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The hardest day on the bike

As I type this I (Brandon) am sitting outside my hotel, which happens to be conveniently located at the finish of stage four of the 2011 Transalp in St. Vigil, Italy. It is 6:00pm in the evening and there are still teams crossing the finish line. We started at 9:00am. For those of you who can’t do the math, that is nine hours on the bike! For most of the Transalp competitors these difficult stages are some of the most enduring days they will ever experience on a bicycle. After the pros, masters and serious amatuers have finished, the enthusiasts come in by the dozens.

Long after the winners have eaten and taken a massage, there are still hundreds of riders still to finish. And, as they cross the line, they hold hands, high-five each other or let out a loud yell in a hearthfelt celebration of accomplishment. In my opinion, this is the essence of these multi-day endurance events. Hell, it’s the essence of mountain biking. Riding with your buddy, enjoying the scenery, pedaling hard and enjoying a cold beer afterwards.

Before I sat down to write this blog there were two guys sitting next to me who raced for nearly eight hours today. They did not go to their gear bags for a recovery drink, wipe down their dirty legs or check the results. These guys grabbed a seat at the café and ordered two large beers and toasted the day’s accomplishments. For me to witness this, it was a thing of beauty and really helped me put this event into perspective.

A couple days ago, we were approached by Bjoern Kafka, senior editor for Bike Magazine of Germany. They are doing a story on several teams competing in the Transalp for the first time. With the pain in our legs and lower back at each stage, Pete and I are wondering the same thing!

Bjoern and his photogragher Oliver have been interviewing us and snapping photos on and off the bike for a future magazine article. I think there are waiting for us to crack, and come crawling across the finish line begging for mercy. They may get their wish soon. This race is hard! So, so hard.

We faired well in stage 4, the Queen Stage of the Transalp, even though there were some climbs so long and steep it felt as though doing repetitions on a leg press machine with someone hammering your quadriceps with a sledge for 45 minutes. Tomorrow is stage 5 from St. Vigil to Alleghe, Italy - 74 more kilometers of difficult climbs and amazing views. I think we might stop for a slice of pizza and beer tomorrow on the way.

Take a look at the Strava map from today. It is epic!

See ya,

B & P

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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.