The world’s toughest mountainbike race (upsolutmv 2004)
Approximately 665 kilometres and 22,640 attitude metres in 8 daysThank you to all who helped me raise over £800 in sponsorship money for the MS Society,
with the assistance of http://www.justgiving.com/transalp.
Two teams of friends entered the TransAlp 2004. Gary & Pete in the Masters and Martine & Brian in the Mixed categories.
SummaryAfter 8 days, 665 kilometres, 22,640 metres of ascent and over 51 hours in the saddle Peter and I completed the 2004 TransAlp challenge.
We were met at the Riva del Garda, Lake Garda, finish line by the best support crew in the TransAlp (Brian, Martine, Theo and Marijke) and my wife (Carrie - who had flown in especially). Peter, myself - and our two bikes -were immediately showered with two bottles of bubbly and what followed was an emotional celebration. Did we both cry or was it the bubbly in our eyes!
Billed as ‘The world’s toughest mountain bike race’ it certainly was the hardest mountain bike challenge we had ever faced. 86 teams withdrew from the event, of the 522 pairs that started. Our legs had steadily got stiffer and stiffer each day, until - that is - on day three we discovered the magic of leg massages. One day started with a 1600m ascent, which took 26 km to reach the top! Our bike suffered daily with numerous punctures, a broken spoke and on day three a terminally broken bike frame for me. Our friends, Brian and Martine, suffered so much from lack of recovery after an Ironman (Roth, Germany) two weeks previously that their immune systems had had enough and they regrettably withdrew from the race part way through day two. Eating the enormous volume of food required to fuel the long days took its toll on both of us. Not just the by products of digesting such quantities, but by day four we had moved over to food that was easy to eat and digest, with me eating liquidised breakfasts for the last two days (day sevens breakfast was three bread rolls, four bananas, yoghurt and milk all blended to produce 2 litres of liquid breakfast!).
The camaraderie of the event was amazing. The friendly atmosphere created by everyone, from the cheering spectators, the ever helpful and smiling organisers, to the riders and their supporters was unbelievable. After breaking my bike on day three a Swiss team offered me their spare bike, which they then needed on day six. When the brakes on my borrowed bike failed on a 1300 metre descent the unfortunate rider that was used as my gravel trap just brushed himself off and said that I owed him a drink!
This event was an amazing experience and yes, it was enjoyable. Brian and Martine go back next year. Would Peter and I do it again?
Thanks to all that have supported us (and sponsored me) through this challenge - especially to Brian, Martine, Theo and Marijke.
Of the 118 Masters starting in Mittenwald, we were pleased to be one of the 101 pairs that finished in Riva del Garda. Finishing in 72nd we were pleased to finish the race/challenge. Even with the broken bike loosing us over 2 hours. We would still only have come in at 62nd!
Table: Stage times and positons
The starter and finisher figures make interesting reading:
Table: Starters & finishers
Munich Airport - Motorhome
Mittenwald - TransAlp Registration for: kit-bag, numbers, starters T-shirt, route book and maps.
Day 1 - Mittenwald start - Gary, Martine, Pete & Brian
Day 1 - Pete and Gary get caught on film!
Day 2 - Pete.
Day 2 - Gary
Day 2 - Brian & Martine just before they withdraw from the TransAlp.
Day 3 - The road climb a the start of the day
Day 3 - Pete opts for the stream crossing whilst the rest of the majority (me included) walks over the bridge.
Day 3 - Pete smiling as he sees Gary crash in the snow.
Day 3 - Gary still upright on the snow, but not for long! The bike frame breaks 5 minutes later!
Day 3 - New bike required after Garys bike breaks.
Day 3 - Garys first leg massage.
Day 4 Scoul Start
Day 4 Support Motorcyclists
Day 4 - Unfortunately our helpers couldn't keep up for the 118km stage!
Day 4 - Going up!
Day 4 ....and up!
Day 4: Pete and I road this!
Day 4 - Naturn - Glad to finish another day.
Day 5 - Naturns to Meran - Only 53.8km and 2103m of ascent today.
Day 5 - The end (4:19hrs) of a very hot days ride.
Day 5 - Greeted by Martine. Pleased to complete another day.
Day 5 - Pete
Day 6 - Meran Start
Day 6 - Meran Start
Day 6 - En route to Kaltern
Day 7 - Start up hill for a change!
Day 7 - Refreshments!
Day 7 - Folgaria(I) finish after 123.7 km 3995 m
Day 8 - Breakfast - 3 Pints of semolina, orange juice, egg etc. Yum!
Day 8 - Final start in Folgaria.
Day 8 - We're off to the sound of AC DC 'Highway to Hell' for the last time.
Day 8 - Finish at Riva del Garda(I) 69,88 km 2328 m in 5:15hrs - mainly in the rain.
Day 8 - Talking of rain. Champagne to celebrate THE END.
Day 8 - Nice plastic finishers medal!
Day 8 - Team (Theo, Marijke, Brian, Martine, Gary & Pete). Pete and I drinking some beer to get rid of the taste of chapagne.
Day 8 - A celebratory meal etc.
Day 8 - Finishers ceremony and collection of THE T-shirt.
Rest day in Riva Del Garda - Wearing THE T-shirt!
AdviceTactics/Advice for anyone considering the TransAlp in the future:
Bike: I used a Hardtail (Specialized, Stumpjumper Disc 2002) with a USE Alien XCR suspension post, until the frame broke on day 3. I borrowed a 2003 Maxlight with Hope minis etc. Specialized (via Richardson's Cycles of Corby) are in the process of replacing my frame with a 2004 Stumpjumper Comp Disc. A hardtail is fine, especially with all the climbing. Peter used a full suspension bike (Yeti, ASR sl) which meant he could descend faster than me on rocky descents.
Tyres: Peter and I used 1.95 semi-slicks that were a fast rolling tyre (Specialized, Rockster Comp). The bike I borrowed had 1.75 Panaracer Speedblaster tyres, which were very fast rolling, but sketchy in the wet and on the rocky descents.
Tyre Pressure: I kept my tyre pressures high to avoid pinch punctures, so 60 psi in the rear and 55 psi in the front at 11.5 stone (75kg) this did the trick. I only got one pinch puncture, on day two when I had lower pressures for comfort.
Tubes: Brand new tubes were put in the tyres before the race.
Tools: We each carried a multi-tool with spoke key and chain tool, pump, two new of tubes each, tyre boots, a couple of power links. I lost all my tools on day two on a long rocky 900m descent!
Spares & repairs: Peter managed to buy some new Hope Mono Mini brake pads without too much difficulty and a broken spoke was replaced free of charge by the Mavic stand. Magura, Scott, Polar, Addidas and many other companies had stands at the start and end of every race.
Bike Security: We know of 25 bikes being stolen from one Hotel cellar in Kaltern and 2 bikes stolen from the organisers secure parking area in Folgaria. There will have been many more stolen. It is essential to securely lock your bike over night and to keep an eye on it at all other times!
Clothing: We both wore lightweight summer lycra shorts (Endura FS260), short sleeve cycling top, short socks and rigid cycling spd shoes. We carried a wind /water proof in one of the cycling top pockets depending on the weather outlook.
Hydration: I used two 800ml water bottles on all days, but Peter definitely needed his camel back, which he supplemented with a water bottle on the longest day. One day we got very low on water and had to share what was left - this seemed to be an oversight on the positioning of the check points and would not be normal. There were occasionally places to obtain water - stream, well, taps, shops, huts etc along the route. The checkpoints were stocked with water and energy drink. I tried to drink at least 800ml of energy drink whilst at the check point and eat one energy gel. In addition I did manage to down 4 doughnuts at one check point!
Food: We started each day with 2 bananas, 4 to 6 energy gels and 3 to 4 energy bars stuffed into our back cycling top pockets. We aimed on getting to the first check points to restock. The check points were stocked with: bananas, watermelon, apples, cake, bread and sometimes doughnuts.
Evening food: Each competitor is entitled to attend the free pasta party at the end of each stage. Starting at 6pm. There is always food at the finish line of each stage - normally the same as out on the stage. We normally ate and drank at the finish line, and then both drank an 800ml recovery/protein drink - all within half an hour if possible. Then after a quick shower, we ate our evening meal. The evening meal varied quite a bit, but started with solid foods with meat cuts etc and gradually reduced to minced meat and mashed potatoes type meals, although Marijke was a fantastic cook and every meal was a delight to eat.
Breakfast: We ate anything from muesli, semolina, rice pudding through to my liquidised day seven breakfast of three bread rolls, four bananas, yoghurt and milk all blended to produce 2 litres of liquid breakfast!
Pace: We just tried to keep to a heart rate of 130bpm - 67% of my maximum HR (up to 140 bpm when required) on the ascents and normally lower on the flat around 120bpm. We never stopped for long at the checkpoints and stopped regularly on the long climbs to rest our backs.
Table: Polar 720i HRM readings (errors due to speed sensor on day 3 and picking-up other HRM's on other days).
Drugs: We both found Ibuprofen invaluable as an anti-inflammatory as our knees (and Pete's back) were often complaining. Sudocreme (nappy rash cream) was also required as an anti-septic soothing cream, particularly as we both wore heavy material shorts early in the event. Lightweight summer shorts are definitely the best. We took ice packs, cooling creme and ibuprofen cream with us, but only used the cooling cream once.