29th August, 2017
Transalp is billed at 'the hardest MTB stage race in the world', this year was the 20th anniversary with the promise of being bigger and better with a total of 545km, mostly off road, with nearly 18,000m of ascent – eeek!
Stage 1 Mayrhofen to Brixen 105km/3120m
I started the day sick with nerves and ended it in the medical tent!
The day started with the 33km climb of Pfitscherjoch! We had ridden this previously in 2011 and carried our bikes through the snow; fortunately the weather was kind this year and although we saw snow on the peaks we remained well below the snow line.
As you would expect the descent was epic (and a bit scary in places)!
Despite hydrating and fuelling really well, I then had hideously painful cramp, but managed to ride through it and most of the way up the next 15km climb until we got to the official 'push' by which point both legs were cramping even just walking!
The first part of the descent was good despite being twisty and littered with drainage channels, but then I lost it in a super steep technical wooded section and threw myself over the handlebars. After lying on the ground for a minute wondering if I had broken my hip or elbow I cautiously got up and was reduced to a walk for the rest of the section with blood everywhere and a weird egg shaped lump appearing on my knee cap!
The run in to the finish was slower than slow, with me having lost my nerve a bit after crashing, and some serious pain on top of the persistent cramp.
The medics scrubbed my wounds (which hurt more than the fall), sprayed me with stingy evil red stuff and I collapsed on the bed with ice on my wounds while black bruises developed in all sorts of places!
Stage 2 Brixen to St Vigil 63km/2668m
On waking I wondered if I would be able to start the stage, but once I was moving, fuelled and dosed up on painkillers I decided I was ok to start.
The day began with a 20km climb from the gun; every pedal stroke hurt and I struggled to push much over 100W! At 2km into the climb I considered quitting, a stern talking to myself saw me accept it was going to hurt and that the goal for the day should be to just survive and finish.
A fabulous flowing single track followed the climb so the mojo started to return and jelly babies and some more ibruprofen got me up the next climb in the 30 degree heat, even passing plenty of riders walking. This was followed by some exhausting undulations and another (mostly) fun descent and a sneaky extra col before climbing to finish in St Vigil.
Stage 3 St Vigil to St Christina 66km/2461m
A beautiful early start from St Vigil at 8am with a spectacular 25km climb was followed by a traffic jam! We had to wait 10-15 minutes to enter a mental bit of the route with a compulsory 1.5km of (seriously terrifying) walking downhill carrying the bike! It seemed to take forever and would have been hard without a bike!
This was followed by some lovely swoopy stuff after the first feed, then more climbing and gorgeous views before some really technical up down, up down, up down, up down.....
I managed to stay upright all day apart from a slight slip which knocked off a bit of newly formed scab and brought tears to my eyes, but overall a much better day in the saddle.
It was a stunning day that lived up to the official stage description which said there would be 'exhausting clambering' and some ‘wow effects’!
Stage 4 St Christina to Kaltern 99km/3001m
With over 3000m up, but even more down this was another long day in the saddle of 100km and temperatures over 35 degrees! I felt strong all day (thanks to ibruprofen and jelly babies) and was back to my usual self with more confidence in the technical descents. I only got 'the fear' once when a rider stopped in front of me and I was too chicken to take an alternative line round him with a big drop.
Most the day I was chatting away to myself (reminding myself how lucky I am to have the opportunity to do this type of event and repeating positive mantras over and over to keep myself going and in the right mindset). Riders nearby no doubt thought I was a barmy old lady, but it works!
Stage 5 Kaltern to Trento 85km/2619m
Halfway through Stage 5 a flipping wasp flew into my mouth and stung me! My face swelled up, I got free Botox, couldn’t actually close my mouth for about 30 minutes and it hurt like hell!
To make things worse 2 mixed pairs overtook us while Steve hunted for my antihistamines and ibruprofen in the hope my throat didn't swell up!
Prior to that we were having a great ride and having done the first 20km climb we were charging along in some cracking forest singletrack.
We descended into the second feed with my comedy face and got ice cold water before another epic climb, including some ancient cobbled road (nothing like any road I have ever seen and I have done ridden Flanders many times) with a 28% gradient.
A technical descent led us to the finish in Trento.
Stage 6 Trento to Lavarone 50km/2002m
Great excitement at the start of Stage 6 when Alban Lakata (MTB Marathon World Champion) wished me luck. I asked him how he was feeling and he said 'still fresh'! He did finish a little bit in front of us!
This stage was shorter, but fairly much 50km of off road climb! A good mix of gravel, forest trails and singletrack before finishing with an epic run down through BikePark Lavarone! The sign at the top suggested it was a 'blue' run, the jumps, drops, woodwork and rooty sections suggested otherwise, but I took it steady and made it down in time to refuel for the last stage!
Stage 7 Lavarone to Riva del Garda 79km/2117m
Boom! We did it! A day with 2 killer climbs and the Garmin recorded a temperature of 38 degrees!
My hands hurt from braking on the technical descents today, my arms ached from the bouncing over rocks and roots, in fact my whole body hurt, but I felt super happy to have finished after such a dramatic race and delighted to finish back in Riva where Steve asked me to marry him at the end of Transalp 2011.
41.5 hours in the saddle
Final finishing position 30th
1 brake pad change
1 gear cable change
1 flight over the handlebars
1 killer wasp
A mountain of pasta
If you read my previous blogs about needing help and getting help you will know I couldn’t have performed so well without the support of Rob Lee, fitnaturally and Windsor Warrior who have supported me during 2017. Rob has kept my training focused and structured, Sally from fitnaturally has supported my nutrition and helped me improve my power to weight ratio by eating good quality real food and Lucy has helped me get stronger and more mobile (read my Yoga Blog here); and I certainly wouldn’t have finished without the love and support of my ever patient hero of a husband – thank you all.
Think you might like to give it a go.......
The date for the 21st edition of the race in 2018 has been confirmed as 15th – 21st July and entries will open around October.
You must race as a pair and the majority of teams are all male pairs with approximately 1000 riders in total.
Accommodation is provided in Transalp Camp (usually sports halls or similar) or you can book a package of B&Bs if you don’t fancy sleeping in a hall with 400+ stinky men (and a couple of stinky women)!
Each day a single large bag is transported for you to the next stage town along with a small day bag and the logistics really are fantastic, as you would expect after 20 years of experience.
Every stage has at least 2 feed stations, there is food provided at the finish and a pasta party every evening.
The staff, support crew, medics, marshals, mechanics and host towns were all wonderful and although it is an expensive race you really do get what you pay for.
Do comment below or get in touch if you have any questions......