Saturday, 11 June 2011

TransGermany Day 1 - a room with a view

So, first stage already done and dusted. I can hardly believe that I am here already, let alone that we’re already one stage into the race. I am currently sitting in a nice room on the 4th floor of a ski-hotel in the mountain town of Pfronten, and the view from the window of the surrounding mountains is nothing short of sensational.

The route for the first stage of the race was, as predicted, very wet, and very hilly (as you can see from the profile above), both of which I suspect may suit me quite well. The climbs today came in four main chunks, each dose between 400m & 700m of total ascent, on a mixture of tarmac and gravel road. At this point, I should explain that the gravel roads in the alps and tyrol are unlike anything you will come across in the UK – like most European mountain roads, they are nicely graded at somewhere between 6-10%, and are covered in a layer of fine, dusty gravel, not unlike kitty litter. Once you have found (or re-found) your confidence descending on these trails, they provide ample grip and control, but the initial sensation of tyres sliding towards unprotected edges can be nothing short of terrifying. It is with these words that I justify my fairly awful descending today!

It is possible that I went off a little hard this morning in an effort to avoid the bottlenecks I remember so fondly from the TransAlp; seeing XC-race heart rates for the first half an hour out of town seems like a much less sensible plan with hindsight! The first climb, the biggest of the whole race, passed amazingly quickly, and it wasn’t long before I reached the Fizik king of the mountains hoarding, the branding no doubt a source of great pride and amusement to my friend and travelling partner, Hamish, who has just started working for Fizik! The descent was a little sketchy; it’s been five years since I last smelled hot hydraulid fluid, and slid through switchbacks covered in ball-bearing gravel, I was definitely losing height accordingly gingerly. Others were more reckless, and there appeared to be many punctures and crashes on the first rocky section – not a great way to start the event!

The stage as a whole panned out much as I would have expected; I was out-pacing most of the people around me on the climbs to be re-caught on the descents and what little flat ground there was on todays stage by bigger, more powerful riders. This was doubly annoying as the approach to the finish was ~8km on flat tracks where I must have lost a good 15 places to the roadie groups that formed. I rolled in in 3h47m for 150th place on the stage, my average HR of 163bpm testament to my efforts on the climbs. Hamish appeared from the gloom and mist (“German spray” as we dubbed it, in homage to Scotch mist) around 20m later, and we caught up with our American friend again too.

The hotel is splendid and very comfy, but it’s now 9pm and i’m flagging. The bag drop system by which our luggage is transported from place to place is going to require a 6:30 start tomorrow, so that we have time to assess what clothes we need for the coming stage, and i’ll need my beauty sleep if i’m to lose less than 58m to the flying Swiss Sauser tomorrow...

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