For anyone who considers themselves a strong endurance rider, the TransAlp is the ultimate honesty box. For mere mortals, the numbers make sobering reading; Eight days, three countries, 570km and 19,000 metres of vertical climbing. That’s over twice the height of Everest. There are marathons, and then there is the TransAlp.
The 2002 route was very different to that ridden by the competitors in 2001, this year following the Via Claudia Augusta trails through the western Central Alps. On Sunday, the first of nearly 800 riders began to arrive at the lakeside Riva Del Garda finish.
The pain, suffering and glorious terrain began on Saturday 20th of July, in the Bavarian town of Mittenwald. 20,000 spectators turned out to wave off the competitors, on the 79.74km first stage to Imst. With 2400 vertical metres of climbing, stage one was a rude awakening for many riders. In addition to the elevation and distance, the high-altitude heat became a factor.Stage One
Germans, Karl Platt and Carsten Bresser from the Xenofit-Rocky Mountain/T-Mobile team revealed their marathon credentials by winning the stage in 3:35.08. Behind the teutonic duo were Italians Igor Tavella and Stephan Unterthurner from the Holomites.com team and American Trek/VW riders Chris Eatough and Jeremiah Bishop.
Of the 14 Women teams, the Kroschi/Scott USA team of Nicole Heine and Karen Eller headed the leader board, while the Mixed category was won by Team SüdTirol 4 and the Masters by the Walter Platzgummer team; two Italians who share the same name, but no family relationship! Apparently the two became friends after organisers continually deleted one from the start list thinking it was one rider registering twice.
British teams doing well after the first stage were the Orange/Ron Hill team of Ben Bardsley and Rob Jebb with 21st in the Men’s, and Roy Hunt and Paul Burwell with 21st in the Masters.Stage Two
Day two took the riders from Imst to Isgl, a 73km stage with 3081 metres of elevation gain. At the front of the Men’s category, former Olympic cross-country competitor, Ralph Berner, and African Champion, Mannie Heymanns (Team Focus/Hawk), sprinted out the finish with the Xenofit-Rocky Mountain/T-Mobile team after three hours and 41 minutes of crippling terrain. Punctures plagued the way for both teams, but brought the two together for a dramatic finish.
Walter and Walter, the Italian namesakes, continued their winning form in the Masters, while the Mixed category was won by Lutz Volker and Alexandra Rosenstiel from Team Fuji. A repeat win for the Kroschi/Scott USA team, kept them ahead in the Women’s category.
Brits in the hunt included the Mixed Mint Sauce Team (Matt Carr/Helen Jackson), in seventh and another 21st for the Orange/Ron Hill team in the Men’s.
If the 67km stage from Ischgl to Nauders sounded like an easy day on paper, but the fact that it featured the highest point in the race – the 2753m Idjoch – should tell you otherwise. In the Men’s race, around seven to ten teams were formed a peleton at the head of affairs, right up until the final climb, and yet again, the win was decided by a sprint.
In a replay of yesterday’s stage, the same two teams entered the finishing straight elbow-to-elbow, but this time Team Xenofit-Rocky Mountain/T-Mobile wreaked their revenge on Team Focus/Hawk to take their second stage win. “The Idjochwas tough” explained Karl Platt. “The ground was OK, but you had to ride in the smallest gear”.
Yet another stage win by the Platzgummers underlined their dominance in the Master’s race, and the Kroschi/Scott USA also continued their perfect tally. Mixed Team Fuji (Lutz Volker and Alexandra Rosenstiel), defeated overall leaders, Team SüdTirol 4, but couldn’t overhaul them on the leaderboard.
A great ride for the Orange/Ron Hill team led the way for the British entrants. Rob Jebb and Ben Bardsley took 16th in the stage, while Team Mint Sauce seemed to be settling into a comfortable rhythm by taking seventh.Stage Four
Tuesday was to be the longest day of the world’s hardest mountain bike race, with 98km of racing and over 2000m of elevation. Incredible performances from the leading men, saw them complete the gruelling course in only three-and-a-half hours! Again, the German duo of Bresser and Platt won the day with a record-breaking average speed of 17.5mph.
For the Italian teams, it was a significant stage, as they crossed into home territory. With Team Focus/Hawk suffering technical problems and a crash, Italian Team Holimites.com capitalised to secure second in the stage and second overall.
There was also a change in the Master’s and Women’s categories as the early leaders suffered problems. Team Mittenwald, consisting of Max Pritzl and Hans Grasegger, stole the win from the Platzgummers in the Masters. North American Rocky Mountain/Marzocchi team of Gretchen Reeves and ex-World Cup racer, Leslie Tomlinson, found a way past the Kroschi/Scott USA team after the Germans suffered stomach problems overnight.
Another solid top-20 performance by the Orange/Ron Hill team put them into 18th overall, while the Mint Sauce team took eighth and the Burwell/Hunt team took 26th in their respective classes.