Here we are at the Craft Bike TransAlp, now the 15th time this event has run. There is a lot known about this event, and a lot assumed – especially by those outside of mainland Europe. Although Europeans still make up the majority of the racers, there is always a good contingent of Australians, Brtish, South Africans, and occasionally some Americans, Canadians, South Americans and New Zealanders.
“But it’s all fire road”
This is an oft vocalised complaint about why you wouldn’t race the TransAlp. But it holds little water – just like the gravel laden trails that the routes typically take. When you are on singletrack, the trails are usually amazing. Unfortunately, singletrack from the start to finish, over anywhere between one to six mountain passes, isn’t feasible. Especially for a race that runs in almost all conditions, and with about 1000 participants.
TransAlp will take you over the European Alps though, through ever changing cultures and languages, past amazing vistas, and will challenge your physical fitness, emotional strength, will power, team dynamics and your patience.
The start of the 15th Edition was in Oberammagau, a quaint town in Bavaria. Rain was quite settled for the start, but that didn’t change the race route. Save for some mud, it was all very rideable for 97km and 2206m of climbing. The wet roads and edgey bunch did make the ‘neutral’ first 25km interesting though. With so many riders over gutters, gardens and round-a-bouts as we left town – neutral is just a bit of a joke. I suppose it does stop the pro riders launching attacks off the front. But as you’re sitting in or surviving anywhere from 35-55km/h (gradient dependant), avoiding crashes and the occasional oncoming car… it’s hard not to laugh at this classic european practical joke. “Neutral”. Good one!
Naomi Hansen and I are racing in the mixed category, which is an interesting category. The pairings can be couples, or team mates (such as us) or two very strong riders – you never really know. Our start was ok, although we did get caught behind a crash. They were up and walking – which is lucky.
The grey day became increasingly wetter, and enough experience meant Naomi and I had the clothing to cope. Knee warmers, armwarmers, jackets and booties supplemented the regular riding attire. Most did the same, but it’s easy to keep an ‘Australian’ mindset when it’s wet, and forget about the potential for much colder temperatures at higher altitudes.
Naomi rode a stunning race today, digging deep to move up groups, and we ended up riding with German Marathon Champion Elisabeth Brandau and her partner, and came over the line with them too. Looking up and down the major climb of the day, there were mixed teams ahead and behind, all quite close.
The descent spread things out a little, with the usual interesting occurences in such a race: cows on the trail, a car on course, washed out sections, people repairing punctures, and no ability to see after your glasses have become caked in mud. Naomi drove it to the line and we fininshed 7th in the Mixed category, about 20 minutes down on the winners of the category – but about 50 minutes down on Team Bulls!
Up the front of the race, Team Bulls (Tim Bohme and Karl Platt) took the win, with a 2 minute gap over Centurion Vaude, and another 2 minutes to Merida Multivan. The women’s race was won by Sally Bigham and Milena Landtwing. They had a huge gap to Team bizhub-fcf, and then Metz – Kraftwerk.
In the mixed category. Blacktusk Racing won, followed by Team Gisler and the Press Office of Riva Del Garda.
Full results are best viewed and analysed on Datasport.ch
Only after finishing did the rain let up, and the bike wash is being obliterated as people move to clear the crud off their bike before stage 2. Tomorrow takes us from Imst to Ischgl, over the Venetalm first, then the Pillerhohe and Almstuberl. 77.9km of racing with 3274m of climbing. No easy days at TransAlp afterall.