Current UK and European 24-hour solo champion Matt Page is riding Ironbike, a 700km mountain bike marathon through the Italian Alps. He’s reporting from the event as he aims for a top result for Bikemagic.com, here’s his first stage report:
Ironbike actually started last night, with a 4km prologue. It was a tough little stage with a never ending climbing and a steep, loose descent back to the town of Limone Piemonte where the race was starting from. The prologue wasn’t important, it is run simply to give the leaders jerseys out and time penalties should be minimal. I finished in 7th place, about a minute behind the winner, which I was quite happy with.
Onto the proper racing, stage 1 started under the down draught of the Ironbike helicopter that follows the event. It made it pretty special, although just 100m after the start I was cursing the helicopter as the down draught blew a big plastic bollard into my path and had me on the tarmac. Not a good start!
I wasn’t hurt, so chased back and got back to the lead ground in time for the first climb. It was a rather long climb and super tough. Steep enough to have me in the smallest gear pretty early on and it stayed there until the top, 500m vertical later. I held the leaders for the first few km’s but couldn’t keep the pace.
A fast descent lead straight into the second major climb of the day, which had a few false starts, going up for a few km’s before coming back down. When it eventually got going it was super steep and loose. It was hard to pick a good line, so I was constantly looking ahead to find the best path. The very top was a short push, but only 20-30m or so. The second descent was super technical, still fast but with lots of tight switchbacks.
The bottom of the descent was the lowest part of the day, around 640m altitude. From here it was a long, long climb all the way up to over 1900m. It was steep to start, but the track widened near the top and I found a good pace and passed a few riders. The top was in the open, out of the trees and the helicopter was hovering above. The final 50m or so was a push to the top and form there it was the most amazing descent, first on open alpine singletrack with a few rock drop-offs to keep you on your toes, then into the trees again singletrack with plenty of switchbacks and the bottom section was a really rough and loose doubletrack that scared me multiple times.
Going down I was certainly glad of the full suspension and the Crank Brothers Joplin seatpost was worth its weight in gold. The downhills were as technical as anything I have ridden this month, including Mega Avalanche, expect riding a short travel bike makes them rougher and trickier.
One last climb to go, this time some road which was a bottom gear climb and some singletrack to top it off. Just a blast down some doubletrack from 1250m down to 700m where it met a road and followed it for the last 5km to the finish. Relief!
Stage 1 finishing time was 6hrs 18min, so inside the time limit, but I would imagine some way off the leaders.
To put today into perspective it is much harder than any single day enduro I have done in the UK. The uphills are much longer and steeper and the downhills are pretty crazy considering that this is a XC race! Looking at the road book, with the exception of the final day today was probably the easiest day of the week. This could be a tough 7 days!
All stats are taken using my Garmin Edge 500 and uploaded to Garmin Connect.
More about the event here www.ironbike.it