Stage 6 is complete. Another nearly 50 miles and 10,000 vert. Today we are gonna write a bit about food... hmmm... I wonder why food is on our mind...
In every stage of the TransAlp there are two feed zones spaced on the race-course. However when you are riding for more than four hours, two feed zones is just not enough. We start each stage with two full bottles and a pocket full of Clif Shots. By the time we hit the first feed zone both bottles are dry and we need to stop to fill up. The top teams all have support staff handing up full bottles and food at many different locations, but when you're flying solo like us and most riders, we have to stop. It's not much of a big deal because we are pretty far behind the leaders on general classification, and losing a few seconds at each feed zone is worth it. Plus, the courses and climbs here are so long and punishing, not stopping could easily mean not making it to the finish. Truth be told, even with food, we are finding it hard to get to the finish line!
During the first stage when our muscles cramped badly, we were forcibly reminded we needed more electrolytes. The body can only process so many carbohydrates at a given time and electrolytes are key to preventing cramps. Luckily a Euro/UK nutritional company, High-5, is sponsoring the race and we were able to secure some electrolyte tablets to add to our drink mix during each feed. Now we have a system. When we arrive at a feed zone, we open the tops of our bottles and yell out, "High-5!" The feed zone support staff fills the bottle while we pull out a couple of electrolyte tables and drop them in the bottle, screw the caps on and we are off pedaling. If we are really hurting (which is often) we might grab half a banana and an energy bar. A running source of comedy for us in the small tomatoes and sliced cucumbers at the feed zones too. Maybe the Germans are on to something we don't know about, but a salad is not really what we are craving when about to bonk.
At the conclusion of each stage there is a big product expo and finish village. A bunch of food and drinks is provided for the riders. One type of food we've come to really enjoy - and crave - at the finish is a strange German product called "Tischlein Deck Dich." Its name comes from a German fairy tale with a magic table of food that is constantly replenished. Brandon and I have come to refer to it as porridge, but it is really just cooked mixed grains with chopped veggies. The main ingredient is quinoa. They prepare one warm batch that is served sweet, like oatmeal with cream and sugar. But our favorite is served savory style, loaded with condiments like olive oil, season salt, pesto, and parmesan. This stuff is far and away the weirdest post-race food I've ever had, but it also the best.
Today the course passed over the Passo Rolle, a monumental pass surrounded by stunning peaks and beauty in every direction. The area is grand on a scale of Yosemite or Yellowstone in America. There were hundreds of tourists and alpine hikers on the roadside and meadows. And right thru the middle of it passed the TransAlp racers, 1,000 strong. It is amazing how bike races are allowed in almost any location in Italy, and Europe in general. It is a striking contrast to the U.S., where so many places are off-limits to races. I'm sure there are places where races are not allowed in Italy, but I think generally they have it pretty good. Having said this, these alpine areas in the Dolomites are pretty heavily impacted in general compared to our protected parks.
On the results side, we finished 10th today but we have not checked in at the results board to see our overall standing. We are still riding good, and didn't run into any problems other than some really tired legs and waning energy. Six stages in the books and we have had zero crashes or mechanicals. Knock on wood, but we are pretty happy with that record. We've definitely turned back the throttle as the race progresses and the front runners open up a pretty massive gap on us. I'd like to say we are slowing down to enjoy the spectacle, but more than that we are just plain whupped. On the plus side, we are the top placed Americans, and I think (hope) we are still in the top 50 overall. Yea!
Todays ride on Strava: http://app.strava.com/rides/982327
Thanks, Pete & Brandon