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2012 Schwalbe Tour Transalp - Germany


Fraser_Ellison
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    The Tour TransAlp is a 7-day stage race for amateur cyclists run by Tour, the largest cycling magazine in Germany and is their main event of the year. It attracts a field of approx. 750 2-person teams and runs from Germany to Italy. The exact route varies every year but on the menu for 2012 was 800 km with approx. 18,000 meters of climbing over 17 Alpine and Dolomite passes from Mittenwald in Germany to Arco at Lake Garda in Italy, with teams from 27 countries taking part.

Stages:

1. stage 115km - Leutasch - Kühtai

2. stage 123km - Timmelsjoch - Jaufenpass

3. stage 85km - Würzjoch, Furkelpass

4. stage 107km - Grödnerjoch - Sellajoch, Passo Fedaia

5. stage 128km - Passo Valles, Passo Rolle, Monte Grappa

6. stage 146km - Asiago, Melignon, Passo della Fricca

7. stage 101km - Viote, Passo del Ballino

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Mark Sterling writes...

I have been back for a few days now but not had the time/energy to put pen to paper until now.

Fraser and my adventure started in the depths of last winter while looking around for a new challenge. Having done the Tour of Wessex a few times now we both knew we liked multi-day events and we looked at various options before eventually choosing this one. Entry opened in early December and sold out in a few hours. We were in! Over the next 6 months it slowly evolved from an abstract idea through an event on the calendar some time off in the future to suddenly becoming a reality as we set off on the drive to Germany.

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The following is a typical day on the TransAlp...

+++

Woken up between 05:30 and 06:00. Yet again slept through my alarm but woken by the stirrings of the other riders in the TransCamp. First job of the day is to start the endless consumption of energy drinks, in the morning with extra caffeine. After getting dressed in riding kit for the day and sorting out the gels and energy drinks etc it is time to pack everything back into our bags, which hold all our kit for the week, and then drop them off for transport to the next stage finish town. Then we head down to breakfast, which is usually a mix of cold meats, breads, fruit and yoghurts, and enjoyed with riders from the other teams.

After breakfast we collect our bikes from the bike park and, after a final tyre check, roll down to the start area. We sign on for the day as we enter our start pen and then endure the worse part of the day: waiting for the start. This is an uncomfortable mix of nerves, excitement & anticipation all to a soundtrack of euro-pop and final briefings etc for the day over the PA system. Being a team event I found this time particularly nerve wracking as you try to gauge how your legs feel, how you have recovered and wonder if today will be the day you crack and run out of steam and let your teammate down. At last the approach of the start is heralded by the music volume being cranked up to 11, the commentary reaching a new level of frenzy and the engines of the motor bike out-riders being started. When the start finally does come the relief of tension usually results in a start that, despite being neutralised for the roll out of town, is extremely fast.

The frantic pace continues after the end of the neutralised section with groups forming/breaking and riders jumping from group to group. All the time you are watching out for your team mate to make sure you keep roughly in contact. The pace continues to quicken and the scenery becomes a blur.

And then you hit the first climb of the day and everything goes quiet. Everyone climbs their own way and at their own pace and for me this involves getting into a rhythm, tapping out a constant tempo, counting off the kilometres and picking off riders. Fluids are poured in at one end and seem to flow out from your whole body as the temperature rises. Fluids in, fluids out, air in, power out. Just kept those in mind and tick off the kilometres. Just before the top I hear a familiar combination of cadence and breathing from behind and then Fraser and me are back together. The feed stop at the top is a quick re-fill of bottles and then the descent.

Being a pretty rubbish descender this is the hardest part of the route for me, but over the week my confidence (if not competence) are increasing and I am starting to enjoy the fast, sweeping descents.

Re-group at the bottom and then the fast section to the next climb. Start off in team time trial mode until being joined by more riders to get a fast group going. The pace is high with no stopping as junctions are held open for us by marshals and traffic is held back on roundabouts by the police. As we speed though the stunning countryside fluids and gels are consumed in preparation for the next climb. Tunnels on the way provide a chance for the pace to be lifted even higher as there are no winds to deal with so these are a terrifying/exhilarating blast in almost complete darkness until we explode back into the daylight.

The final climb is approached in the same way as the first but by this time we are dealing with even higher temperatures (40 degrees plus), fatigue and, over the week, increasing foot pain. This one really is a suffer-fest. When the top is finally reached we re-group for the descent before the final run-in to the finish line.

This is usually another fast group effort with riders at the front taking turns while others simply hang on. The line is crossed at full speed with gasping breaths, but as soon as we slow and the wind chill is gone the heat hits us.

We slowly roll through town to the finish area where we are given our food and take refuge in the shade. Both too hot/tired to talk for a while but slowly, very slowly sometimes, the smiles return and talk of “that descent” or “what a climb”.

Once we are feeling human again we wander over to check the provisional results. Did the effort pay off? Did we gain any places? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no.

Then starts the preparation for the next day. We drop our bikes off at the bike park and head over to tonight’s TransCamp, where we are shown to where our bags have been placed. Showers, washing of kit, recovery drink are ticked off in the next 30 minutes and then lay down for a couple of hours. Can’t usually sleep but good to be resting with legs up.

Dinner is at 18:00 which is usually variations on pasta, cold meats, salads, fruit etc. Over the week we get to know some of the other teams so this is a nice chance to chat and relax. At 19:00 we have the results presentations from today’s stage including the leader’s jerseys and then a briefing for tomorrow’s stage when the race director talks us through the stage in detail: how steep the climbs are, any dangerous descents, points of note on the way, what the weather will be and then we have a google earth type fly through of the next stage. Plans are hatched and strategies discussed and then we head off to the bike park to get the bikes ready for tomorrow. Once they have been wiped down, gears/brakes checked, chains oiled etc it is back to the camp for a final recovery drink and bed before we do it all again.

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From when we first registered in Mittenwald and collected our ID cards, food vouchers, road books, numbers and bags to the final evening’s meal and picture show the event was run with meticulous organisation. Every detail had been thought of and was done with the riders in mind. For example, on the one day it rained we arrived at the camp for that night to be given sheets of newspaper to put in our shoes to dry them. Mechanical support was excellent with spare wheels and bikes available to those that needed them. After the final stage we were presented our finishers’ jerseys by one of the officials from the organisers, who shook the hand of every rider that completed the event and congratulated them as she gave out the jerseys. And with only about 75 DNF’s that was well over a thousand hands to shake!

So in summary, for me the Tour TransAlp was a fantastic week of total sensory overload and fun. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Will I do it again, who knows? If I do I will sign up for the metric century challenge beforehand though :)

And finally, thanks to Fraser for being the perfect team mate and putting up with me for a week, and to both our families for making it possible.

Stats from the week:

Total distance: 808 km.

Total Climbing: 18,886 meters.

Longest stage: 146km (stage 6)

Most climbing in a stage: 3047 meters (stage 5).

Highest altitude reached: 2509 meters (stage 2)

Time taken: 35 hrs 12 mins 5 secs

Final position: 108 (out of approx. 252 teams) in Masters category.

Links to our pictures on the event website.

http://www.marathon-...=658A&name=Mark

http://www.marathon-...58B&name=Fraser

@iteamcc 2012 Tour Transalp Twitter Feed...

Day 0:

Signed on. Been to the race briefing. Stuffed with pasta. Seriously stressed. Just want to get started. 2475 m climbing Sunday!

St1: Epic day, started as Team #658 finished 115th place so Monday get to ride with big boys! Less km but more climbing, forecast +27d

St2:

Tough ride. Basically 2 x 1200m high climbs back to back followed by a 30k team time trial! Moved up to 107th team!

St3:

Short but steep stage today (up to 20%!) Lost 3 places - start pen was held back at the start which didn't help :(

St4:

Ridiculously fast today, do they realise they are racing over mountains! 106th out of 252 teams with 2 very big stages coming....

St5:

Today lived up to the brief - Monte grappa in 40 degrees was tough. Held position. Tomorrow's stage is the longest, nearly there

St6:

Longest stage & hottest (feet on fire!) Held position in age group & overall (302 out of about 750 teams) after 30 hours of racing!

7th & Final stage.

Finished the most fantastic event. 106/252 in age group & 298/750+ G.C. Time for beers! Over & out from Fraser & Mark

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