Getting ready in Boulder

On July 16th, the legendary TransAlp stage race will begin in Mittenwald, Germany. Our two-man Boulder Cycle Sport team, Brandon Dwight and Pete Webber (myself), will line up with 1,100 mountain bikers from all over the world to complete a special mission: to cross the main chain of the Alps.

Officially named the Craft Bike Transalp powered by Nissan, it will be the 14th running of this classic race for teams of two. We'll tackle a total distance of 670 kilometers plus 21,500 meters in elevation (gulp) - all in eight challenging stages. According to these numbers, this year's race across the Alpine divide is the longest TransAlp yet.

The peloton of international pros and amateurs will travel from Mittenwald, right on the southern border of Germany, to the towns of Weerberg and Mayrhofen near Innsbruck in Austria, and then further on for five stages in the steep mountains of northern Italy stopping in Brixen, St. Vigil, Alleghe, San Martino di Castrozza and Trento before concluding in the lakeside resort of Riva del Garda.

We'll write daily blogs from the race and share an inside look at our adventure. Hopefully we'll find the time and energy to capture some entertaining photos, video, and stories from a racer's point-of-view as this enormous army of athletes, supporters, and race staff invade a new town each night.

We'll be racing the masters category, where the combined age of both participants that exceeds 80. Since this is our first TransAlp, it is hard to guess how we'll finish, but just completing the whole thing without major mishap will be a big accomplishment itself! Our main goal is to have fun and enjoy an epic journey through some of the most amazing terrain on earth.

I'm writing this race preview from my home in Boulder, Colorado. Last minute packing is underway, with piles of gear scattered around the house. Getting ready for TransAlp is a huge challenge itself. All our gear must fit in one duffle bag that is transported between stages by the race staff. We are trying to travel light, but also bring everything we need to be successful. Should I pack a spare chain? How many inner tubes? Rules prohibit flying with CO2 cartridges, but will we find a bike shop with some in stock over there?

We've booked nine different hotels along the race route, made plane reservations, studied train schedules, and collected advice from TransAlp veterans. Mountain bike guru Dave Wiens wrote us an email with this funny quote: "Be prepared for sketchy, fast descending on open roads with Euros who have more balls than sense!"

My teammate is Brandon Dwight, a longtime friend and training partner. Brandon and I have been riding together for many years and have recorded a memorable list of bike adventures. We've never combined forces for a long stage race like this before, but we are very closely matched. I've stopped counting how many times we've toed the line together in 'cross races, and we're often in the same photo frame at the finish.

Our final test before this year's Transalp was the classic Firecracker 50 Mountain Bike Marathon in Breckenridge, Colorado. Although it is not a team race, we rode tightly together as practice for the TransAlp. After four hours, we finished together for a very satisfying one-two in the masters. The Firecracker was an ideal test for the mega-climbs and distance on a typical TransAlp stage, and we both felt good about our preparation, equipment, and fitness.

Stayed tuned for our next blog from the race start!

The official race website is here:

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Pete Webber and Brandon Dwight are racing the TransAlp mountain bike stage race in Europe from July 16-23, 2011.  This blog follows their adventures just before and during the eight-day competition.

Webber, 41, is a longtime bike racer from Boulder, Colorado, USA, who rides for the well-known local team Boulder Cycle Sport. He was a pro mountain bike and cyclo-cross racer during the 90s and rode World Cups and world championships for Team Gary Fisher. As a masters athlete, he is two-time US Cyclo-cross National Champion. On the mountain bike, he won the 2010 US Master Marathon National Championships.

Webber is also a longtime bike advocate and trail builder, and worked for the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) for the past 10 years. His many supporters include his wife Sally and 8-year-old daughter Ella.

Dwight, 39, also from the US, is the co-owner of Boulder Cycle Sport, a popular Colorado bicycle shop with two locations and three times
voted a "Top 100 Shop" in the USA. He was a pro/elite mountain biker and cyclo-cross rider on the American circuit during the 90s and 00s and is a two-time US Cyclo-cross Masters National Champion. He is also the founder of Dwight lives in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife Heather and one-year-old daughter Maggie.