Transalps has been on my bucket list for many many years and Esther and I have spoken about doing it together many times but there has always been something in the way, like a Swedish marathon champs or a Swiss XCO champs and last year Esther’s team did not allow her to, but in hindsight it was good since I had 3 broken ribs at the time of Transalps 2016. So finally this year after winning the Cape Epic together we met up in Mayrhofen in Austria to tackle another tough week side by side! Esther is the perfect partner and we ride well together so I was really looking forward to this stage race.
I had been sick for a week and the day before the start I felt 99% healthy again, but still not 100% and it made me nervous for the start.
Stage 1 Mayrhofen to Brixen, 105 km – 3119 meters of climbing
It was brutal to start the race with the Queen stage! The word “start climb” has a new meaning. In Sweden we have start climbs of maybe up to a few minutes, this day it took us 2 hours and 7 minutes to reach the top of the 32 km long climb with 1700 meters of climbing, now that is what I call a proper start of the week!! We went up to 2300 meters above sea level and I always struggle with altitude so I did not feel very strong up the climb. On the way down it was best to hold tight on the brakes since it was very fast on the sketchy gravel roads. We basically went downhill for 38 kilometres, which took us just under an hour, just to hit the bottom and start riding up the next climb… After another hour of climbing I lost my sense of humour and just wanted to get off my bike, I was finished and was getting dizzy. The last bit was up and down and a bit easier. We finally arrived in Brixen after 5 hours and 20 minutes, it was a long day.
Our hotel was close by so I could just walk there and have some food and a good massage and recover well. Brixen was a cute little Italian village, but I am not sure when we entered Italy ; )
Before start in Mayrhofen, Austria
First of many feeds from Bea
Stage 2 Brixen to St. Vigil, 63 km – 2668 meters of climbing
If I thought the first day’s climb was bad this day was worse! We started the stage with a 20 kilometre climb with 1600 meters of climbing, so it was a lot steeper than yesterday! Many of the teams that passed us on the second climb on day 1 now passed us already on the first climb, this was not my cup of tea! The start climb took us 1h45min! Luckily, I had a good partner who waited for me patiently. We got rewarded with some nice single tracks and an amazing view at the top. After a long section of tar with some ups and downs we had a long long downhill and my brakes were screaming like I have never heard them before, we had to change both the brake pads and rotor. It was not just me not being used to those climbs and downhill but also the bike ;)
Just after the first climb, increadible view!! Photo: Markus Greber
Stage 3 St. Vigil to St. Christina, 65 km – 2461 meters of climbing
The start out of St. Vigil suited me a bit better, it was a slight drag on tar which meant that the bunch stayed together for about 30 minutes and I felt good and could comfortably keep my position in the bunch. After half an hour we got to the real climb and I was still feeling ok going up and on the flat section at the top I could race the other teams around us and I thought my legs were back. We had a 1,4km compulsory walking section coming up, it was so steep with big rocks that I sometimes struggled to walk down, it really stuffed up the legs! As we hit the next climb, which was up the first downhill of the 2015 World Champ course, my legs just told me they had had enough of climbing and it felt like I was going backwards again… It was a long climb. I still enjoyed coming back to the Val Gardena area where Craig and I spent 3 weeks in 2015 and at the top of Grödnerjoch we hit a single track which we had done with our host back then, it was nice to recognize something here! On the last climb up Passo Sella I was swearing to myself for being so stubborn thinking I could ride a 34 chain ring…. How stupid was that!!? It was so steep that I just wanted to give up and sit down… We eventually got to the top and took a chance and followed the last downhill of the World champ course, the markers had stopped and among hundreds of hikers it was difficult to guess where to go. We eventually found our way down and hit the markers again which took us in to St. Christina via a very technical downhill with tight switchbacks!
Val Gardena is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited and I really enjoyed our one day there. We had booked a hotel package through the organizers and everyday was a lottery to see if you got a nice hotel close to the venue or not. This day we were far away from the venue but we were opposite to the apartment Craig and I rented in 2015 so I felt a bit at home :)
Oh, and my bike got a 32 chain ring put on that afternoon ;) !!!
Finishing in St. Christina. Photo: Markus Greber & Miha Matavz
After the finish with Hansjörg and Hanna
Stage 4 St. Christina to Kaltern am see, 98 km - 3001 meters of climbing
This race just kept getting more and more brutal. To start the stage with a 13% climb within the first minute is just not nice to cold legs. We often started in small towns or places with only uphills around so it was difficult to do good warm ups. We “only” had 12 km until we got to a long downhill today, so it was a relatively short start climb! The downhill was crazy on a tar road with lots of traffic. We were in a big bunch and it was ridiculously fast! But at the entrance of the first single track we had to wait since it was so narrow that we had to get of the bike just to enter it. We could stay with the bunch on some shorter ups and downs but when we got to the next long climb which was very very steep I could not hold it anymore and we were on our own. I also had to hold back a bit on the downhills since I started to feel dizzy from exhaustion in the heat. For a change, we had a flat section with about 16 km to go and Esther was very strong and pulled us back to 2 guys so we could get a little bit of shelter. But the last extremely steep short (a few kilometres) uphill felt very unnecessary to me and when we eventually came to the finish I just wanted to break down and cry. I was finished and this was the toughest day of the week for me.
Kaltern am See was a really nice place with the lake and the mountains and the prize giving was at a beautiful setting by a wine farm, and yes we got wine as a prize : ) We were so lucky with the weather all week, we had no rain at all and sun every day, I think this race could have been very different (and tougher) if the weather had been different!
Start in St.Christina. Photo: Markus Greber
The way it often looked, my head is hanging and Esther is wondering where I am... ;) Photo: Markus Greber
Stage 5 Kaltern to Trento, 85 km – 2619 meters of climbing
This stage started with a 15 kilometres neutral section to get through traffic, it was a bit long and slow and it got a bit messy in the bunch. When they let us go we were at the bottom of the first climb, 22 kilometres was what we had in front of us!! It was just to find the rhythm and get climbing for an hour or so…. Again… We were at a bit lower altitude by now so it was a bit easier to breath for me and at the top we had some nice single tracks and some shorter ups and downs which I really enjoyed and I felt a bit better! That was until we got to the last climb of the day, an 8 km gravel road climb with lots of corners, it was a real “never ending story” and I don’t think I was the only one hoping the top would be around the next corner… When we eventually saw the top we only had the last downhill to do, but it was so technical that it took us much longer than expected, this race was just never plain sailing. The timing mat was 2 km before the actual finish line since we were in a big city and it was a bit dangerous to race in the traffic, it was nice to just cruise to the line though.
The first climb... Photo: Markus Greber
One of the sponsors of the race was Jentschura, we had their porridge for recovery almost every day, really nice!
View from my window
Stage 6 Trento to Lavarone, 49 km – 2000 meters of climbing
I really appreciated the shorter stage, even though I don’t think I have ever done such a short race with so much climbing and the race profile was not a pretty sight. We started at 200 meters above sea level and finished at 1200 meters, needless to say that it was a lot more up than down this day! We had a 5,5 km neutral start but since the car kept the same speed the whole time I even lost the bunch there since it was uphill. It all came back together before the car let us go. Even though it was mostly climbing this day it was more fun since there were more single tracks and forest roads compared to the other days so I really enjoyed it. And to finish off the stage they took us down the blue route at the Lavarone Bike Park, it was lots of fun!
After the finish with Hanna
Stage 7 Lavarone to Riva del Garda, 79 km – 2117 meters of climbing
The last day also started with a neutral start for 6 km, until we hit the first climb, somehow it felt like we had done this before… Luckily we could end the week with more down than up! But the last climb of the race was one of the toughest since it was so steep and no wind and very hot, the sweat literaly ran from under the helmet into my eyes.
The last finish!! Such a great feeling!! Photo: Markus Greber
It was absolutely amazing to arrive at Riva del Garda and see the water knowing that it was the end of this long week! It was very special too see all the yellow and blue balloons and hear all the cheering in Swedish, I don’t know who you were but thank you for cheering!! Afterwards I had a well-deserved Italian ice cream and a swim in the lake, the two things that was on my mind to take me through the last day! I was at the Garda lake for a holiday in 1999 with my mom and it was nice to see the place again!
So after 7 stage wins we could put another stage race win on our CV together as Team Meerendal / CBC! It was the third one this year (Tankwa Trek, Cape Epic and now Transalps). I want to say a huge thank you to both Meerendal and CBC for making it possible for us to do this race! Next up for us as a team is Swiss Epic in September!
Thank you to our supporters Hanna (massage) and Erich (mechanic) for all the hard work during the week, we could not have done this without you! Also thank you to Bea and Hansjörg for helping with bottles and feeding since it was so warm!
It was a big challenge for me to go through this week, being sick just before, not handling altitude so well and definitely not being used to such long steep climbs made for a though week and I am very happy and greatful to have completed this race and thank you to my partner Esther for sticking by my side!
I am now looking forward to some recovery and some really flat races back in Sweden! Next up for me is the Swedish XCM champs on the 5th of August!
All the winners :-) Photo: Markus Greber