The TransAlp starts tomorrow!

Oh yes! The 14th annual TransAlp starts tomorrow and we are ready to rumble!

Today it is me, Brandon Dwight, writing from the start town of Mittenwald, Germany. Pete and I have just spent two days traveling and getting prepped for this crazy race. It has been a huge amount of planning and training, and now we just want to start riding. Actually Pete did all the planning, so I owe him a huge thanks for all of his logistical work.

Come to think of it, Pete did all the training too, so I will thank him now for letting me sit on his wheel for the next eight days.

Traveling to Europe from Colorado is always a bit challenging. Hauling along a bicycle and all the gear you need for an eight-day mountain bike stage race in the Alps with no local support crew is even more difficult. We tried to make it simple by traveling as light as possible and not renting a car. Instead we used Europe's awesome train system to get us from Munich airport to the race start in Mittenwald. Fortunately for Pete and me, our travels went buttery smooth. All flights were on time, bikes and luggage arrived in one piece and we didn’t miss any trains. (We did however get scolded by the train conductor for neglecting to purchase tickets for our bikes...)

Like most competitors at this race, Pete and I are paying our own way and are doing what we can to keep our costs low. One trick to save a few bucks was to consolidate our race bikes into one travel box, thus only pay one airline bike fee. We built up a cardboard bike box which is large enough to hold two 29er mountain bikes, yet small and light enough to be within the airline's oversize luggage dimensions. The wheels are placed in separate bags or boxes. We've also used this trick when flying with two cyclo-cross bikes, and on this trip it will save us a bunch thanks to United's brutal bike fees (US$450 roundtrip to Europe.)

Today we went through the registration process and picked up our race packet. The whole race will be scored with electronic timing chips which are secured to the back of our number plates. With over 1,000 riders and the unique challenge of timing two-person teams, the timing chips allow accurate results down to the second. However, after eight stages, I don't think it is the seconds that will matter!

Thanks for reading and we'll check in tomorrow with an update following stage 1.

We also picked up our official race duffle bag. These bags are transported by the race staff to the finish of each stage, and on most stages are distributed directly to each racer's hotel or camping area. This system allows racers to tackle a point-to-point event without a car or any additional help. We are only allowed this one bag, so all our gear has to go inside. We're keeping our fingers crossed the bags arrive at the proper hotel each afternoon!

The weather is chilly and wet, and so far we've just done two short rides here in the valley of Mittenwald where the rain and cool temps are no a big deal. But the top of the big climbs are way above above the valley, and the weather conditions are sure to be a bit more extreme up there. We will definitely be riding with jackets and other extra gear to meet the alpine weather, but the possibility of long, breezy downhills while soaking wet has all the racers a bit worried!

This evening we went to the big opening party and race briefing. All 1,200 racers and hundreds of volunteers packed inside the local sports arena for a pasta dinner and cold beer. A group of kids dressed in traditional Bavarian garb marched in with the flags of each participating nation - 37 different countries in all! The legendary race director Uli Stanciu walked us through tomorrow's course and we even got a vocal performance from a local opera singer who belted out a song appropriately called "The impossible dream."

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