With the halfway point behind them, the TransAlp competitors could begin to look forward to a refreshing dip in Lake Garda. Stage five was the shortest of the race, at 53km, but there was still 2100m of climbing to be ascended and some of the event’s most technical descending.
Home advantage once again proved to be significant, as South Tyroleans, Team Holimites.com, crossed the finish line in Meran after 2:36.32. The stage win had always been their aim; “we have already said in Mittenwald that we want to win the stage to Meran” explained team member Igor Tavella. American Trek/VW riders Eatough and Bishop took second spot on the day. Overall leaders Team Xenofit-Rocky Mountain/T-Mobile’s third, was good enough to keep them in yellow.
The Platzgummers took command of the Masters once again, while Team Rocky Mountain/Marzocchi continued their good form in the Women’s category.Stage Six
Several mammoth climbs dispersed throughout the 81km course, made stage six a vicious prospect. A window into the Dolomites was the reward for hours of relentless climbing, much of it only possible on foot.
The stage also saw a new team atop the podium; Benjamin Schmieg and Mark Thimo Weichert from Team Alb-Gold/Merida. They finished only one second in front of Platz and Bresser, who were proving to be exceptionally consistent. British team Orange/Ron Hill produced their best performance to date on the gruelling stage with 14th in the Men’s.
No prizes for guessing who won the Masters, though. Yes, those interchangeable Italians, the Platzgummers, took yet another stage win.
After such a strong start, the Women’s Kroschi/Scott USA team had been struck by illness. During the sixth stage, Nicole Heine had to pull her teammate, Karen Eller, by rope, to get her to the end. By now, Team Rocky Mountain/Marzocchi had ascended to within minutes of their German rivals in the overall standings, but Tomlinson praised Eller and Heine; “the other girls are better. They really deserve to win”.
Stage seven was the penultimate challenge for the TransAlp riders, with a relatively short burst to Andalo. The crowds at the finish were treated to yet another sprint finish as Berner/Heymans (Team Focus/Hawk) beat Platt/Bresser (Xenofit-Rocky Mountain/T-Mobile) by two-hundredth of a second.
Winning the Masters were Platzgummer and Platzgummer, while the Fuji team won the Mixed category and Rocky Mountain/Marzocchi took the Women’s, reducing their overall deficit to one minute.Stage Eight
Day eight, and only 61km stood between the 750 competitors and the finish in Riva del Garda. Americans Jeremiah Bishop and Chris Eatough (Trek/VW) took their first stage win in 2:37.33 ahead of Team Fiat Rotwild/Radteam Tirol and the superb Xenofit-Rocky Mountain/T-Mobile team.
After 26 hours, 30 minutes, Platt and Berner from Xenofit-Rocky Mountain/T-Mobile, had crossed the finish line to win the fifth Adidas BIKE TransAlp. Throughout the eight stages, they had been shadowed by the Focus/Hawk team, and despite winning several stages, they had to settle for the runner’s up spot, only 22-minutes in arrears. Third place overall was claimed by stage six winners, Team Alb-Gold/Merida, with a total time of 27:05.29. Team Orange/Ron Hill were rewarded for their determination with a credible 17th position overall.
Going one better than their 2001 performance, Messrs Platzgummer and Platzgummer stamped their authority on the Masters race by winning seven stages and the overall title. Of the Brits, Team Hunt/Burwell finished 38th overall just behind the industry pairing of Bryson Martin (Marzocchi) and Gary Fisher (Gary Fisher).
In the mixed category, the Fuji team could only manage fourth on the day, but their previous performances had been enough to earn them the overall win, ahead of Team SüdTirol 4.
Having fallen ill early in the race, Team Kroschi/Scott USA finally relinquished their lead to the North American pairing of Leslie Tomlinson and Gretchen Reeves. The Rocky Mountain/Marzocchi girls were thrilled with their performance.
The TransAlp is full of inspiring performances and unerring determination, but none more so than those of team ‘3 Shaved Legs’. American Brett Wolfe, who makes up half the team with his partner Kurt Levy, lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident 12 years-ago, although it didn’t stop them from completing the marathon in 47-and-a-half hours in 174th position. Of their feat, a South African team said; ” Brett is an inspiration. If you are exhausted and you see this guy riding with just one leg, you immediately get a motivation boost”.
Whatever their result, every rider from the 406 teams had achieved a personal victory by finishing the event known as the ‘world’s hardest mountain bike race’. We hope to bring you a further perspective of this great event, from our friends at Marzocchi who were out in force competing in the TransAlp. And if this has whetted your appetite for marathon events, tune in for the TransRockies race that will be traversing Canada’s greatest mountain range from the 11th to the 17th of August.
Finally, here’s some TransAlp trivia for you:
1 aluminium frame welded successfully, 150 shifting cables, 95 pairs brake pads, 45 tires, 200 tubes, 60 gas cartridges, 10 pairs seals for suspension forks, 55 chains, several litres of hydraulic and chain oil, and lots of chain spray, 450 kg Muesli, 450 kg pasta (back-up), 4,000 apples, 6,500 bananas, 15,000 Xenofit CarboBars and 10,000 litres Xenofit, 10,000 litres water, 25,000 cups, editorial staff used up 2 kg coffee powder, 3,200 visits on Bemer magnet mattresses, 1,070 massaged legs.