Craft Bike Transalp 2015 : the oldest and the easiest stagerace in Europe ??

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Ram Bikes

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The Craft Bike Transalp is the grandma of all stageraces and, over the years, it became the standard for most of the new stage-race organizers all over the world. The Bike Transalp became the synonym of perfection, but other organizers did huge efforts to close the gap and so, I was curious to see how the today’s edition matches the 2015 standards of the new world of mtb stage-races.

This 2015 race is the 18th edition and we have to admit, mountainbikes have been evolving a lot in those 18years! From v-brakes to disc-brakes, new lite carbon frames, dual suspensions, longer travel forks, 29-er wheels,… . Thanks to all these upgrades on the bikes, the limits of riding are seriously different now compared to 1998 and so the question is if also the Transalp organizers made a change to their racetracks to fit the whole event to these new standards? Why? Because in the last years, I heard people talk about the “transasphalt” and when you are looking at the graphics, you can see indeed +45% asphalt… So, I have been wondering for some time if the transalp has become too easy? Only impressive numbers but no challenge? Time to check it out!

Day 1: Ruhpolding (GER) – Saalfelden/Leogang (AUT): 101,88 km , 2.260m denivelation

When I arrived in Ruhpolding yesterday, once again I found a perfect organized registration + great pasta party. There is no way to make any mistakes, the organizer has it all covered and so, after only 15min of paperwork, we all relaxed and enjoyed the time with our friends. Perfect moment to catch up with old riding buddies, to check out the latest stories and to get in the mood for the big adventure ahead!

Sundaymorning, 8.15, time to find the start and with number 70, Robert and I can get into the box A2 with the first 100 riders. Perfect, but still, after the delays in my start of the 4 peaks race, I realized it was super important to get as much to the front as possible to survive the neutralized first crazy kms…

9.00, yep, there we go. We decide that Robert would go in the front and the only thing I need to do is to concentrate on staying close to him. As expected, lots of stress but we manage to stay in the front till we get to the first gravel section. As the road is more narrow here, the passing gets harder and the riding becomes easier, more relaxed. But still, with a lot of fences and some bridges to pass, there is some serious dangerous last minute braking and so we need to keep focused! After 8km, we can finally start the first climb and… within 100m, we have to push the bikes. Traffic jams and still a lot of nervosity, but this would go away soon. After walking 100m, we get into the climb and now everybody realizes the race has started and that it will take 7days. So, we all look for our pace, the one we can hopefully keep up till the end in Riva del Garda… I constantly check on Roberts hartfrequence and after 2kms, I let him get in front so he can dictate his speed. It works perfect and we are in the top15! In the flatter parts and in the descents, I take the lead to use my extra energy in the best way. The weather is beautiful but also hot and humid! We are sweating big time and so drinking will be a very important detail! When we get to the first real descent, things are going to change… It’s a short nice single track, but due to some long grass, it’s impossible to see the hidden rocks. I hit some and I shout to Robert to go easy but it was already too late L. Coming out of the trail, Rob tells me he has punctured… Ok, no worries. As an experienced stage racer, I am prepared and so I have the tubeless repairset ready. When we see the cut, I put a strip of rubber in it and it looks ok, so we inflate the tire fast with a cartridge. 1.5minute gone and the problem should be solved but… psssssssssst… Hmm? What? Another leak? Oh no, apparently Rob didn’t just hit the stone but he tried to kill it (never works, rocks are stronger than tires and rims. J.) and the tire seems also damaged next to the rim… No way to fix this with another plug, so time to take out the wheel and to put an innertube… Now, 6 minutes are lost and we are way back in 40-50thposition.Time to go to work!! We continue our descent –on asphalt- and soon we can start catching up with big groups. We jump from group to group but I immediately realize that this is consuming lots of energy. As I am the strongest of our team, I have to take the lead, but I really suck on these flat sections and so day 1 has just become a suicide mission. When I take some minutes to recover in 1 of the groups we are passing, I can see my HF drop 20-30 and so I realize what a nice life we could have had, but, grr, push, don’t dream! If things aren’t bad enough, I also run out of drinks… 1.5l is gone in 36kms in this heat and at this pace. Ohooh, I need to survive to km42, to the first waterpoint. It is survival but we make it… After this, we get to the 2nd and last climb of stage 1 and Rob takes the lead again. I have a hard time to keep up, but the higher we get, the better I feel again. At the top, the atmosphere is great with cheering people and stunning views, but now we need to get down the typical fast slippery gravel jeeptracks. The speed is high and so also the risk for nasty crashes. Somehow I think the danger on these decents is a lot higher than on the beautiful singletrack we are constanly crossing, but ok, this is transalp and so asphalt and gravel are the trademarks… At the end of the jeeptrack, we get into a short singletrack with slippery stones and sure, after just 50m, I get stuck behind some walking Dutch team… I nicely ask to move out of the riding line as I feel comfortable riding this, but no… I almost crash into them and have to get of the bike. Sure, after the biggest rocks they jump on in front of me and continu to block me. Pfft, maybe this is why the organizers prefer gravelroads. When you get to some real mtb, people are just not capable of riding them and then you create traffic jams… After some nervous seconds, I make a pass and we get lucky. Rob and I make it fast to the bottom and I can see a big group just ahead of us. As the next 40kms will be a real roadrace, it’s perfect to be in a group working together. It costs some efforts again, but we manage to get there. From here, it’s a fast ride at 35-40km/h. Sure, our drinks are running out again and we are the only ones to stop on waterpoint 2. So, once again, it takes a huge sprint to get back, but it is worthed! From here it should be fine to sit and relax to the end, but… Rob has a slow flat in the front and 5kms before the finish, we have to let the group go to inflate the front. We lose maybe 30seconds, but now I need to close the gap again and at 50km/h, my legs are exhausted fast. Just when we arrive to the group, the last small climb starts and so I have to keep in the purple overheating zone all the way to the finish… We get 21st place, more than we hoped for after all the tire troubles, but at what cost? We both destroyed our legs and at +35degrees, it seems we can’t cool down anymore…

Conclusion:

Day 1 was a real “transasphalt” stage, 101kms with only 3kms of trails. Quite boring and technically not challenging at all, hmm, I see where the name is coming from… But, is it easy because of these asphalt and gravel roads? I think for most people yes as the distance is faster covered (but not for us…) Another huge problem: only 2 waterpoints on 101kms. This will bring you an extra challenge, to deal with dehydratation and the cramps coming from it. Sure, I saw that the top 100-200 now has their personal support from teams, friends and family, but that doesn’t mean that the organizer shouldn’t take care of the other 500 teams… At our ‘top20 speed’, my maximum capacity of 1.5liter was not sufficient to get to the waterpoints, so it means for people driving slower even bigger troubles! To take camelbag? Say, isn’t this a race? Then shouldn’t we just have to focus only on pedaling hard?? I can only hope for better days to come…

Day 2: Saalfelden/Leogang (AUT) – Mittersill (AUT): 64,34 km, 2.405m denivelation

After yesterdays leg-killer, we ‘luckily’ had to pedal an additional 12kms to get to the camping where we stayed and so the same had to be done to get to the today’s start, but this was good to get the legs going again… Without 21st place, we get back to startbox A2, but now we could already find a lot of familiar faces, friends and so time was going fast talking to all the guys.

9.00, another dangerous neutralized start (why don’t we just start every day with a nice strong climb??) brings us in 8kms to the start of a long climb. Soon, we find ourselves in good company in the second group. The toppers are driving away and we can make a nice pace in the foggy forests that protect us from the heat. Rob is going strong and I can do a lot of talking as more than 70% of our group is dutch speaking… Once at the top, we get some real mtb! First a fast nice single that becomes a challenging steep climb. After that, we get to the Panorama trail, a challenging 3 kms full of big wet roots, oh yeah!! But, once again I am amazed! Due to this more technical ride, we start to catch up with the pro’s in front!? They are in troubles on the technical parts? Seems that the Craft Bike Transalp attracts mostly the less technical gifted riders??? Passing teams on the roots is risky and after we see a crashed toprider, we really go onto safetymode. Still, we are passing riders fast and after this trail, we get to some artificial pumptrack. Although its completely unnatural, it beats the gravelroads big time! Lots of jumps and turns, but we keep it easy remembering yesterday’s timeloss due to technical problems.. Once down in the village, we find fresh drinks and we make a long stop to fill everything. Now, we get to the second and last climb. Most of the riders from our startinggroup came back to us (they don’t stop, they have support everywhere..) and so we climb with the same people. Rob starts to feel the efforts and we slow down a little. I realize I will have to support him in every way possible for the next days, for example by carrying his bottles in the climbs, by sprinting ahead to the waterpoints to refill the bottles so he doesn’t have to make the stops, by pushing him a little where possible etc… After the second waterpoint (6km after first??) we get to a walking part and this relaxes the muscles. Rob is still fighting hard, but when he sees the descent, he forgets his misery and we have fun on the trails! After riding down some nice walking paths, we get to the gravel again and from here it’s just about keeping the pace to the finish. Thanks to a good descent, we can get back to the dutch team ahead and so we can work together again to survive the last flat boring kms to finish in 15th place.

Conclusion:

The track today was a lot more fun, good balance between fast and technical. Beautiful landscapes and so we already forgot the pains of day 1. Waterpoints were too close to eachother, but with only 64kms, it was sufficient. Day 2 was a nice real mountainbike stage and I started to believe again in a Transalp J.

Day 3: Mittersill (AUT) – Sillian (AUT): 118,29 km, 3.577m denivelation

Yep, when we were looking at the profile of this stage, we expected troubles, lots of troubles and indeed, it became a hard day for us…

No, it wasn’t the huge first climb, it wasn’t the 3km of hike a bike, it wasn’t the 120kms or the 3500+ denivelation, no, what we saw was a mission impossible when it came to drinking.. With a first waterpoint at km 18 and the second only at km 80, knowing that walking 3km + riding 60kms would take around 2.5-3hrs, we knew we were going to die… If not before the 2nd waterpoint, then for sure on the last part where dehydration would work together with a lot of steep short climbs to kill our momentum…

At 8.00 o clock, we got going. I guess everybody realized the difficulties of this stage – or the certain death – and so the pace was friendly. After some nice warming-up kms, we started the 1700m vertical climb. Immediately Rob and I went to 80% effort, hoping it would keep us alive a little longer. And, we were not the only ones, also our good friends Bram and Ken did the same and so the atmosphere was great again. At the km18 waterpoint, I took all the drinks I could carry and now we arrived in the walkingzone. Rob and I both like this hiking and in this case it was even better as it wasn’t 100% walking, we could ride a lot of the parts… Fun! The closer to the top, the more technical it became and so the more hiking we had to make, but with the stunning views all around, we were enjoying every step of it (my nice carbon SIDI drako’s not that much.. L) At the top, I looked for some water, asked the people in the hut, but finally I took water from the rivers. As I had some advantage on Rob, it was my job to keep the bottles full but… somehow, I lost 1 bottle in the snow + rocky section just after the top. Now, I was really in troubles! Ok, I tried not to panic and we were flying down the gravel roads till a roadblock. Here, time was neutralized as we had to wait for the traffic for some minutes. Once again, I used the time to find another river to fill my bottle. At the end of the neutralized zone, we found an angle, Robert’s girlfriend Julia with fresh bottles! Ho, this was a present from heaven!! So, 45kms to go on 1.5l, let’s hope and pray! As we all had to wait, we were in a big group now and I thought this was going to make life easy on the next fast kms, but no, the opposite… On every technical 5m, every root or turn, the group got stuck and I got nervous, so nervous I made a mistake, I started to ride away from the group with Robert. After 10kms of fast riding, we got to another Italian team and so we were 4 riders to work together… But, while these guys got help every 2-4kms from a van and from the people on the side -a gel, a bottle , …- + they were used to fast riding, we were doing what we didn’t like: making high speed on the flat roads along the river for too long… I tried to hold back Robert, but he is a great guy and so he felt like he had to work as hard as me… This was a mistake, I should have worked harder to compensate for him, so he could save his energy, but no, he was draining his batteries fast L. We still made it to km 80 where I took 4 bottles and 4 bananas, but now, all of a sudden, Rob died. 40kms and 1250denivelation to come, this was going to hurt!! I tried to help in every way possible and sure, after all my years, I know how to push my partners, but still, to see my friend suffer like a dog, it felt bad… Luckily, Rob has lots of talent, and even suffering, he did it with style, without losing the pace completely and so, pushing + suffering hard, we even managed to keep up with some other teams. At km 94, there was an extra waterpoint and it was mostly appreciated, if not for the fact they hadn’t got anything to eat and dead people could have eaten a lot!! Hmm, so, to get some help from the supportteams around us? Nope, forget it, no friends there, quite a selfish system and unfair too! We already lose a lot of time everyday as we have to stop for refilling bottles, but when the organizer is getting short on foods and drinks, this imbalance is even getting bigger L. Anyway, we battled further and eventually, we made it to the finish in 16th place, not bad at all!!

Conclusion:

After a nice first 35kms of real mtb, once again, the transalp became the transasphalt in the next 85kms… L. And to do a roadrace in the heat without sufficient support from the organizers? This was a risky move! If we were already on the limits at our pace, how about the guys at the back of the group? How would they survive all those hours without drinks and food? Hmm, if this transalp is supposed to be a race and not just another alpcrossing where we all have to bring a big backpack, then I would suggest to the organizers to get those waterpoints fixed!! Hope all the riders made it here!

Day 4: Sillian (AUT) – Alleghe (ITA): 89,95 km, 2.538m denivelation

After yesterdays ‘almost desaster’, we feel amazingly well recovered and so we look positively to the todays’ stage. Sure, it will be another roadrace, but we are slowly getting trained for this now J.

The start is chaotic as usual , but we are also getting real pro’s in the pushing and pulling and we manage to get through the neutralized kms without issues. After 5kms, we hit a first small steep rocky hill and people are walking… After this 500m, we get to the start of the first real climb and we are back to our normal group. As we will get a long flat stretch of dirtroads after 2 hills, the mission is clear: to stay in this good group at all costs. Luckily, Robert feels strong enough to manage this. So, the first 20kms and 2 small mountainpasses go fast and now we sit in a big group to cover the next 35kms on an old trainline (gravel now…). Next problem: the refilling at the waterpoint in the middle of a high speed section. To take a minimum of risks on losing the group, I sprint ahead with all the empty bottles and I can get back to the group without losing too much energy, mission accomplished… Maybe the ride is boring, but the company is good and we chat with our friends. We are in Italy now and soon we arrive in Cortina. The temperatures are rising fast, but then, all of a sudden, rain comes. As we have just started the steep climb of the day, the cooling rain is more than welcome. Rob starts to feel the efforts again and decides to let the group go. I try to support and push where possible, but the climb is still long and hard. Luckily, the views are getting more and more amazing! The second waterpoint works perfect and now, we are in the dolomites, so beautiful!! Rain has stopped, open views, really nice if you don’t suffer… (I hope Robert also saw some of it…) On the top, I see that we lost some 3 minutes on our group,but now it’s time for payback, a long real descent is waiting for us. First we go on a beautiful single in the rocks, then over the fields at 2000+m with a magnificent 360 degrees view and then on an easy flowy trail all the way down. Passing other teams isn’t too easy, but when you ask nicely, people let us move up. With my Ram Podium fully, I take the lead, I choose the lines and make the pace. Nothing crazy, just safe and fast enough. When we get to the small last climb, we just reach a team from our ‘old group’, so, the others can’t be too far away J. Soon, we are back in the descent and it seems that riding behing this team is risky! They hit everything making stones move all over the place and so it’s dangerous for us… I force a pass, but Rob can’t find room to pass so we get to the asphalt together. We lose time again and so I decide to wait for Rob and to train a little more on pulling crazy speeds on the final 5km of flat asphalt. And it works, we get back to 40seconds from our group, great work, 17th place.

Conclusion:

Stage 4 was good! It’s human to remember the last part of an event and these last 20kms rocked!! Sure, we had some uninteresting middlepart, but as it was on gravel instead of asphalt, I kind of think of it as not too bad. The stage was not too hard, a good recoveryday after yesterdays queen stage, so , good work! The finish area was beautiful, but for once the food was a little less today… I have to admit that the buffet at every finish so far has been a real party! Every day, you get an unlimited choice in food and drinks, something to look forward to during the sufferings! Here, the transalp organization proves to be on the absolute toplevel and to be honest, all the details next to the race (info, food, signs in the villages, camp, pastaparty….) are perfect or close to it. Maybe the weaker part is during the race and the track itself? Or maybe we are just used to different kind of races in Romania and these roads are perfect for all Belgians, Dutch and Germans???

Day 5: Alleghe (ITA) – San Martino (ITA): 73,28 km, 3.137m

Woow, big numbers, big day, but how would Robert have recovered ? Time to find out…

The start is a neutralized big asphaltroad down the hill and sure, I even get pushed away by women from way down the ranking… So, nervous shit once again and we are all relieved to start the climb after 5kms. Now, the usual idiotic pushers are hitting the invisible wall and so troubles again for us to pass them and to get back to our every day position in top 15-20. It works but I see that Robert will suffer today, he is too silent… Luckily for him, the first climb becomes steep and slippery and those are the things he loves! Where we all have to jump from the bikes, he will continue and so we keep on following our friends Ken and Bram on the first climb. But, surely, this riding is eating energy and with 3000+ m to climb today, is this smart? Because I won’t take any risks, I start to push Rob where ever possible. If we can save some energy, we should! The track is the opposite from last days as we are climbing steep off road to go down on asphalt.. But some new problems are rising: the signs… The signs are bad and sometimes missing… So, from time to time, we have to stop and guess the direction. If you know Robert is suffering, the last thing you want to do is to make mistakes orienting, but we are lucky, we keep on the right track, we only lose time looking for tire marks etc… The first 35kms are hard, but working as a team + with the steep climbs giving Rob extra mental energy, they go ok. We lost connection with Ken and Bram, but we are still surrounded by our usual collegues, so it can’t be too bad. After the first waterpoint, Rob is really starting to die. We are flying down a long big asphaltroad to start the second part of the day with longer gravel climbs, no big fun or mental boosts here… The further we get, the harder I need to push Rob. I feel bad for him when I notice that even in the descents, he lost the energy to cut corners correctly. It means big troubles and so I try to be the best teammate: not to force him, but to motivate him and to help him in every way. But, I also start to feel the effects of that, my knees hurt, my shoulder cramps and so we become the most quiet team in the race (and that’s something for me ;) ). Luckily we are getting higher now and so at least the temperatures are fine. Around us, we have beautiful dolomites + lots of people, almost dangerous to slalom between all of them! The last climb is a never ending one and I am running out of power. At least I feel like we are suffering together now and in a team you have to do everything balanced, right? In the last waterpoint, I make another complete fill up, but neighter drinking nor eating is making us faster. As we can’t do much, we start to see the fun of our miserable situation and so jokes make life a little easier. Somehow we get to the last top and from here it’s just down to the finish. The gravel is ultra slippery (or am I so tired?) and we have to be careful! After the gravel, …, yep, asphalt and hohooooo, really, a trail down! Another day with only 3kms of trails, but ok, today we wouldn’t have enjoyed anything I guess and so we just make sure we get to the finish in 1 piece and when we even get 20th position, I think we minimised the damage…

Conclusion:

Big numbers indeed,no technical parts but just suffering due to the numbers… I guess the transalp-transasphalt can be hard! I start to see what this is: a long ride with lots of altimeters and even without any technical challenges, it will be hard at some point for everybody! Maybe this is not so crazy? This way it is more open to all kinds of riders as everybody can train on endurance, even if you are living in flat countries as Belgium, Holland,…, and not everybody is living in countries with trails to upgrade his-her techniques… So, offering a well organized long 7 day trip through beautiful places makes sense! Your endurance is tested big time, but in the same time, there is time to look around, to enjoy the beautiful scenery! Hmm, while most of the organizers these days are looking for ways to challenge the participants technically, the simplicity of the route puts the transalp in a unique position and so, by keeping the race on the same level for 18years, they succeeded in becoming different and that’s what all organizers are looking for I guess, to make their event special and to attract their specific group of riders… So, good job! Sorry it took me 5 days to see it…

Day 6: San Martino (ITA) – Levico Terme (ITA): 88,78 km, 2.530m denivelation

Well, after a hard day, the transalp organization always offers an easier day and so we don’t expect too many troubles today. Maybe it will be the stage with the most asphalt so far, but as it will start uphill, we can’t wait to get going… Well, I can’t, Rob is silent already and on top of being tired, he now also has a cold L.

The start at 9.00 is as expected, perfect! No pushing this time, just pedal up, get to your position and work! Robert is going well and also the conditions at +1500m are nice and cool. The climb isn’t too long and after 7kms, we reach some skiresort. Open views and… a trail! I feel like having fun here and just when I start thinking to attack on this descent to get more to the front, one of our Belgian Rotwild-Zaes friends punctures… And another guy, and another… Already 5 people are standing next to the trail repairing!? What is happening here?? I can’t see any sharp stones? But obviously something is wrong on this path… Hop, again the guy in front of me punctures and so, we decide to go ultra conservative… The trail is good, but before we know it, we get to gravel again and it’s time to set a new speedrecord (80km/h so far). Robert has problems with his stomach and even small bumps in gravel roads hurt him, so, when we get to asphalt, he is a happy fellow. Asphalt down, and.. asphalt up. But, it does have advantages, no pain + perfect to help Rob by pushing. After I stop at the waterpoint, I quickly rejoin Rob for the biggest climb of the day. We can see another team, Scott24, just ahead and it motivates Rob! He is going very well and so the climb goes fast. A little later we even see the unfortunate Robert Mennen who must have become sick and who is falling back. He stays with us all the way to the top but the fact that even “topriders can die” motivates Rob even more and so this climb is over before we know it. In the descent, Mennen takes the lead and I observe his style: woow, he is fast! Both on the straights where we keep a finger on the brakes –he just lets go- as in the braking zones and through the turns, he is in the risk zone for me… But, ok, I guess he knows what he is doing and so do I, I need to conserve my tires and to minimise the risks for technical problems and crashes to 0. On the asphalt, we get back to Mennen and the scott team and we go down all the way to the valley. After 15kms of asphalt, we get to the last waterpoint and I make the full refill as temperatures here down are freaking hot again. We have 1 last asphalt climb to make, but the pace is dropping again… This isn’t motivating Rob and I can tell, so I start to push. But, what’s this? I also feel no more power?? Did I forget to drink, to eat? I try to make it now, but I never feel the power and so we go a little slower to the top of the last hill. From here, a great trail down to make us happy again and without any troubles we hit the last asphalt stretch to the finish. We get 16th place and lost only 1minute on the scott boys, so well done!

Conclusion:

The start uphill was great, I really think this is the solution for all the morning stress and i hope to see more of those in the future!! Today’s track had again huge amounts of asphalt, but after my moment of clarity yesterday, I now see the strategy of the organizers: 1 hard day, 1 recovery day and so, knowing the organizers have to take care of 1000+ riders, I guess it’s a smart move! Tomorrow again a play-day??

Day 7: Levico Terme (ITA) – Riva del Garda (ITA): 74,75 km, 2.555m denivelation

The last day, so, the day where everybody will be driving 10-20% faster… Knowing there is no tomorrow, most of the riders will use all energy left to push through the final stage as fast as possible, but will Rob still have energy today? And let’s pray we don’t get hit by a “risking it all idiot”, to drop out on the last day would be terrible, but this is the day where most accidents happen, so let’s be double fast and double careful, ok?

Another 9 o clock neutralized nervous start brings us to the foot of a small climb, but instead of finding our every day pace, we now have to push hard to follow the group. After 20min, we get to the leader women and damn they are so fast! I think everybody understood that there will be trafficjams today as the track will be the most technical of the 7 days with lots of single tracks… But, trails motivate Robert and so he flies up the hill fast till… just 500m in the descent, we get into the traffic… The trail is a beautiful rocky single with plenty of switchbacks. Not easy, but surely rideable! But, not for the fast boys in front it seems and so I can hear a lot of stress and swearing. I decide to go slow, keep my distance to the walking pro in front and to try to make all the turns as in a ride with friends at home. It works and so I am having fun. After the switchbacks, we get to faster trails with slippery rocks and again, people in troubles. I can pass most of them, but it’s hard to stay together as a team in these conditions and so I have to wait some time for Rob who is stuck in traffic and who is super careful as he knows he is tired. After the funny part some fast asphalt and we are alone… I can see a large group in the distance and thinking this is a 5-10km asphalt part, I decide to use my transalp training to pull Rob at 45km/h to the group. By the time we get there, the flat part is over (was only 3-4kms L ) and the promised steep climb starts. As I expect the first waterpoint soon, I take Robs bottle and try to go fast. But this climb is steep and technical! I pass a lot of riders in troubles but where is the waterpoint? I am already past the promised distance and nothing!? Oh no, I hope I didn’t miss it? I check with Bram and Ken if they saw something: no… And so I just continue and make it a challenge to keep riding. I sweat incredibly and really pray for a waterpoint. Oh yes!, 1.5km later, I find it and so I take a break to fill the bottles, but before I can go to attack the food table, Rob is taking his bottle from my hands and is passing me! Damn, he must have been riding it all too! And fast! Yep, Rob is also having fun and luckily for us, the fun continues! More steep slippery climbs and we are doing great getting close to top 10… But, at some point, asphalt roads come back and it kills our momentum while others start to speed up… After some flatter section, once again ultrasteep climbs where we can play and finally we get up the mountain in open fields. Here, we need to recover, but for once, the hard work will pay off, as we get into a real nice trail down. As it is the last stage, I pay double attention to all the rocks, because it would be a shame to lose time now with some tire issues… Rob is doing the same and so, we can’t jump back to the group in front. After the single, it’s a fast gravel jeeptrack and before we arrive in the valley, we have to make a full stop again to fill up at waterpoint 2. Now, the group is gone for sure and so we’ll have to survive the last kms alone. We cross the valley and start an asphalt climb that quickly changes again into a trail, super!! It goes uphill first, but finally we get another nice trail down. Now I feel lucky we are alone as I finally can go my own speed, choose my own lines, great fun!! But, sure, no pain, no gain… We had great fun, but we still have to survive the last flat part to the finish… Strong wind on our noses, difficult signs, late braking wasting energy and so it gets hard again. On the final 5kms, I even lose the power completely and luckily Rob can help a little so I find back my final breath to get to the line, game over! 17th place..

So, Riva, the race is over! After 7 days, Robert and I got to a 15th place in general, 14th men and that’s a real good result! Robert and I never trained together and so it was very uncertain how we would work as a team, but I think I have found a new partner for future adventures! New friends, new partner, new great memories, that’s what transalp – stageracing in teams is about I guess!

Conclusion:

The last stage was the best for me and that’s a smart move as usually people tend to remember the last part… J. After keeping a little hungry for trails the last 6 days, we finally found some good ride here today and maybe it is once again the experienced organizer who made this smart tactic to get everybody to the finish with a smile… For the less technical riders, it’s the end, even if they walk, they know it’s gonna be over today, so they’ll make it and for the traillovers, it’s the perfect way to finish 7 days of riding in the alps…

Final conclusion:

Is the transalp really the transasphalt? Yes, but is doesn’t mean anything negative. It just tells you the what kind of riders the organization wants to attract. I think that this race is still the absolute nr 1 for people with limited riding experience looking for an adventure to remember for a lifetime. It will take months of preparation with your teambuddy, will test you physically and mentally and for sure it will be a memorable experience. If you can make purely lots of basic endurance trainings, you should be ready for this event, you don’t have to be a technical wonder to make it safe to the finish…

So, is the transalp too easy??? Hm, no! You will need a real strong and large training to make these long stages day after day! Sure, it is not a technical demanding race and trailseekers should look for another organization, but if you want to race across the Alps in a beautiful fast way, this is still the race to make!!

Although I have seen some quality problems during the race with unsufficient waterpoints, missing signs etc, the complete level of the organization is still super. All the help from the nice organization team, from the sponsors + all info around the race is just on the absolute toplevel! The Craft Bike Transalp still remains the race that offers you the feeling of a real holiday: to have everything arranged for you, so you can just relax and concentrate on riding. But also the riding itself should be important and maybe, there is some room for improvement there, but these are easy things to fix, I am sure…

So, transalp is still the toplevel race for the people who are looking for a new challenge, a new way to push themselves harder, to become stronger, for people who want to start with stage racing…

See you on the trails,

Wouter