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Jeantex TOUR-Transalp 2009
Although it’s my third Transalp, everything is different this year and I feel a little queasy. It’s not because of a different start place or because of the challenge of the queen stage. In 2006 and 2008 I took part in the race with colleagues of the TOUR magazine that I had known for years; this time my partner will be a TOUR reader. Christian Baumhof is from Bergneustadt, 60 km away from Cologne. We met at the TOUR training camp that he joined one week respectively during the last three years. The great thing about him is that he is always in good spirits and that he has actually made tremendous efforts, ever since we have decided to do this program. His training discipline is a thing I can only dream of. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun in any case. Another new thing is that we intend to do thorough testings and Christian will contribute an important part in these tests. Although he’s been a committed amateur cyclist for years, he’s never had the opportunity to test lots of material in short time.
But that is exactly what he’s going to do during the Transalp together with me as an experienced test pilot by his side. Our experiences and findings will be the basis for all in all four stories that will be published in the August and September issues of TOUR. For those who are interested in technology it’ll be worth taking a glance at our racing machines during the TOUR Transalp. For this reason my daily routine this time will not only be cycling, eating and sleeping. Additional routines in the morning or evening will be working on our racing machines, writing our blog and placing our bicycle computer values on the internet. In addition, we’ll take the photos for the stories together with the TOUR editor and photographer Uwe Geißler. The tight program scares me a little, I hope I’ll have enough time for regeneration. Let me finish with a wish. The Transalp is almost 900 km long and takes seven days. On the first stage there’s not much winning until Hahntennjoch, but a lot to lose. So, let’s take it nice and easy, then we’ll have a lot of fun together! Have a good journey. Looking forward to seeing you in Sonthofen. Dirk Zedler
Unfortunately, Sonthofen received us with moderate weather. The weather changed from rain to dry and vise versa, not a bit of the promised sun. The expo grounds with the exhibitors almost resembled a ploughed up field after only a short period of time. The grass area in the city centre suffered a lot from the interested participants. A rain probability of 85 % was actually announced during the track presentation in the evening. The main challenge of the first stage was primarily the Hahntennjoch with its almost 1,900 altitude metres. According to the race supervisor Uli Stancius the rest of the stage were to be cycled rather easily. There was not much discussion between Christian and me and we decided to run the race with aero wheels with alu brake surfaces from our wheel collection.
We were forced to do the assembly in the underground parking of the hotel.
During breakfast time at 7.00 a.m. the weather didn’t look too bad. Nevertheless, we headed for the start with our entire rain suit and mudguards. In the start area the weather improved and we took off layer by layer.
The start was very disciplined and climbing the Oberjoch made pretty soon clear what was the issue of the event. While Thannheimer valley, Reute and Namloser valley passed by, pack riding started, so that the speed was pretty fast. However, some descents on the track indicated that almost two and a half thousand altitude metres had to be worked out.
The Hahntennjoch finally lived up to its promise, i.e. to be selective. Since we had never cycled at the limit the about 95 km behind us, we catched many of those who had passed us before. A few cycling colleagues even had to give the wanderer. At the top of this last climb we were happy that we had ridden out this first stage that hadn’t been as hectically as the years before.
We were rewarded with a warm descent where we did not even need the wind jacket. Rather content I’m looking forward to stage two.
After a good meal and an agreable massage I look back on my first day. Taking part in the Transalp race for the first time was rather exiting for me this morning. There had only been good looking sportsman with daunting material in the start block today. But due to the experience of my partner Dirk we handled the first kilometres of this Transalp stage without problems and even when I had a little breakdown towards the end he found the right words to raise me up again. It’s really fun to have such a great partner like him. Today we’ve experienced an impressive landscape with nice weather on our first stage. We’re both looking forward to tomorrow.
Dream weather the early morning, the first sunbeams create an almost surreal light around the mountain tops encircling Imst when we mount the new wheels on our bikes. The weather forecast is good and I dare to mount the first full carbon wheels on my Scott. Christian gets carbon wheels with alu brake surfaces - the much better choise, as it turned out lateron.
Christian still poses with the new Shimano Ultegra for Uwe Geißler taking the photos. Then there is still one quarter of an hour left to go for a short ride and to check whether everything is o.k.
Those who are late will be punished by a full start block, we are completely in the rear of it. Never mind, we think, the first twenty kilometres will be neutral. In our case this means a rather fast pace that we are actually not used to at home.
We are heading for the first climb, the Arlbergpass, over a slightly wavy track. With decency and passing by lots of cyclists we roll to the top. Downhill is a lot of fun and down in the valley we reach a pack at a good pace. A construction site split up the pack, as not all cyclists trusted the gravel. From 600 altitude metres above zero there was a climb that started easy and became harder as we approached the Bielerhöhe, also known as Silvretta High Alpine Road. As we do not cycle at such a high pace, I’ve time to enjoy the landscape and to roll relaxed through the photos taken by Uwe during the stage for the TOUR articles to be published. Hopefully, the cyclists around me won’t take me for completely crazy, as I even turned around once and waited for a moment, until Uwe came back after having photographed Christian’s rear derailleur during the ride.
At the top of the pass along an about one kilometre long level section we had a spectacular view and enjoyed the landscape once again before we rolled down a descent to the finish. But rolling was not the right word today. Due to headwinds I had to work really hard as front rider to avoid being passed by from riders behind us. When there were only 5 km left to Ischgl, we were caught in a huge rain shower, but that didn’t stop our race speed. It turned however out that my wheels were not really rainworthy, which was a little disturbing. As with many carbon wheels tested before, you need to be patient and ride with this fact in mind that the braking performance can build up. We arrived at the finish after five and a half hours, which is quite respectable for almost 147 km and about 2,600 altitude metres.
This morning, day two of the Transalp, I’m in a good mood. Dream weather and full of anticipation for the stage. No aftereffects from day one. Photos before the start and the mounting of new wheels, there is no such thing as boredom. Just quickly some bars and gels into the pockets of our jerseys and here we go, this time from the very rear in the second start block. We recognize immediately a lot of cyclists and we all wish ourselves luck and an accident free stage. It’s striking that everyone is on friendly and sportsmanlike terms, no matter whether you’re talking to leading cyclists or to those at the end of the field before the start. This is something I had not expected. After a speedy start, a rather fast first climb and a good pace to the second climb I had to shift down in order to retain my reserves for the days to come. This set us back a few places in the ranking. Nevertheless, I have to state that it is really an experience to participate in this race. It’s also striking to me how many persons do a great job behind the scenes to ensure a smooth organization. That was it, we’ll have a short massage and then dinner. More details tomorrow.
Qed – which was to be proven, as mathematicians would say in our case. From the very beginning on I was suspicious of the wheels design, the lab values also spoke for themselves. Nevertheless, I mount the wheel set on Christian’s bike today. I wanted to take them tomorrow to climb the Timmelsjoch. That will not happen. Due to its lack of lateral stiffness, the wheel set disappeared in our car until Lake Garda. Thanks to the Rose-team who helped us with a wheel, we were able to continue the race. The front wheel forced us then to stop for a second time, as the magnet touched the speedo unit in the bends.
As the day had started already rather busy and as I am a little fed up as a result of the shortage of time and the tight schedule, I assume that today we hit rock bottom. Hope Christian will put it away. I’m not sure whether that’s what he has expected from being a test rider. He made a good job today, in particular at the very nice and cycle-worthy Pielerhöhe he was tough. Tomorrow a climb and then a long downhill descent. Breaching 2,500 altitude metres for the first time, with this weather this will be a dream.
This morning we started in Ischgl with the sun shining lovely. The sun didn’t stop shining the whole day long until Sölden. But today we had to learn what it means being a test rider. At milestone twenty-nine a defect forces us to stop unscheduled. Then we had to wait half an hour, until the whole field had passed by before we could go on. I got a new wheel and we started to roll up from the end through the field. Special thanks at this point to my partner Dirk who was the pace maker all day long. In particular at the brute climb to the Pielerhöhe we passed by many cyclists. Respect to everyone who took the pain to climb up here. Due to our defect we’ve come to know many new faces, the other time we had always been surrounded by the same riders. Although we’ve made all in all a good job today, we fell down many places in the ranking. Tomorrow we’ll climb the Timmelsjoch and head for Italy. Hoping to have a nice day we’ll join the pasta party in sunny Sölden.
Italy welcomes us with summer temperatures. These were my first thoughts when doing the wonderfull downhill from Timmelsjoch. Dry roads that were closed off, with a good grip and properly illuminated tunnels let us fully enjoy the almost 30 km long and about 1,800 altitude metres speedy downhill ride. But one after the other: We started like every day at nine a.m. and after a short neutral start there was the first challenging climb, so that our start group two spread. Three downhill sections lengthened the climb to the 2,509 metres of the Timmelsjoch, but we cycled controlled and even. As we had joined the start block rather late like every day due to our morning program, we had the pleasure to pass by a few cyclists. Snow banks in the last bends were witnesses of last winter. At the top we quickly took off vests and arm warmers and set off for the descent. In the valley towards Naturns it was the general race fever among the riders and therefore there was no time to enjoy the beautiful landscape. Our pack grew from first of all eight to approximately 60 to 80 riders. Two steep climbs on the way to Naturns then separated the wheat from the chaff. Caspar and Thomas, two nice guys at our level that I had already met last year made the speed to Naturns. At the end the four of us finished first from the big pack. After the finish the four of us were lying in each others arms, loughing heartfully and entirely happy.
Today with wonderfull weather a stage with one climb and two hills. After having made our way up to the top, we were rewarded by a descent without oncoming traffic. A dream to have the road just for us. Race fever fired up and stayed until the finish. At the back of my mind the first, really brute stage tomorrow. The material is outstanding. It is a great feeling to ride through the villages, to see the spectators along the roads and to enjoy riding my road bike. We’re sitting in a cafe, drinking Latte Macchiato and enjoy the atmosphere. Although this stage had "only" been 90 km long, I’m looking forward to the nice massage staff that’ll restore my legs for tomorrow’s performance.
Normally, the opening into a new story is always difficult, not today or rather yes. On the road already I considered a lot of possibilities; one of them for example: Unfortunately, our ambitious plans to produce four good stories for the TOUR issues to come turned out to cost us a few cereals and nerves more than was good for us; another one was: What do race cyclists fear more than a long Alp pass with a heavy bike? Correct, a difficult descent with carbon wheels in heavy rain showers. No matter, which version I had considered, it always lead to the same result. My partner Christian, who makes his first big test ride and is supposed to ride the TOUR Transalp rather acceptable, must bear as a reader a rather tight program. Today, I felt a bit sorry for him, as he was already a little tired before all the circus started.
That’s why I spared him the last photo shoot shortly before the top of the almost 2,300 metre high Passo Foscagno. I told him to simply ride on. The sky had already turned into grey or, to be honest, into black when Uwe Geißler shooting these great photos of the event and of us asked us to ride at a very slow pace. He wanted to take further photos of the test material in the hard use by walking beside us with his camera. So, I decided to turn around and to put my bike in spotlight.
I’m really happy after this day that made us experience the full range from extreme to sticky temperatures down to temperatures that felt like one degree with heavy rain. I’m happy that we’ve tackled the day healthy, without punctures and crashes. And now, on my cosy hotel bed, rain and coldness weren’t as bad.
This morning started for us with the sun shining in Naturns and with lots of things to do and an absolute shortage of time. At exactly nine a.m. the start to a really brute stage over the roof of the Tour. The riders started in a real rush and then had to climb the Stilfserjoch. Sun shine at the bottom of the climb and rain drizzling at the top. It’s true, this mountain is gigantic and offers an impressive view. Unfortunately, motor cyclists, cars and accompanying vehicles jam the mountain rather quickly. That was not really funny.
For me the climbs today were very exhausting and I couldn’t benefit of my usual performance. During the descent we were able to pass by other cyclists, but this was only at short term, as the next climb was already waiting. During the next to last descent we were caught in a thunderstorm with heavy rain. As we were riding with carbon wheels we made the descent at a slower pace. We finished completely drenched and me, in addition, chilled to the bone. The organizer helped quickly with warm blankets and warm tee. After a good dinner we are now looking forward to the queen stage.
The Passo Gavia is a real juwel. The narrow road, the condition of which is sometimes quite miserable, seems to be very authentic. Riding at regular cycling speed there is enough time to go around the holes and to enjoy the spectacular landscape at the same time. There are not so much riders around us, as on the famous climbs, for ex. the Stilfser Joch, we made yesterday. The descent in direction of Passo Tonale is even adventurously narrow, the road does not allow two cars to go side-by-side. We rolled downhill full of awe until our first puncture. The first was followed by a second one. As spare tubulars are not glued, as a matter of fact, the third puncture followed on the descent from Passo Tonale. What we were then forced to do was something we had already experienced the third day, i.e. waiting for the Rose service car. The first time it had been Henry who had rescued us, this time it was Christian who saved my team partner Christian.
Fully calm and good-humoured he finished by adjusting the brake pads, as clincher rims have another diameter than tubular rims. The Rose service team is for me among the absolute workaholics of all cars accompanying the Transalp. From dawn to dusk the guys repair the bicycles of many participants. Riding from place to place you often forget the dozends of supporters that provide everything from A to Z. A special praise and many thanks to all of them. Tomorrow the show will already be over. Within such a short time almost 900 km cycled. Most probably the finish is gonna be a fast one, hopefully no one will clear us away with the euphoria of the last day.
Today we go into the queen stage with magnificent sunshine. This morning already nothing but sunshine and there was a tense atmosphere in the starter block in view of the challenges of this stage. The stage started with two climbs, then the descent down to Passo Gavia which is very easy to cycle. We were among the fellow riders of the last days and crossed the pass together. Unfortunately, I experienced the mishap of the punctures that Dirk has already described in his blog. The first two punctures could be repaired by Dirk. After the third puncture the wheels were changed and we took the descent. We joined a pack with a young sportsman who astonished us. Long pants, long jersey, old helmet and a Peugeot bike with Shimano 105 and down tube shifters that were common through the late 1980s or the early 1990s. This cycling colleague headed the pack through the valley at a very fast pace without even showing a sign of letting someone else at the top. The performance ended at the bottom of the climb to Medelpass. There was only one word all other riding colleagues had for him: respect. Dirk speeded up the pace on Medelpass, so that we were able to pass by many riders. In the finish area we were surprised by my girl friend who received us. My lesson of the day: Inspite of the punctures I had a lot of fun during the stage. Tomorrow we’re heading for Arco.
Nice stage! My fears of yesterday have not proved correct. The 30 km neutral start was taken rather easy by the riders and so we could even enjoy the morning ride through the valley with fruit trees and vineyards. Due to nice talks and the magnificent landscape the stage started diverting. The only severe climb dragged on a little, as Christian’s crank turned only at a very sluggish pace. The descent and the valley in direction of Lake Garda were beautiful again and there were lots of things to be seen, i.e. lakes, rocks and pretty cross-town roads. Thus the last 100 km of the Transalp spun away. On the final downhill ride we rolled up again and finished directly after our favourite rivals Casper and Thomas. After Riva, Bibione my third Transalp has now come to an end in Arco. From the point of view of the ranking this would be supposed to by my weakest one. From the point of view of the program this was, however, the most challenging one. I’m actually happy that we managed to finish safe and sound with all the test program and the adversities coming along with it. There was also a certain responsibility I felt for Christian all the time. At this point I would like to express my sincere gratitude to him that he put up with all the problems, that he was so tough and didn’t stop fighting. Now, the first thing we’re gonna do is to party a little, tomorrow we shall not care about any road bikes and then we’re gonna see what future will bring in terms of sport. We had actually a lot of fun and somehow it feels already, as if I’m gonna say next year : let’s try again…
The last day of our Transalp also started with dream weather again. Right now we’re sitting in a cafe in Arco and reviewing the race. This final stage was harder than expected. My legs are quite heavy. It had been a pleasant stage, everyone had cycled calm and disciplined. Many of our friends among the riders used the first kilometres for conversations. Ronals and Gunnar from Neurupping as well as the team Coolibri were around us for quite a long time. The finish in Arco was great and finishers celebrate their arrival. The atmosphere is relaxed and the happy participants sit around in parks or the adjacent cafes. The international flair of this event becomes manifest in the big number of different languages. The pains of the past days are forgotten and a feeling of contentedness comes over me. Thanks to all who supported the riders, in particular to Dirk who worked a lot for the team. Today, we made the final stage side-by-side, he with his finger in his nose, but sportive. Thanks a lot and congratulations to all participants.