Ischgl village up to Idalp (7.7km and 960hm); the short track and the Ischgl Ironbike Marathon 75km 3700hm.
The whole event was very successful and special, presenting the athletes with new and testing challenges. But now, the write up from the event as it happened.
Hillclimb Stage: Ischgl Dorf to Idalp
The start for my group, the Women Elite riders, was 8:45pm, exactly the time when I usually go to bed on race days… and as a morning person, a completely new experience! I planned to eat at 6pm but had to change that for a team manager meeting, so I ate a little earlier. At 8pm we set off for the race and arrived at the start at 8:35pm.
There were some very strong riders, Kollmann, Pintaric, Tazreiter, Riederer…. The stage was set for some very exciting racing…
Riederer took the lead at the start, but since the course quickly went to an uphill section, I was able to ride well. When the climb began I was pleasantly surprised at how well my legs were turning. In the early stages there was the usual “jostling and sniffing“… who does what and when..“ Somewhere along the way, I thought we could ride a bit faster and took the lead. The field disintegrated more and more and at the middle station of the cable car up to the Idalp, Kollmann, Pintaric, Tazreiter and me rode together. It was quite steep, the road took us up higher and higher.
When we were about 1k from the finish, Pintaric attacked and unfortunately, I couldn’t follow… Kollmann went with her but my legs couldn’t give any more so I didn’t push… I hoped to defend for the third place which I managed… 25s behind the first place.
I was disappointed, I really wanted the win.. nothing lost, it’s the first stage, but still…. Next, the wait for the stage results due to be released at 10:30pm….. On the up side, we were well fed and not the usual pasta. We dined on baked potatoes with sour cream, steak and corn from the grill which was really nice.
After the results were posted, I took the cable car downhill and was finally in bed for midnight, I didn’t sleep much but wasn’t too tired.
Stage 2: Short Track.
In the morning I went to the mountain with Erich to look at the two trails for the next days stage. There were new trails from the Idjoch down to Idalp and then the last trail on the downhill section to Ischgl. After checking this out, a massage which was organised earlier then on to check out the Short Track trails. Erich prepped my bike and my parents arrived as well which is always nice.
The start was 7pm, so food was the main topic again, so we all went for “lunch” in the middle of the afternoon! After that, time to kill until the start.
So, Short Track racing, 3 laps of a 2.9k course. I didn’t expect too much, the total distance is too short for my racing preference so my goal was to ride as well as possible without losing too much time and draining too much power.
Right after the start we crossed the bridge in two sharp turns and then we started the climb. This was, for a short track, relatively long (we made all the height per lap in this one climb!). Arriving at the top, 500m more or less flat but riding against the wind.
After that came a fast descent with tricky turns that were very slippery (because of the gravel). Then down the stream back to the line. About 200m before the finish we had to negotiate some sharp and tight curves and over a bridge back to the other side of the stream.
I was able to keep up surprisingly well for 2 laps. In the third lap Kollmann attacked in the climb. I followed and we opened a small gap to Pintaric. Had we worked together here, maybe even more would have been possible, but after I rode ahead, Kollmann did not help anymore and I rode the whole section in the wind. Although I was able to lead downhill, Pintaric and Kollmann passed me again along the stream. I was just „too sweet“ and put my elbows in, I didn’t want to provoke a fall. There was still the last big stage on the horizon. I had to be content with the 3rd place today. But I was really happy with the race. I had done a lot better than I thought on a course where couldn’t play to my strengths.
The men started after our race and so we had to wait a bit longer to see the results and overall rankings. We arrived at the start / finish with the caravan from Engadin, I could cook something for snacks and fill my memory of the trail for the marathon the next day.
Stage 3: Ironbike Marathon
Today was different, a mass start for everyone at 8am. The route was neutralised through Ischgl towards Galtür. After approximately 2.5k we turned off the road and were released to race. My plan was to try and stay up fron for about 30kWe rode on the left side, up the valley with the occasional small climb. A singletrack took us down to Galtürand then back to Ischgl on the opposite side of the valley.
As a five, we came back to Ischgl and the real race started. I was fed for the first time as we passed the church. My mum stood there with bottles for me and Angi and she mastered passing the bidons perfectly!
Again, a heads-up and see what others are doing. I remembers to not get worried and as has been proved effective, I rode at my own pace. My legs felt good and I cranked up the mountain, metre by metre. Back on the Hillclimb track, Kollmann dropped back a little. I was thinking that she was probably doing here own thing and will be coming at me again, later.
At the „hohe Zaire“ Angi and I were fed by my dad, another bidon handover professional! Next a right turn, a short downhill and a further 5k up to the Salanserjoch. By this time, the groups had shrunk again and Pintaric had opened a gap. Angi and I rode together for a while but the steeper it got, the more things went in my favour. I love the climbs and had the better pace arriving alone on the Salanserjoch. I was fed by Erich (a seasoned bidon professional), who told me I was 1 minute ahead of Pintaric and 1:40 ahead of Angi.
Next, a long descent to Samnaun on singletrack with cows to dodge the gravel, rapidly loosing height. I lost some seconds when I missed the signage. I was also shaken after seeing a ditch late. Not slowing down but not carrying enough speed to jump, I got through it and was still on the bike!
In Samnaun, dad should have been standing with a bidon but no one was at the Feedzone for me. I thought that the official Feedzone was still to come.. but this wasn’t the case. I had to think.. and fast! The next 10k was steep climbing in high temperatures, running out of fluid would be a disaster. A local well saved the day and gave me the splash and dash I needed.
In past years we rode downhill here, this year we fought our way up the hairpins over Alp Trida to the Idjoch. I didn’t look back and really focussed on my race. I struggled on, climbing metre by metre. It was a vertical kilometre to the Idjoch, getting steeper all the time and I thought about kicking on, not dismounting and pushing.
On the Idjoch, mum and dad were waiting with a welcome bidon. A quick long drink, a deep breath and straight into the singletrack down to Idalp and Erich for the final time. 2.5k and 300 m climbing before the last 10k descent to Ischgl.
I really enjoyed this climb and wasable to pass many riders, some pushing. This was great for my motivation to press on. Finally, I was up and the challenge was to keep in control on the 10k descent. The first 4k were trail, the rest very fast gravel, the track was very bumpy and I was getting battered on my hardtail.
Finally Ischgl and I finished after just 5h as winner of the Ischgl Ironbike Marathon.
Now it was the waiting game. Who would be second and had I done enough to take the overall win?
Pintaric, who had started with the lead tricot and had 30 seconds ahead of me, came in 10 minutes after I had crossed the line…. I had taken the overall win!
I was super happy after a very exciting race weekend. I learned a great deal from this race, it was a great experience and I hope to be competing again next year.
Thanks to Mum, Dad and Erich for their care and the Organisers for a great race format.