I’m ok with climbing, you have to be if you like riding a bike a fair amount. There will always be uphills. Whether it’s the slight uphill drag of the Pacific Highway heading to the Northern Suburbs in Sydney, the dirt road out of Wiseman’s Ferry, The Umbrai Pass, Grand Corniche, Sierra Nevada or even the Doss Radond. They’re all climbs with their own merits. I’m not a good climber, but you’re kidding yourself if you are a somewhat committed cyclist and devoutly hate climbing.
Stage three of the Craft Bike TransAlp involved climbing. That isn’t a surprise to anyone who would have heard of the event. It’s all about hills (‘bergs’), schotter strasse, some slippery single track, curious habits of participants, odd hygiene practices – and the top teams going so fast you wonder how they don’t make themselves ill. Stage three stands a little apart though, as it also has the Idjoch climb – straight out of the start village of Ischgl in Austria. The Idjoch is the highest pass in this iteration of TransAlp, and for most other years as well. Just shy of 2800m, it’s quite high.
The Idjoch holds a special place inside of me. One of anxiety, mild fear, and resounding dread. It’s a steep climb, a climb that leaves your legs with one speed for the rest of the day. We have a mixed history.
2008: TransAlp, racing with Scott Cornish. It was snowing at the top. Being the prima donna that I am, I made Scott carry my goretex jacket for me.
2009: Ascended twice. Once in training with Graeme Arnott, and it was fun – a middle ring climb for almost all of it. Come race day (Ischgl Ironbike) and the whole ‘don’t do the race before the race’ rule was never more apparent. Shaun Lewis and Graeme rode away from me. That rule doesn’t seem to apply to Graeme.
2010: TransAlp again. My team mate Ard Kessels and I struggled over – in good weather!
And today, in 2012. The snow was back, fallen freshly overnight. Naomi and I are climbing ok, but it’s still a long climb (about 13km) and the temperature at the top was -4deg as we took off. Ever since the Swiss National Park Bike Marathon, and the blizzard that ended it, I get nervous about cold and wet conditions. They can lead me to DNF, whinge, or buy more clothes (last minute leg warmer purchasing before entering the start chute). So I was racing in full legs and booties again today, keen to not end the affair frozen.
And so that is five ascents. I think I only have so many in me, and I’m wondering if perhaps it’s like a cat with nine lives? I’ll have to use the next four wisely.
We took off out of town, vaguely to the sound of Highway to Hell (it seems highly muted this year), and after a quick scurry through the streets of Ischgl, it was straight into a schotter corner and a bottleneck, then up up up. Naomi is great at the starts, I’m not. So I’ve had to get used to the footpath manoeuvres to move up. I’m getting there.
The mixed racing is quite tight at this point each day. Elisabeth Brandau clearly had enough of just training the past two days, as shown by running race wheels and not her power metre today. She and her partner Markus took off up the climb. Mountain-Heroes passed us a few kilometres in, as did the Scott-Genius generation. So we were riding in 7th again. And that’s where we stayed, with little sight of the Ghost Factory mixed team, or the Fiat-Rotwild mixed team for the rest of the day.
But that doesn’t mean we are alone. We’ve become accustomed to who is around us at various points of the day. Some of the company is enjoyed, like one of the Black-Tusk teams, who are happy to share a joke on the early climbs. Then there are friends of friends who say hello. Of course, fellow Australians Jason McAvoy and Andrew Hall of Team Radical Lights are there too, as Jason is finally feeling better. However there are also those who we out pace and out climb, who can’t stand having a woman in front of them. They descend dangerously, in an effort to get back in front, running ragged, and snaking lines. At least this one competitors team mate is apologetic for him.
The final climb home today dragged on. Although after enough doses of rain and snow, it’s great to arrive in a sunny town like Nauders. Being surrounded by mountains, tomorrows stage will just hold more climbing. But with the highest pass of the race in the bag – the wave of elation can start to creep up on us. Five more days, but no more Idjoch!
The racing upfront is still really tight. Topeak-Ergon took the win ahead of race leaders Centurion-Vaude/Bixs. Bulls came in third. Sally Bigham and Milena Landting continue to rule the women’s race, and Team Gisler managed to get one over Black Tusk in the mixed category today. Full stage results can be found on Datasport.ch, and complete race coverage will be on MarathonMTB.com shortly.