First we participated in the race-before-the-actual-race. This race is all the preparation and anxiety which goes into getting ready for the day's ride. In my opinion, the race-before-the-race is more stressful than the race itself.
What tire pressure should I use? How much food should I bring? Did I tighten my cleats? Do I need to bring a jacket? These are all questions which can easily get your blood pressure rising. It becomes more elevated when you are in a foreign county competing in a new event. Add the fact that we had no vehicle and each had to haul a 50lb duffel bag 6km from our hotel to the start line in order to drop it off in time to get it aboard the luggage transfer truck to the finish town.
After we figured out where to drop of the luggage, the next order of business was finding the toilet. I’ll cut to the chase and say three toilets for 1,200 racers is not a good ratio. Next is checking in at the starting grid. Imagine all of these racers from dozens of different countries all trying to find out where they belong in the start chute. It was complete chaos. The final stage of the race-before-the-race is the waiting game. With 1,200 racers to get into the starting grid, the line up starts one hour before the start. Yeah, there is no warming up at the TransAlp. Luckily everyone is having fun and the atmosphere is awesome.
Then came the actual race. It was fast. Starting with a 5km neutral start, which was a "euro neutral" of high speed urban assault, sprinting up the sidewalk to gain position, and general chaos.
This was followed by 100k, or four hours, of enormous climbs, hairball descents, jaw-dropping vistas, and punishing speed. Not to mention totally insane urban segments, roads and bike paths open to the public, and a grueling uphill finish.
We rode great, and didn't run into any pasture gates, mid-path flower boxes, or oncoming cars in darkened tunnels. There were some low points, like dagger-in-the-hamstring leg cramps for both of us (at different times). And also high points, like our fifth-place finish in the masters.
Following the finish, the race-after-the-race began. This consisted of 1) eating and drinking; 2) tracking down our duffel bags from the transport service; 3) identifying our hotel (in another town 6km away; 4) finding the shuttle bus; 5) learning the bus wouldn't take bikes; 6) checking our bikes into the overnight storage service; 7) riding the shuttle bus; 8) and finally, collapsing in our beds. Fortunately, this is the only night our hotel is outside the finish village!
We capped the day with a scrumptious dinner of salad, risotto, pizza, and a tall beer at a street cafe in the shadow of a beautiful church. Let's do it again tomorrow!
Thanks for reading,
Pete & Brandon
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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 Doperssuck.com. Dwight lives in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife Heather and one-year-old daughter Maggie.