masters (4:09.15,2).
Swiss racer Sabina Compassi and Melanie Alexander of Cyclopedia-DANiSchnider Radsport took over the lead in a time of 4:58.17,8.
Tomorrow’s second stage will lead over 56.17 km and 2,126 metres of climbing from Nauders to Scuol. The field will have to master the climbs up to the mountain top station of the Bergkastel gondola as well as the one to Reschner Alm to make it from Austria to Switzerland.
Our day in the Alps
From the bottom of the first climb today I had one speed – slow. I felt like I had no energy and was grovelling up each of the 3 big climbs on today’s first stage. I could only draw one conclusion that I didn’t eat enough yesterday. We had been rather rushed getting to Imst for the start of the race because of the previously mentioned traffic jam and had focussed on sorting registration, parking, finding the camp such that by the time we made it to the restaurant they were rammed and we waited an hour for food. In all the melee we hadn’t really eaten anything since lunch on the road apart from 2 squares of chocolate each. Massive fail!
So I had little choice but to just eat, all day whenever I could to try and replenish my supplies a little bit before the rest of the week. By the last climb I was feeling somewhat better (perhaps it was rejuvenating cucumber at the last feed station) and although very slowly I was making some progress where others around were now struggling.
Objective for this evening – eat all the food.
The gun went. So did Rachel’s legs. Younger me would have been frustrated. 2006 me would have tried to push, force, cajole, chase, urge, threaten, heckle Rachel over the mountains in any way possible. 2012 me would have been quiet, ornery, waiting for the inevitable “can I have a push?”. 2016 me just decided, you know what, we’re here in my favourite part of the world, doing a race in incredible scenery. Why race? Why not just ride, enjoy the views and the amazing trails, and save ourselves for another day? After all, there’s no doubt that there’s more than enough time in 7 days to get your effort out.
Then I got stung by a bee. 2006 me wanted to grind it to a pulp, 2012 me wanted to smash off up the mountain to get my frustration out. 2016 me quietly asked Rachel “Can you pull the stinger out of my scalp, please?”. Maybe I am growing up after all…