Bike Four Peaks is a four-day mountain bike stage race covering 295 kilometers and 8,800 meters of climbing through some of the most beautiful parts of the Austrian and German Alps.
Stage 1 was 69km leading over some small mountains from Ruhpolding, Germany to Lofer Austria. It started with a 20-kilometer neutral start on the highway as the original route had been recently washed out by torrential rains. After getting screwed over pretty good in the first stage of the AlpenTour in Austria last week, my three North American Kona teammates (Kris Sneddon, Barry Wicks, Spencer Paxson) and myself were determined to have a better opener for this race.
Kris made the first solid move 3km into the neutral start right after being swarmed by a bunch of slower riders from the back. He took the matter into his own hands and rode through the outside patio of a roadside café to gain back his top 20 position with Barry at the head of the 900-rider field. Spencer and I spent 40 minutes of the neutral start fighting to stay in the top 50 and were doing great when the lead car pulled off and the race began. There was a big problem, though, as the course immediately turned left off the highway and backtracked beside the highway for a couple hundred meters.
I saw the first cheater drop down off the highway, cutting across the ditch and thus going from around 400th position to top 20. All I could say to Spencer was "Uh oh" as 300 other cheaters did the same move, thus swarming us and acting like a giant funnel. Spencer and I went from top 40 to 300+ position in a matter of 10 seconds.
I was laughing, but a little pissed and wanted to jersey the boneheads who were cutting course. We were screwed and came to a stand still for a long time; a couple riders jumped a barbwire fence beside us and started cheating their way across a farmer's field. To the entertainment of everyone, a bull chased after one of the boneheads, but unfortunately didn't get him.
After a three-minute hike up the side of the cluster bomb of riders, we were finally able to hop on our bikes and start racing, now minutes behind the leaders but at least we were moving. I wanted to body check every rider I passed over the next hour as I knew they had cut the course, but I was too busy trying save my race.
From here, the race was rad as we road over some beautiful Bavarian countryside full of lots of history dating back to 1806, when Bavaria was first proclaimed a kingdom. The track was full of diverse riding as we ripped along gravel roads, paved bike paths, up a river canyon and finally up a large climb onto a sub-Alpine plateau. It was a beautiful ride; the closer we neared to the finish line in Lofer the larger the mountains got. It was unreal racing under the huge glaciated Alps, making it often difficult to focus on the task on hand of riding are bikes at full speed down the mountainside.
Coming into Lofer the track was now mostly bike paths with a bit of singletrack mixed in making it a solid finish as I chased down a top 30 position. Much like the AlpenTour Trophy, the racing was tight to the end with Euro riders within seconds of each other all throughout the day.
After the race, we washed our bikes with firehoses, ate plentiful finish line food and basked in the sun for the first time since we arrived to Europe over a week ago.
Tonight we are resting up in the mountains at our historical Bavarian lodging as we prep for what promises to be another spectacular ride through the Alps tomorrow!