The 14th TransAlp kicked off with a sprint to decide the opening stage win. In the end, after 96 kilometers and 2,366 meters in climbing from Mittenwald, Germany to Weerberg, Austria, the victory went to Switzerland's Urs Huber and Konny Looser who nailed the winning time of 3:34:51. Team Stöckli was only 1.3 seconds ahead of runner-up Team Bulls 1 (3:34:53) with multi-time winner Karl Platt of Germany and his French teammate Thomas Dietsch. Another 0.5 second behind were Italian riders Massimo de Bertolis and Johann Pallhuber of Srmax Autopolar Cannondale (3:34:53) rounding out the podium as third.
The successful sprint was a dream come true for the youngest team in the circle of podium candidates; especially for Huber, who secured the yellow leader's jersey in his first TransAlp appearance.
"Our goal was to bring home one stage win. It's incredible that we did it at the first day already," said the 25-year-old Huber. But despite his good mood, he was keeping the win in perspective. "There is still a whole week more to come. I would say it's still a tie."
Fourth and fifth places including Multivan Merida's Hannes Genze and Andreas Kugler and Centurion-Vaude's Markus Kaufmann and Rupert Palmberger are also within reach of the top spot as they are only three and eight seconds behind respectively.
None of the podium candidates could break away on stage 1. From start to finish, across the two peaks of Hochalmsattel and Plumsjoch, the best 10 riders stayed together, eyeballing and testing each other. The final ascent to Weerberg brought an increased pace, but all stayed together.
"All of the teams in front are competing on a very high level. And I bet that no one had laid it on the line already. It's going to be very tough and exciting. So far, there is no top favorite," eight-time TransAlp champion Karl Platt said.
"I felt strong today and could have gone for more. But Thomas (Dietsch) is still suffering from jetlag. He just came over from the BC Bike race in Canada. So, he for sure will get better," said Platt.
Binder and Troesch take pink leaders' jerseys
On the women's side, Natascha Binder and Danièle Troesch were the ones going for the stage win in 4:29:05. Although the German-French pairing had been among the inner circle of top favorites, the day wasn't entirely happy for the Felt Ötztal X-Bionic/Rotwild team.
Both racers had been more than 1.5 minutes behind of long-time leaders Martina Miessgang and Katrin Neumann of the Mountain Heroes team, but they lost their advantage when they were delayed by a larger group on the downhill from Plumsjoch with no chance to pass. Troesch and Binder took advantage and closed ranks.
But in the end, it was a physical problem about 10 kilometers prior to the finish line which shuffled the deck. "I suddenly got leg cramps and don't know why," said Neumann. "That's for sure a pain in the arse."
However, the rider from Bavaria got some support from her Austrian teammate. "That's life, shit happens. We'll see what the next week will bring," Miessgang comforted Neumann, who is keen to make up ground after a second place on the stage, three minutes off the lead pace. Manuela Jenny and Susanne Tanner of Velorado Racing placed third (4:39:17).
Technical defect brings victory in the Master category
In the 80+ masters category, victory was decided by misfortune of one team. In Weerberg, Heinz Zörweg and Silvio Wieltschnig of Factory Cube were the ones shining from the top spot of the master podium (3:44:55).
The Austrian duo held the upper hand over their main rivals from Germany, Udo Bölts and Andreas Strobel of Centurion-Vaude, who finished third (3:53:59) behind of today's runner ups from South Tyrol Andreas Laner and Armin Auchentaller of team Moserwirt Passeier (3:49:56).
"I lost control of my saddle in the first climb and couldn't solve it over the course of the race. I had to stop a few times," said defending champion Silvio Wieltschnig, who still benefitted from the fact that Udo Bölts had flat tire that cost his team.
"Despite the fact of taking the lead by more than five minutes, it was super tough today. Due to the problems with my saddle, I had to ride out of the saddle, which cost a lot of energy," said Wieltschnig.
Defending mixed category champions again in orange
With her new Craft - Rocky Mountain mixed partner Carsten Bresser, Finland's mountain bike ace Pia Sundstedt lived up to all expectations in the mixed category.
The German-Finnish pairing mastered the total distance from Mittenwald to Weerberg in 3:51:52, thus relegating Milena Landtwing and Martin Kiechle of Centurion-Vaude (3:56:17) as well as Germany's Kristina Weber and Daniel Jung of Mountain Heroes (4:12:25) to the second and third rank, respectively.
Triumph of top candidates for the senior master title
Among the oldest participants, Walter Platzgummer and Silvano Janes from the Italian team Trient-Südtirol met the standard of being the ones to beat in 3:52:15.
Austria's Erich Pross and Erwin Dietrich of Zweirad Janger Simplon placed second (4:00:52) while title defender Georg Niggl and his new Craft And Friends partner Walter Perkmann from South Tyrol secured the third rank (4:08:12).
Stage 2 preview: Weerberg, Austria to Mayrhofen, Austria
The second stage is more or less a scenic tour. Less than 70 kilometers but 2,597 meters in elevation promise once again to deliver some stunning mountain views.
It's no wonder that the high route passing Lafasteralm and Weidener Hütte up to Geiseljoch (2,292m), which offers nice visilibilty, has been an inherent part of the TransAlp for many years now.
Thereafter, it'll be time for something new. The race will go for the first time across the Penken, Mayrhofen's ski mountain, to get to the Ziller Valley.
Full results coming!