First Stage: To Brixen
It was a 9am start to the first stage of the 2017 Transalp. Since no start list was available, we had no idea on who other competitors were and how strong the women’s field might be. We started in Block A and the initial 4km were neutralized. After this point, we were released to start racing and it was 25km to the top of the Schlegeis Speicherersee.. This was a feed station and we met Bea and Hansjörg for what may be the only time today. This was unusual as it was due to the clearing around Sterzing. The Brenner Pass was closed until 9:30 and our support team couldn’t access the track. Frustratingly at the start, the restriction on the pass was lifted, our support team were on course so missed this information and just had to carry on without them.
With two full Bidons, we climbed on up to the Pfirscherjoch, the highest point of the day’s stage. This was a relief after more than 30km, but we did it!! Next was a long and hard earned descent on gravel to St Jakob in Pfitsch continuing along the valley to Sterzing. This was pretty quick to the transition, but we quickly had to leave again. Quickly, we were back in a group which was better for us as we could hold a mixed teams wheel. We worked this way for about 3 hours where the second ascent started to the Valser Jöchl. We met Hanna so I could pass the empty bidon but I didn’t need a refill this time. The support on the road is always welcome though !!!
The next climb was 10km long and really tough. Jennie had to dig in and fight and I had to be careful not to push her too hard. Others overdid it and it didn’t pay off. We joined the road and a motorcycle and had to push hard on the last kilometre of the Valser Jöchl. After this, we were rewarded with beautiful, flowy trails and Jennie was smiling again. From the Nockalm there were a lot of small climbs and drops before the decent. The trails were both tricky and cool at the same time.
Back on the gravel before Schabs, we took a wrong turn and lost a few meters until realising our mistake. We turned, found the correct way and we were off again. From Schabs to Brixen, there were a few climbs but it wasn’t too bad.
We arrived at the finish after 5:20 hrs, our first stage win and the Leaders Jersey for the following day. After a foot bath in the well just after the finish line and a short recovery ride back to camp, I had a great massage. Feeling good, I was ready for tomorrow.
Second Stage: Brixen to St Vigil
Today started with a long ascent again and after 20km we had climbed 1600m ! Initially on the tarred road then on the ski slope to the Rossalm. Just before this were Hansjörg and Bea with a very welcome full bidon. THANK YOU ! I stopped quickly at the feed station and continued the few kilometres to the Rossalm. Jennie had a little trouble, not being used to such long climbs and I had a little time to take in the view. We were overtaken by other riders but they weren’t actually faster and at the top, we started on singletrail.
In the beginning, we had to get off and push, the way was choked with riders. Even the motorcyclist had to push! There followed a series of great trails to the „Skihütte“. After this, the descent was on tarmac until the next climb to the Würzjoch. The descents are pretty fast and I had to pay attention as cars are a surprise after corners. Everything was going well and we could attack on the climb. I found this great and we slowly made our way higher, exactly what Jennie likes. I had more time to enjoy the landscape which was really beautiful, there were small huts which had been stables at one time which fit into the landscape perfectly and could only be the Dolomites. I could hardly be more content!
Finally, at the Würzjoch, first descent over the ski slope, then a short trail and ascent, a quick descent and then a MEGA climb to the Col da Ermo, definitely the hardest test. We seem to be stuck with the same male riders on the road, I supported Jennie so we didn’t get dropped…. Again, a descent and the St Vigil bike path which was very nice. There were many curves and even though it wasn’t singletrail it was cool to ride it.
From the intermediate water station, I was keen to push on so we could stay with the group. Jennie was feeling the ride at this stage but there was not long to go. We were in first place and could increase our lead again. Well fought Jennie !!!
Thinking about recovery, looking forward to the following day which should be a great stage and it’s great to not be too far back on small trails, let’s see what tomorrow brings !!!
Stage 3: St Vigil to St Christina
This stage needed an earlier start as there was a lot of hikers on the trail. From the Start at St Vigil, it climbs towards Pederü and the Fanes hut to the Limojoch. We were able to ride in the pack for a long time which made me very happy !! I wasn’t so comfortable but it helped to make the kilometres pass quickly. After the pack strung out, we were able to pick up the pace although we couldn’t match the faster mixed team. We were however, faster than the previous day.
Climbing in the valley, the scenery was amazing, the mountains, rocks and weather were perfect. It was magically beautiful and I thought “How great that I can race like this”. Since the training is very effective, I hope I can participate in such races often !!
The last meters to the Limojoch were steep and tricky, but I cracked it.. YEA !!!! Afterwards it eased to the Tadegajoch and it was made to be enjoyed.
Next was a descent from the pass to a nature reserve. Not all riders respected this although it was clearly signed and marked. It was also unfair to those who stuck to the instructions as it was clearly quicker to ride. I was curious if this would have consequences for these people. It would clearly have been easier than pushing…
At Capanna Alpina, we met Erich at the feed zone, then gravel and short trails to Stern and Corvara as part of the ascent to the Grödnerjoch. Next, a section of the Hero Sella Ronda but in the opposite direction to usual which was very strenuous and again, tough for Jennie. I dropped down a couple of gears so avoid pushing her too hard.
Above us were Bea and Hansjörg who would feed us for the second time today. The route profile was in my mind and I thought we would descend, but it wasn’t like that!! We did 4km down on very cool trails then undulating until crossing the main road. From the Plan del Gralba was another 400m climb and the Sellajoch. This climb was tough, steep, tricky with technical sections and many hikers to get around. Jennie was feeling it again and I waited, I didn’t want to push it.
The waymarking on the Sellajoch wasn’t clear, we couldn’t see any bikes, only walkers and hikers, losing a bit of time finding the route. Finally, back on course, dodging the walkers and had clear track ahead. The ski slope went down to Monte Pana ! On the last really difficult trail, we dropped to St Christina, the destination. At this point we had no idea of the times but later found out we kept the Leaders Jersey with another stage win!
Stage 4: St Christina to Kaltern
It was steep from the very start to Monte Pana. I got away well and climbed smoothly, but a glance over the shoulder, my second half was missing, there was no Jennie. I relaxed the pressure on the pedals, but there was always a bit of a gap between us, I found it hard to slow down. Each time the trail flattened, I waited. In this way, we arrived at Compatsch in good shape and then quickly down on tarmac. I was flying with the bike saddle down….
At the next trail entrance, we came to the next jam. After carrying over a barrier we went down a cool trail, some steep, some nicely flowing. Nice to ride, we went up and down some steep climbs over St. Vigil, St. Anton, Völser, Turn, Weiher, Schnaggenkreuz down to the Tieser valley.
The second steep climb started here. Up to Lärchegg, it was very steep and demanded everything from Jennie and she fought hard. On steep climbs, it is difficult to ride slowly as I have a high cadence and spin a little faster. Ironically, the trail down was tough so no relaxing there!
From Unterbirchabruck we went to the next long ascent to Deutschnofen. I tried to push Jennie repeatedly offering moral support but it was not easy. We managed well and went on gravel to Brantental and on to Leifers. Then 10k lay ahead, we were alone but could see another team ahead. Despite not liking the leadership role, I dug in, closed on the team ahead and made the connection.
After a short break, I helped with leading and alternated this in threes. We passed 10km this way to Leimburg quickly, in front of us was the climb up to the Kreithersattel. It was steep, but I wanted to stay on the wheel of the other two, so I pushed again a little. We reached the top all together, but lost the connection riding down the following trails.
Finally, the last kilometres, these went past without any problems and we crossed the line as the first women’s team. Well fought Jennie ! Heads up… ! In the end, some comforting words and Jennie was disappointed and felt she had nothing left. I didn’t think that this was the case, we are simply not as strong as each other at the same time.
We are still in front and we stretched the lead today. Time to switch off and think of different things. Time to get fully motivated for tomorrow, another day in the Leader’s Jersey….
Stage 5: Kaltern to Trento
Today, the stage started with the longest neutralised section. Together with the rest of the field, we rode 16km to the Neumarkt climb. We needed to pay attention even in this time to avoid falls. Some riders think they are faster than the pack and can cause problems. We managed this section without incidents until we were released to race.
There was climbing now to the 32km mark, alternatively tarmac and gravel. The first feed zone was in Mühlen and as it was really hot, I decided to fill my bidon and Jennie pressed on. Taking a handful of nuts to eat, I fought back to Jennie and we made it up to the Gfrillner Sattel. From then on it was undulating constantly.
At Grifill, we were fed by Bea and Hansjörg then pressed on to Valdonega. There was more pressure with Jennie and we were getting better at working together. She took my wheel on the less steep sections and on steeper climbs I tried to match her pace and stay with her.
From Lago Santo, we dropped to Sovina then descended further on trails and forest paths to Lavis. Ahead was a 10km climb to Monte Caliso. We started on road then after Meano, this changes to steep forest paths. My feet were hurting more and more and I was struggling to pedal. I opened my shoes, it didn’t help. It just hurt like hell !! I tried to move my toes and it hurt even more but improved as I moved. As soon as I stopped, the pain returned, it was really unpleasant !!
I got through this problem and finally, we were up and could enjoy the beautiful trails, my painful feet were long forgotten. The trails were narrow and the bends were tight, but it was great fun !!!
Once again, our goal was the first female team and Jennie was laughing once more !!!!
Stage 6: Trento to Lavarone
Today’s agenda, a sprint stage, or rather a uphill course with 2002m climbing and 1039m down !! Past the city of Trento was neutralised but quite fast as it went uphill !! After 5.8km, we were away. I held back a little so Jennie could cycle easily, I led on tarmac and then gravel to Passo Cimirio. Today it felt like we were just being overtaken. It was painful to see all the riders passing, but we reached Castelet. From there, it was a fast descent. This felt quite dangerous as some riders felt they were faster and the edgy overtaking manoeuvres started !!! These riders were ahead of us, but irritatingly at the next technical section we had to wait as these riders were struggling….
The next climb to the Malga Dos del Bue was steeper and varied on gravel and forest trails… trails…. it was great in the forest, I could chat with other riders. Then again, some thinking time and enjoy the view !!!
At 1100m, it went hilly. I had to pay attention to not miss the route and take the correct tracks, then a short ascent….When we were in Slaghenaufi, I could take the front but there was still the last climb to Monte Tablat.. that took a bit of work. Finally, at the top, the bike park lead down to Lavarone!
Even on this day, we could take the stage win and Leader’s Jersey, but I thought that we were still far behind in the overall rankings.
One day to go, then Riva del Garda. The goal, ride well and safely to the finish.
Stage 7: Lavarone to Riva del Garda
One last time to go out, one last time to start, one last time to wait for the starting gun…. But the first time to be called out first, I never thought we would not be ready.
So, we were off, the route neutralised to Carbonare, mostly a descent and we were off the brakes. We were released to race up to Fort Cherle, on gravel which was peppered with steep ramps. I could ride all these but what made it difficult was being in the pack with other riders. The first climb was 400m, then undulating to Dosso del Sommo. The last part was so steep with loose stones, I had to carry the bike !!!!
The descent was on gravel, with 180 degree corners, so because of the loose surface it wasn’t possible to ride flat out, I had to be careful on the turns. Then came the cool trails…. I really had fun.
We destroyed a good 1500m down to Calliano. From there, the next flat 10km back to Rovereto, Isera !! As it was very hot, I was pleased to see the town below Hanna as my bidons were empty. From Calliano we could ride with a mixed team and I could share the lead with the male rider. However, we didn’t seem to be so quick as we were caught and replaced as leaders of the group. We stayed with them until the start of the ascent and at that point, Jennie had to fall back.
As a group, we rode our own pace up the climb, it was on tarmac and really hot!! Then it got really steep and I had to ride at my own pace, alone. I was going to wait up at Monte Faé for Jennie, my bidon was empty and I was relieved to see the official feed zone at the top.
Time ticking away before the food… I put my bike at the roadside, filled my bidon, took some snacks and watermelon and waited with my bike for Jennie. She arrived, took some food and went on. We went up and down over Nannone to Maso Naranch. Finally, we saw Bea and Hansjörg stood at the edge of the street, holding our bottles!
From Maso Naranch the trail went steeply down then road to Nago. The brakes were burning and I was glad to be at the bottom of this section. The trail was cool, but the concrete road was something else !!! In Naco we had to make a detour via Arco before turning back to Riva del Garda. Another 10km worth of extra kilometres…
We finally crossed the finish line today!!!
7 stages, 7 victories and therefore of course, the overall race win in our category. This was our third stage race together and our third win, not bad !
Jennie, thanks for another week with me, I know you suffer more than I do because you are not used to the long climbs, but you fought hard over the mountains, BRAVO ! This was certainly a good preparation for the next stage race.
You must be really committed for this race because for the 7 days of racing, there was not a single cent of prize money! This was very disappointing. Seven days’ work without reward. I think the organisers of Bike Transalp have some things to consider if they want to attract professional racers to the start. The voucher for two nights in a Riva hotel in the low season is all well and good but this doesn’t help finance my attendance at the race. A mechanic and masseur for the week is a bonus as I can’t pay them. Then hotels, camping, fuel for the car, food.. it all adds up then at the end, no reward for success and the bills are still there.
In the evening, no pasta for the first time. Chips with chicken but no dessert. Not a problem in Italy, there are enough Gelaterias to eat ice cream !!
I would like to thank all our carers who supported us so energetically. I must add a special thankyou to Meerendal – CBC who supported us with financial assistance.
Finally, all sponsors who provide support this season with equipment.
Translated by Rick Harrison