The bike Transalp is one of the oldest MTB stage races on the international calendar and has served as inspiration for many of the other mountain biking events that exist today. Participation at the event means riders get the opportunity to not only take part at a unique event but also to discover some of mountain biking’s earliest roots.
Back in 2013 I completed my first Transalp alongside my good friend Aurelie Halbwachs. This year was to be a completely different experience as I teamed up with Ben Melt Swanepoel (Squirtlube) for the event in the mixed category.
In its 18th edition the event might be “old” in existence but every year the race organisers create a new route or visit different towns in order to keep the event fresh and exciting.
On the 19th of July 2015, 1200 people lined up in Rupholding’s narrow main street to tackle the 624 kilometre course which included a total of 19,286 meters in elevation. Along with the start in Ruhpolding our stops in Saalfelden, Mittersel, Sillian and Levico Terme were all new to me and the Transalp route as we made our way to the lakeside finish at Riva Del Garda on the 25th of July.
Visiting new host towns meant creating fresh routes to reach our daily destination and I must admit this year’s course caught me completely off guard. I went into the event expecting a similar experience to 2013 and only realised afterwards that you’ll never ride the same Transalp – ever! This is part of what makes the event so unique.
For 2015 the course included a lot of hiking as we made our way over several mountain ranges during the event. In total it took Melt and I 35 hours to complete the Transalp and around 7 of those hours (20%) were spent either walking or hiking with our bikes on our backs. This proved to be our biggest challenge during the event as I struggled to push and carry my bike after having dislocated my shoulder 7 weeks earlier. This left poor Melt to do most of the bike carrying and pushing work and we could only look on as our competitors came running past us. Lesson learned – if we come back to Transalp we will be ready to carry our bikes.
I am grateful to have had Melt alongside me as he was very understanding of my injury and always tried to keep the team spirit high. At first I was a bit nervous about our partnership but all said and done we made a very good team. It always felt as if we were effective in whatever challenge we had to face. Whether it was the racing or the off the bike duties such as washing clothes after every stage, making food, fixing bikes etc, we always shared the workload and things just seemed to be working as well as a squirt lubed chain J. Our teamwork netted us a 9th place overall in the mixed category which is a very good results if you take into account that it was both our first races back after injury and we competed in a very strong mixed field.
There is no denying that this year’s course was one of the toughest the Transalp has ever offered, but there was also plenty of positives to make up for the suffering. As always there was the beautiful landscape that we were so fortunate to traverse during our journey and we were blessed with pleasant weather throughout the 7 days. This is quite rare in and around the Dolomites where the weather can change from sun to snow in seconds.
It’s hard to sum up an entire stage race in one report therefore you can read more about our Transalp adventure in the upcoming edition of Mountain Bike Magazine. I hope it makes for a good read.
I am very grateful to Garmin for allowing me the opportunity to return to an event which I have so many fond memories of and I look forward to experiencing other editions of the Transalp in future – even if my cycling shoes might not agree…