Today we raced stage 8, the final day from Trento to Riva del Garda, Italy. The atmosphere at the start today in Trento was pretty cool. People were definitely psyched to rip the last stage and reach the finish. There's a wide variety of racers in this event, from pros to weekend warriors. But by far the majority of people are not racing each other, or shooting for a particular placement or time. Instead they are simply striving to finish. Riva - the traditional TransAlp finish - is elevated to religious status as riders fix the place in their minds as their solitary focus for a week of deep suffering.
The finish-line celebrations in Riva are awesome. Since the race is focused on two-man teams, reaching the finish together seems a bit more special than finishing solo. The past eight days have included many tests of each team's ability to stay together. Inevitably, each rider has good days and bad days, and these typically don't line up with their partner's. Of course, this equals some frustrations, some difficulties, and certainly some cheerleading and encouragement. But it isn't easy, and to make it thru these challenges and arrive in Riva together is emotional for every team.
The course today was awesome. The big Alps are behind us, and the highest point today was only 1,000 meters above sea level, instead of the 2,500m in days past. We raced fast and in tight-packed groups. Some rain (thankfully, not cold) brought muddy and slippery singletrack, and we really loved getting back into our element. Don't get me wrong - it was still epic.
The opening climb rose 2,800 feet and lasted nearly an hour an average nine percent grade. But the other climbs were short and we had some very sweet scenery. The final hour was a long valley run to Garda, and we linked up with a strong group of guys who pace-lined down the bike path and slalomed thru the villages with great teamwork. I think there were five or six different nationalities in the group, and it was great to blaze along at a breakneck pace toward the finish.
The atmosphere at finish town of Riva La Garda is just awesome. It’s great to see so many weary racers with their commemorative finishers jerseys on. Whether walking around eating gelato or sitting at the pizzerias enjoying great food and large beers they are all celebrating a job well done. Congrats go out to all the racers and the sponsors for a fantastic event.
We must tip our hats to the race organization of the TransAlp which seemed to operate like you'd expect from a respected German company. There were likely hiccups along the way, but from our perspective everything seemed to run very smoothly. All the stages started on time, the courses were very well marked and thankfully there was always something to eat and drink at the feed zones and finish line. Not only do the promoters provide a great race, they also do many other things to ensure racers have a good experience. One example is the racer's luggage delivery system. Prior to the race all racers need to submit hotel information for each night of the TransAlp. At 7:00 am our bags were picked up at our hotel and then delivered to our next hotel. Note, there are nearly 1,200 racers in hotels all over the host towns and they pick up and drop off bags for every racer. Only one time were our bags not at our hotel when we arrived. Luckily it was the nicest hotel we stayed at on the entire trip so they gave us white robes and slippers to use while we waited for our bags. Now that was a sight to see!
As a side note, we were both excited to see Cadel Evans crush it in today’s Tour de France time trial. As you know he was a professional mountain biker back in the day and we can both remember racing against him. We didn’t meet any Aussies here at this year’s TransAlp, but we’re sure they are celebrating for Cadel tonight! Cheers mate!
Well, it is time to celebrate a big meal (or two) and some cold beverages. Thanks for following along on our adventure, and stay tuned for a final wrap up and hopefully some additional photos in the coming days.
Ciao from Garda,
Pete & Brandon
Stage 8 on Strava: http://app.strava.com/rides/992709#14870177