Let the Trans Schwarzwald begin!
3km at 14% with 1km at 18% … And that was the first 3km of Stage 2!
That was a hard start, so let’s take a little break …
After a small downhill it’s straight into climb number two, another 2.5km at close to 10%!
Alright, surely that’s it, BOOM straight down a blistering descent that leads into a slap in the face! Yet another kilometre at 17%, but unlike the first, which was concrete, this one is soggy mud and slick roots and rocks.
I could go on but I think you get the gist. Brutal climbing with crazy fast descents have featured in days one and two of the Vaude Trans Schwarzwald stage race in the Black Forest of southern Germany. Hard? Yes, but well worth it when you get to the top. I don’t usually have time to gander across the countryside during a race but it is extremely hard not to on top of some of the hills we have climbed during the first two stages. Reaching the top and looking out across the Black Forest, it’s easy to see why everybody calls it picturesque.
It’s not all dirt road slogs either. There have been some really nice singletrack sections, both climbing and descending, that we have covered. And none of that perfectly groomed flow trail stuff either. Real mountain biking with rocks and slippery roots, and sections that have you questioning if your bike was built for this! Of course NORCULOUS the Norco was, and it loves it when it gets technical. That being said, dual suspensions are few and far between and even though NORCULOUS is pretty low in weight for a dually, carrying the extra weight up some of those aforementioned cliffs is a bit of a drag.
So far the best set up that I would pick is a hardtail with some beefy tires and a large gear range. A double chainring would be great as one minute you’re hauling at 40km/h and the next grinding at 5km/h. Or just use a single chainring and destroy your legs, whatever floats your boat.
Me, Myself and I
My race has been a little confusing so far. I felt terrible on day 1 and then cramped, today I felt terrible, rode strong again with a fast group around 30th place then broke a spoke and flatted at the bottom of a 3km climb with the tech zone on top … it was a long 3km. So after a 30min rim bash and 5min wheel change kerfuffle it was a lonely TT home. With 1:14hr to make up on first, I’m feeling hopeful that I can make some inroads to the yellow jersey in the next 3 stages… But really I’m looking at taking the next stages as they come (obviously).
A broader view on the Trans Schwarzwald
My flat wheel debacle did give me a first-hand view of the battle between women’s leader Elisabeth Brandau who is fresh off a top 20 result at the Mont Saint Anne XCO World Cup and Dutch National XCM Champ, Hielke Elferink. I do wish I had a box seat to the Men’s battle as well because it looks exciting with 9.8 seconds separating Alex Gehbauer and Hermann Pernsteiner, both from Austria. I wonder why Austrians are good at climbing …
With that, it’s time to say goodbye as we are only 2 stages down with 3 to go! Time to watch whatever sport the Germans are doing well at in the Olympics and they decide to show on TV!