We’re just back from 800+km of riding in bunches with 1300 other cyclists in Europe and we saw not one crash occur, not even someone buzzing wheels. Now, depending where you live that might be quite normal. But, living, riding and racing in New Zealand it (sadly) isn’t. It’s very hard to think of a race that we’ve been part of that hasn’t involved watching a bunch “explode” and people hitting the deck – at the very least their day spoilt and all too often their season.
What is the difference between riding in New Zealand and Europe? In New Zealand we see double pace lines with ten centimetres between handlebars and riders frequently lapping wheels (riding with the front wheel overlapping the rider in fronts back wheel). If you are in a team time trial with people you know well, or you are in a well drilled echelon that might be appropriate and safe. But, when you turn up to a race and don’t know everyone in the bunch – how evenly they ride (speed and line) – how much time is gained from lapping wheels? None. Lapping wheels causes crashes. When the rider in front moves from their line to avoid an imperfection in the road, or gets out of the saddle, there is a good chance that the rider behind will go down. And, the rider behind is the person responsible for that crash!
In Europe we had very large bunches riding safely. They rode with at least a handlebar width between handlebars (40cm or so). There was also a gap between the back wheel of the front rider and the front wheel of the following bike of at least the diameter of a wheel. That gives the rider behind time to slow, and/or move to the side when the rider in front deviates from their line or changes their speed. The bigger the bunch, the more room needs to be left between bikes. The European bunches were riding quicker than typical New Zealand bunches.
Unlike New Zealand where there often seems to be a competition to see how many, and how loudly, you can announce the presence of pot holes, stones on the road, etc. etc. riders in Europe reserved announcements for the truly unusual. The small pot holes, gravel, etc. might be marked by a small hand gesture, but the key job of the lead riders was to gently, not suddenly, guide the bunch around any obstacles.
So, when you’re out there on your bike, especially riding with people you don’t know well, your job is to guide the bunch smoothly if you’re at the front and to leave enough room (both side to side and front) to manoeuvre if you are following another rider. A safe ride is a fast ride.
We (coach Ben and his wife and training partner Sanna) decided we needed another challenge, so we signed up for the Tour Transalp.
What the Tour Transalp is… roughly speaking 900km and 19 000m of climbing in seven days, including; Stelvio, the Mortirolo and a host of other major climbs in the Alps between Sondhofen (Germany) and Arco (Italy). All of that with 1300 riders in teams of two. Of course (as you’ll read below) we didn’t get all those km’s or m’s, but we certainly did get a challenge.
Going to the Tour — Thursday 20th June
We’d had a couple of very very hot days in Vienna (35C) more than enough to have you sweating when standing still, let alone when riding. We had ridden both mornings and had ice creams afterwards. Preparing ourselves for a hot Transalp, except for the weather forecast.
We left Vienna, from Westbahnhof, at 8.30am — after Hannes gave us, and our luggage a ride to the train station. We took the Railjet to Munich, then changed to a regional train to Sondhofen. Along the way we found a few people whose achievement in life appears to have been the ability to look so grumpy that no one will sit next to you on the train. The methods range from the outright rude, to the extremely rude. People stood rather than sit next to the ‘achiever’.
Travelling with two bike boxes, two large suitcases and hand luggage was a challenge to say the least. All was stored near us on the train, often half way across an access way. Getting on and off trains. . . lots of fun.
We arrived in Sondhofen and walked, with luggage, to the accommodation, 500m away. The temperature was still very hot, but less than we had endured in Vienna over the previous two days. We checked in to the hotel, waking through the grilled chicken restaurant — not promising. Pleasingly the room was pretty standard, large enough for the bike boxes, the luggage and us.
The sky was dark and the hills clagged in with thick clouds. We went for a look around the town and after a very pleasant (and cheap) Eiscafe we wandered through the pedestrian precinct (a couple of times). As we headed back to the room the sky opened up with very large drops of rain. By the time we’d retreated to the room, it was schu ̈tten down and the streets were awash with a good layer of water.
And then the rain
After an enthusiastic downpour the skies cleared and we were free to seek out dinner. We chose an Italian restaurant, with good pizza (and okay pasta) accompanied by a salad and a little wine. Early to bed. Watching the weather forecast on television there were:
• storm force winds
• low temperatures (high of 11C) • thunder storms
• heavy rain
for the days ahead… and snow at high levels, like road passes.
Sondhofen — Friday 21st June
Slept in, and had a leisurely breakfast from the buffet breakfast in the hotel. We put the bikes together and then went looking for a little grease — for the pedal threads, which had been quite dry after riding in Vienna. Also got some rain pants for Sanna, given the dire weather forecasts. . . Oiled chains thoroughly and went for a gentle ride in the nearby roads and cycle paths. Not long, but good to keep the legs ‘open’. Weather appears to be clagging in (early afternoon) with the prospect of more thunderstorms this afternoon. This could be the “end of the golden weather” with rain forecast for tomorrow (Saturday) and some rain for the first day of the race on Sunday. All before the weather really goes to pieces and we have bad weather Monday and Tuesday forecast, with snow expected to greet us on Monday morning. . . We will have good stories to tell.
Registering in Sondhofen — Saturday 22nd June
We woke to a damp day, cool, but not cold. Breakfast, okay, same as yesterday — two semmerl Nutella and jam, coffee (like substance), and a yoghurt.
Nine o’clock check in started, only it didn’t. We queued outside the doors for fifteen minutes. Then we queued for a form that we had been sent (supposedly) but hadn’t brought with us. Then we were processed. Only an hour to complete registration. Back to the hotel to see what we could fit in our tour bag (limit 15kg. . . yeh right). The problem is that this bag (85 by 35 by 35cm) is all that we’re allowed to take with us on the race. And the weather could be anything between zero and thirty five Celsius. The other thing is that this bag has to be deposited at the bag drop off point 1.3km from our hotel and the start line tomorrow morning between 7.30am and 8.30am. The race starts at 10am and we’re neither too keen on carrying a heavy bag, while wheeling our bikes. Then depositing said bags, including the shoes we walked in. Changing into cycle shoes and riding back to the hotel to await the start. We’re working on a solution, but it won’t involve the official organisation we’ve been told.
Pasta party tonight and race briefing for tomorrow. Let the queueing continue 🙂
Well, we were wrong. We went to the pasta party early, to queue, and. . . it was open and there was almost no queueing at all. A hearty pasta with red meat sauce and parmesan on top. A lengthy wait for the speeches to start (45min after eating). Lots of dialects (in German) a bit of English. But, on the whole all able to be understood, including the road problems (gravel section), road works in a tunnel, etc. A good briefing from the head of rescue about taking it easy, etc. The local mayor, tourism chef, etc. etc. All a bit long, but not too painful. Headed home for an early (nervous) night.
Our solution to the bag “problem”? We have a taxi booked to take the bags and one of us (Sanna most likely) at 7.15am. Drop the bags off and walk back in our disposable socks (1.3km…). Definitely not ideal, but not a back breaking walk, or a dangerous ride with a heavy bag (in heavy traffic).
Clothes are laid out for our “likely” weather conditions for tomorrow. We’re now expecting; slightly cooler, dry and thunder storms in the afternoon (hopefully once we’re finished). The forecast for Monday continues to be dire.
Pasta party menu: pasta with red sauce
Stage One: Sondhofen to St Anton am Arlberg — Sunday 23rd June
Well, we woke to relatively good weather – warm, almost sunny, some few clouds floating around. We decided to go with the forecast from the organisers — we took light rain jackets and went short sleeved, shorts with knee warmers and a warm front. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but not for long… During the neutral roll out (13km where we were either doing over 30km/hr or almost standing still) it started to spit. Within half an hour we were on the side of the road putting our light rain jackets on — they didn’t come off.
It rained for around eighty percent of our time on the road, sometimes lightly sometimes very heavily. We rode along a valley, then up Hochtannbergpaß. Hochtannbergpaß was from a quarter of the way up clagged in mist, with visibility often down to 30m. Over the top of Hochtannbergpaß, which is apparently very pretty, not that we saw it, we descended into Warth in icy rain, then rode across to Lech and on to the Flexenpaß(largely through gallery/tunnels) then after a short descent, also through tunnels, we ascended Arlbergpaß, still in the rain and fog. The descent into St Anton am Arlberg was very wet and quite steep. There were a lot of marshals and a couple of police on the descent. We rode into St Anton and around the cobbled streets to the finish line, just over 5hrs 30min net, not bad given the awful conditions.
I really like St Anton, we’ve visited twice before, including a visit to a Murmeltier field, where we spent a very happy half hour talking with a Murmeltier at close range. We’d booked the Sport Hotel, one of the nicer hotels in St Anton, about 20m from the finish line. So we finished and made our way to the hotel — food at the finish line was finished for today — to check in and start getting some calories into the body. We’d eaten two power bars, two gels, and two bags of chomps each, along with four bottles of Skratch labs drink and one not so nice drink from the organisers. But we were a few thousand behind being even, so coffee and strudel was the first port of call. The next was the konditorei across the road for a piece of cake.
After a brief rest, we wandered to the pasta party and briefing. Over thirty minutes of queueing lead to a hearty spaghetti bolognese with parmesan cheese — eaten with gusto (Ben) along with an alcohol free wheat beer.
Then it was time for the briefing. Not good news — today a rider died on the race, speed wobbles on a dry road 3km from the finish line descending into St Anton. Festivities for today cancelled.
Tomorrow’s stage, which has been changed once already to accommodate the danger of rock slides, has been changed again. The weather forecast for tomorrow is for cold (4C), wet (heavy) and snow about 1500m (we’re just below that in St Anton). There was no way we could safely head back up Arlbergpaß tomorrow. The stage has been cancelled and we will ride 40km in a procession to the destination town Imst, starting at 10am instead of 9am. The organisers have advised riders to “wear everything you have”.
Dinner: pasta with red sauce Stage Two: St Anton Am Arlberg to Imst — Monday 24th June
First Change: This stage was meant to go over the Silvrettahochalpenstraße, a wee beasty that we’ve had a good look at before. Instead, and due to rock fall danger (the road is closed to all traffic to allow blasting) we will head up St Anton pass, into Lech and then go down the “picturesque” Lechtal (valley) to go over the stunning Hochtenbergpasse into Imst. We rode that pass, from the other side, two years ago and it’s a beauty. A bit of a beast of a descent, but lovely views, if we’re fresh enough to notice. We’ll ride down the hill past our hotel to the finish, then turn around and go back up to rest and recover.
Second Change: Stage Cancelled, ride in procession to Imst.
Breakfast, if you looked very carefully you could find the Speck (smoked bacon/ham that doesn’t need cooking) in the buffet. We did and ate the lot. . . . I have a feeling that it was decorative only, but it tasted nice. Semmerl, nuttela, cheese, speck and even a bit of Italian style muesli (it has chocolate bits in it. . . ) made a good breakfast when combined with a number of cups of average (at best) coffee. After dropping our bags at reception and breakfasting it was time to …wait. We had a couple of hours before the ride down the valley. We watched the beautiful winter scenes on all the ski resorts — covered in fresh (and deep) snow — on the Bergpanorama programme.
So, we rode down the St Anton valley to Imst in a neutral procession, in the rain. All safe, thanks to a huge police presence stopping all crossing traffic on quite significant roads. But is was really rather wet. Luckily we have:
• rain jackets — specific to the racing bike • rain over trousers — also bike specific
• rain caps to go under the helmet
• rain gloves and rain proof overshoes
We got to the hotel warm and relatively dry. Along the ride Sanna was talking with a man who has completed the Transalp nine times and says this is the worst weather he’s ever seen on the race. Just lucky I guess.
On the way to the hotel from the “finish line” we dropped by a Konditerei that we know from two years ago. The best cakes we’ve had in Austria this time (sorry Jindrak, it just wasn’t that good this time). They go down so easily after riding in the rain too.
We’re now in our room, with beautiful view, on a summer’s day. Unfortunately it’s not a summer’s day. It’s raining and low cloud surrounds us. But, the view of the fields and horses is nice. Later we’ll take the bus down to the pasta party for some recreational queueing. . .
The other news today is that my Garmin bike computer has given up the ghost. It refuses to talk to my computer. Of course I’ve had it for a few years, but this is not a polite time to die. We tried to get one in Imst, but they’ve sold out already (not today, just in general). Ah well. These things happen.
There’s lot of chatter around what will happen with tomorrow’s stage — will the snow deny us some more climbing? The finish line town is thick with snow this morning and we get a little higher along the way. Ah well, either way will be a good experience. Tonight we’ll find out, I guess.
Currently the forecast for Stelvio for Wednesday when we’re meant to ride it is for snow and a freezing level at two hundred meters under the pass. We’ll see if the forecast changes and if we get over it this year. At least we’ve ridden it before, there are others who haven’t.
At the briefing the weather forecast was shared. The forecast is for between 6 and 8C during the stage, with a good chance of finishing in snow showers. Wear all your clothes, keep warm and ride safe. We plan to. Of course we missed the race briefing as our bus (the only one to our hotel) left before the briefing — but we had spent hours (well it seemed like hours) listening to the presentation of the first three places in each category, then the presentation of jerseys to each leading team. The leading teams had conveniently gone and sat back in their seats at the back of the mass of people, so they had to process up through the crowds. Lots of time wasted on leaders and no time for the safety information. . .
Dinner: pasta with red sauce…and salad! and soup (minestrone for more pasta) and cake! In spite of the expanded menu, Sanna has pasta fatigue. She’s happy to keep riding, but not to have more pasta tomorrow night! Given that we have five more “pasta parties” on the cards, the chances of getting more pasta with red sauce seem pretty high. We will survive.
Stage Three: Imst to Zerniz — Tuesday 25th June
Forecast for today, dire — nothing over 8C and lots of rain, with a chance of snow falls at the finish town. The weather cleared enough for us to see the snow level not far above our hotel. We rode down the hill to the start line in light rain and lined up in our block. We started off neutral — go as fast as you can — down hill across the valley (a couple of hundred meters) and up the Pillerhohe pass, well, on the way to it. Pillerhohe pass climbed about 900m and we eased up it, with only one break for a wee. Going down the other side of Pillerhohe was incredibly steep — certainly glad we weren’t riding up it. But, it was still wet and being very steep there were quite a number of sad looking cyclists on the side of the road with their carbon clinchers that had overheated and blown the tyres off the rims (or melted the rims. . . ). A few of them came charging past later in the day.
After Pillerhohe we rode up and down for ages, with a couple of steep climbs up the side of the valleys (really steep). It rained off and on a bit. Hard to decide when to take the rain jacket off, or put it on, etc. etc. We got in a couple of good groups for the flatter sections and got through in a time that we’re pretty happy with — it’s not up officially yet, but it should be around 5hrs 15min net. The weather wasn’t as bad as predicted and got up to 15C during the ride, which was a bit of a challenge for us dressed for the forecast. There were still plenty of people that complained of the cold and were obviously under dressed.
Dinner: Menu …pasta with …red sauce. But, to be fair this dinner there was some meat in the sauce. The alcohol free radler we had with it would buy you a small meal in Dunedin.
After the queueing — we got there early to avoid the queues and thought we’d “won” when we saw a very small queue by the opening of the tent, only thing was the queue went the whole way around the inside of the tent and wasn’t moving fast anywhere — which took the usual just over half an hour, there was eating, then waiting…Waiting for the briefing. We could see that the race director was getting very animated with the sponsors and then was deep in thought preparing his briefing. It went something along the lines of:
We start at 8am instead of the usual 9am. Your bags must be to reception by 6am.
Tomorrow will be cold, very cold. It might be snowing for the first climb and it is likely 0C on top of Stelvio — if we’re lucky
We hope to go over Stelvio, but …
If it’s too cold (less than zero) on top early in the morning, we will ride an alternative course (Umbral pass, as a short cut). [But, you won’t know what the course is when your bag disappears . . . ]
Unfortunately the police have insisted that we ride neutral for the first 35km, in groups of around 100, to avoid racing into a road works on a downhill
The first drink station is cancelled.
Dress warm, it will not be summer tomorrow!
If team support vehicles are seen on the course again, riders will be penalised. Ben clapped loudly at this point. Today there were a few driving very dangerously on the course.
Back to the hotel (very nice, we highly recommend Hotel Baer Post in Zerniz) for more Linzer Torte (purchased in Linz from Jindrak Konditerei) and to sort out our clothes for tomorrow.
It might be time to leave the waterproof overpants at home and leave the rain jacket, taking a lightweight wind jacket instead. Time will tell. We’re certainly taking extra food for this (potentially) marathon stage — 135km and 3990m of climbing.
Stage Four: Zerniz to Livignio — Wednesday 26th June
Eight o’clock race start, so 5.40am get up to prepare and take the bags to reception by 6am. Breakfast from 6am for forty minutes. Eating is work, not pleasure or to be enjoyed (especially dinner, which must be endured). It was very cold, but the weather forecast was for dry, so we left our rain gear at home for the first time. The forecast included the possibility of snow on Stelvio and at our destination, and we did have a few flakes on the top 500m of Stelvio, but nothing to write home about, so we had our lightweight jackets in our back pockets. After almost not bringing the very versatile Assos Intermediate Evo jackets with us we have now worn them every day. . . and they’re starting to smell like it. Will the weather ever change?
Well, what do you say. . . one of the hardest rides either of us has ever done — and we did it well. We moved up from finishing 80th on the first stage, to 77th on the third stage (second stage cancelled) to . . . 55th today! Very happy to have done so much better on such a beast of a day. Seven hours fifty minutes of riding, 3990m of climbing and 130km. The legendary Stelvio as the second pass of four. We ate, we drank, we pedalled (and pedalled and pedalled) and descended a bit. What a day. We will sleep well tonight. Glad that the start is at 9am again tomorrow. The extra hour’s sleep will be appreciated.
We finished the stage, which had a twist in the tail — the last 200m were very very steep, up an access ramp, some hardly made it — had a coffee and some food and then went looking for our accommodation. We saw cyclists and cyclist’s supporters wandering around, or driving around, looking bewildered and very lost. The local tourist information has a great system — they give you a map, with numbers on it. They told us what number our hotel was, but there was no index. So you’re looking for a hotel based on streets, where there are no street signs, in a very long town. We found a cycle shop with a new bike computer for Ben, power again tomorrow — if only I can produce some. We finally found our hotel, checked in, took the bikes up, had a shower and headed for the pasta party, via the local supermarket where we bought a bun and 150g of Parma Ham (Euro 1.89/100g). We could finance our holiday by bringing back a few kilo of parma ham. . . The parma ham went in the bun and went down very easily on the way to dinner.
Dinner: Menu…pasta with …the local specialty…red sauce. ArghHHH! I (Ben) ate it like a good boy, but didn’t enjoy it. Sanna picked around and had a bit of it. We did also get a small salad, with bits of speck and cheese in it, and pane cotta with pineapple. Two (celebratory) alcohol free beers each tonight (but only small ones, that’s all that they had). Back to the hotel to prepare for the race tomorrow which includes the Mortirolo.
Stage Five: Livignio to Aprica — Thursday 27th June
Early up, early breakfast (very nice) and eating as work again. Yes lovely food, but I can’t face any more food. It seems like we’re always riding or eating, or eating while riding. Nice hotel, but we were too tired to enjoy it much — though Sanna took some lovely photos our the windows of our room of the snow all around the hills. Last night our legs (and everything else) felt absolutely trashed. Halfway through the night I (Ben) went to the toilet and sitting (and standing) required concentration. It wasn’t looking great for today, but by morning the body had (mostly) recovered.
We rolled out of Livignio neutral for a couple of kilometres and then headed up Passo d’Eira and Passo Foscagno (which we descended yesterday). We chugged up quite happily at the top of our aerobic zones though the race organisers had let traffic on the course during the first climb and we had smoke chugging trucks and vans driving along side us, but not any faster than us. After the top of the pass we set about the downhill to the other side — 50km of downhill, with one small bump in the middle — only slightly complicated by having to share the descent with the grumpy and dangerous driving of the trucks and vans that had climbed with us.
Waiting for us at the bottom of the downhill was a feedzone and the start of the Mortirolo pass. Thirteen hundred meters of climbing in thirteen kilometres — unlucky for some. What a road, what a climb, what a progeny of un-married parents! At the start a number of wishful thinkers and some really good riders flew past us. After that not many passed and we found quite a few walking, stopping for a strategic piddle, or standing on the side of the road phoning someone to say that they’re part way up the Mortirolo. . . So, we got up it without stopping or walking — many didn’t.
Then across the top; up and down, around and around, tight and twisty — not quite the “panorama” road we were promised. Or, we were too busy to have much of a look at the view. After around ten kilometres of riding through the narrow roads on top we started descending on very narrow very steep roads through forrest. The road surface was third world, on the good bits. There were cracks running across the road, cracks running with the road, blind switchback corners with sand filled holes in the middle of them, blind switchback corners with unfilled holes in the middle of them, etc. etc. We saw too many crashed riders being attended on the side of the road.
After surviving the lengthy and dangerous descent we started riding up the main road to Aprica. The road has a much more familiar gradient for us (5-6%) and we spun our way up at a good tempo to finish in 6hrs 12min net. We were a couple of places lower in our category for today’s results, but we moved up four places in the overall (now lying in 58th place, from 113 original registrations, the field is now down to the low 90s). Another reasonably successful day.
Dinner: Menu. . . they had us guessing here, as when we turned up riders were walking around with pizza boxes and our hearts rose in anticipation of something other than pasta with red sauce. The queue was almost non-existent and they handed us. . . a pizza box (that familiar friend, even if it is a very infrequent visitor to our house). They then gave us a plate of pasta with …brown sauce, an apple and a bottle of water. The pizza box was not hiding a large meat lovers, or even a medium Hawaiian pizza. It had some cold vegetables from a can on one plate. Some rare roast beef and cheese on a second plate and a couple of slices of fruit bread on a third plate. There was also a small plastic bag of grated Parmesan cheese and another of olive oil. Pretty much everything except the canned vegetables went down, but it wasn’t much fun. At least we had something with the pasta and sauce.
Stage Six: Aprica to Kaltern — Friday 28th June
Up early to get the bags down to reception by 6.30am, then breakfast (Italians aren’t too excited about breakfast, so it was a pedestrian affair) and back to the room to . . . Well, you’re in Italy, with no newspaper you can read, no book, no computer, nothing except the clothes you’re going to ride in and your bikes . . . well, the only other thing is the 12inch television attached to the ceiling and that only plays 102 channels of absolute rubbish Italian television — the channels are obviously in a race to the bottom and no one is winning. This is the boring part of each day.
Well, today ended up being the longest stage of the tour, after stage two was cancelled. It came after one day with Stelvio and the next with Mortirolo, so we were pre-tired. Fifteen kilometres downhill (neutralised, but that doesn’t mean much) then a 30km climb to Passo Tonale, followed by a 50km downhill, with headwinds, then Brezerjoch (we’re back in SudTirol so the passes are now German language passes. . . ) and Mendoljoch. We had rain, icy cold rain from near the top of Passo Tonale to almost the start of the Brezerjoch, and off and on for the rest of the stage — really tough conditions to ride in, yet again.
The descent off Mendoljoch is a series of switchbacks down a shear cliff — amazing to ride and Sanna let it hang out. After this incredible, world class descent (which we shared with a few dozen large motorbikes and lots of mid-life crisis cabriolets) we crossed the timing mat for the end of the stage outside the town limits. This was followed by an anti-climax, we were shepherded off to a cycle path to go down past the village of Kaltern, then back up to the same village — what a waste of time. No one was interested in riding it after such a long stage. During the ride I (Ben) ate:
2 bags of Gu chomps
4 gels (two with caffeine, two without)
5 bottles of Skratchlabs drink
and I would have had more if it was available. The computer read 4019 Kcal at the end of the stage and I’d eaten around 1600 Kcal.
We were pleased to see Babsi, Hannes, Felix and Klara waiting in the finishing chute for us. We must have looked a bit tired — possibly true — as the first thing Hannes did was rush off to organise coffee for us. After that, and a quick catch up we grabbed the food that the organisers laid on, went to our B& B and showered and changed into real person clothes, then headed to the town square to catch up with the family again. A sit down Eis (ice cream) was the order of the day — it had been planned for a long time, but this was the first weather that supported sitting outside in a week. We then headed, with family, to the supermarket, then off to the (dreaded) pasta party.
Dinner: Menu…pasta and your choice of three different red sauces, accompanied by salad and a beer (if you choose to purchase one, which we did). Not bad, but how can you ‘wow’ with the same menu 7 days in a row. Definitely time to change it to a “carb party” instead of a pasta party.
Race briefing for tomorrow;
we may stay dry, and be comfortably warm (in most places, individual results may vary)
watch out, you’re almost there
only 103km and 1600m of climbing
the first 40km are flat and fast, don’t be silly
finishers’ shirts await in Arco
Stage Seven: Kaltern to Arco — Saturday 29th June
Last day, up early, oil the chains and get the bags ready to be picked up (they sat for an hour waiting to be picked up), then breakfast SudTirolian style, not too bad; Vintschgerl (a rustic bread roll with cumin in it), muesli (with chocolate in it), coffee (possibly with coffee in it. . . ) and Nutella (or the local bargain supermarket’s version thereof).Off to the start line and the familiar music set eyes awatering — An Tagen wie diesen, We are the champions, Ich bin ich, Song 2 (Blur), I love it, etc. — as we got rev’ed up for the last stage and the long flat roll out to the base of the significant climb of the day. The start came and we shot off, up a slight ramp, then down through the town and by the lake. It was pretty much all flat or downhill for 35km and the bunch was hammering. Unfortunately, after half an hour, Sanna punctured. A quick(ish) change on the side of the road as bunches flew past, then time to get going again and ride to the bottom of the hill.
As soon as the hill started we set to work at our target climbing power. We watched a few riders shoot off in front of us, but knew what would happen. Sure enough less than half way up the hill those riders had come back, along with many others who’d started the hill well in front of us. We chugged our way through a good number of riders before the drink station, set before the top of the hill. Full bottles and off we went across (largely up) the top, then down through a series of towns and by a beautiful lake high in the hills. We skipped the last drink station and set about the final pass at a steady pace. More places made up and onto the steep and curvy descent to Arco. Lots of switchbacks and Sanna rode really well so we didn’t loose any places (of significance) on the descent and then it was a very short hammer across the top of Arco before we crossed the timing mat at the edge of town, before a ceremonial ride to the finish line, the awarding of medals and over large cheap finishers’ cycle jerseys. We’ll see if we can swap jerseys — Ben’s large is too large and Sanna’s medium is too large too. Perhaps we can swap the large for a small. . . time will tell (time did tell, the organisers have come through for us and are making some more small sizes!).
Babsi and family were waiting in the finishing chute, so we spent some time with them, in- cluding eating a large pizza each (very thin Italian pizza isn’t actually that much food. . . and doesn’t have much on top of it). Then we gave them a suitcase full of toxic clothing to take back for us — cycle clothing that has been ridden too often or ridden then left to ferment.
Pasta party: a little lasagna like creation, some seasoned roasted cold turkey, some salad, a bottle of water and very expensive cold beer. We sat outside in the sun and enjoyed (relatively speaking) the food. Then speeches, awards, thanks, prize giving, etc. that seemed to go on forever. Well done all. I particularly liked one of the sponsors who’d lost his team mate to injury and spent most of the week riding in block D (where we had started the first day). He recognised that these people are heroes — idiots doing things that they’re not prepared for or likely to survive (just joking)! Some of them spent many hours riding more than us each day for the whole week.
Back to the hotel to sleep, via an Aperole Spritz for Sanna (and a Radler for Ben) in the town square watching the Italians promenading.
Sanna’s statistics for the tour are shown in Table 1. Ben’s statistics aren’t available as his computer was out of action for several stages. The times are the same, as we rode together the whole time. Ben’s calorie consumption is roughly ten percent higher and his TSS around five percent higher. A big week at the office for us both.
Power meters, when properly used, feel like you’re cheating. Pacing on hills was a huge advantage to us – let them go, they’ll come back (and they did).
It’s either the end of your (outdoor) season, or the start of it, either way it’s time to think about what you want to achieve in the months ahead.
If it’s moving to the off season (Southern hemisphere) what do you want to achieve in your off season? How much rest and recovery do you need/want? Are you going to allow yourself to gain a couple of kilograms? What cross training will you do? Will you do some core/strength/functional strength training? And for all these questions, why will you choose that option? How does it fit into your goals for next season? Your goals for your life?
If it’s the start of the season, what can you control (winning road races isn’t in your control, doing your best in them is)? Will you train every day, four times a week, etc.? Will you increase your FTP by X%? Will you do X amount (hours, TSS, meters climbed, kilometers covered, etc.) of training?
Setting goals now is a requirement for achieving a successful season (or off season). Write them down. Reflect on them. Revisit them frequently. And, continually ask yourself (your coach would do this for you) is the training and resting I’m doing today contributing to me meeting my goals?