We spent most of the day before the race looking for feedzones, and although Dave wouldn't be able to access all of them we planned four feeds along the course. The weather was great and I slapped on the suncream and drank loads of water to make sure I was fully hydrated for the race the next day. I always do a 30 minute ride with some race pace efforts the day before a race and I planned to do this on the last climb of the course. When the sky started to darken with big black low clouds we decided to abort this mission. I jumped out of the car and onto my bike and began to ride immediately in the hope that I could get the 30 minutes over and done with before the storm set in. I'd been on the bike exactly 6 seconds when the rain started to fall. I headed up the nearest mountain and Dave followed in the car behind. The rain gradually got harder and harder and it got darker and darker, but luckily the car headlights lit up the fire road in front of me. I like rain and I was quite happy getting wet, but I'm not so keen on thunder and lightning. After about 15 minutes I decided that being pelted by grape sized hailstones was enough, I stopped. Dave left the safety of the car and took a few hits (and yelped) as he stuffed the bike in the boot and we legged it back to our apartment.
The forecast for the next day (race day) was for rain, rain, and more rain. However, later that evening the rain eased and the sun shone again. This led me to believe that the forecast might (perhaps) be wrong........that night we were kept awake by flashes of lightning, thunder, and very heavy rain. At 6am I looked out of the window and the mountains were nowhere to be seen....they were shrouded in veils of cloud. The thought of hiding crossed my mind, not because of the rain but because I hate being cold, and it looked and felt very cold! I checked the weather forecast on TV and a few of the web cams across Austria showed that it was only 1-4 degrees even as low as 1500 metres, and some of them showed snow. EEK! Luckily I had packed for bad weather. I pulled out my neoprene overshoes, thermal base layer, arm warmers, waterproof jacket, and winter gloves. I also gave Dave some spare gloves and another jacket to take to the feedzones.
I normally warm up for 20 minutes before, but I didn't have rollers and I decided that getting soaked and then standing at the start for 10-15 minutes would probably be worse than no warm up. I waited in the start pen to be called to the line. The rain continued to bounce off the roads and I was getting wet, fast. I started to shiver. I was pleased to finally hear the start gun and set off towards the first climb up to 1500 metres. My cold muscles screamed as the gradient started to increase and I gently tried to ease into the pace. Male riders started to pass me but I figured that I'd warm up soon and be able to pick up the pace. My race head wasn't on.
As we got higher the temperature dropped and bare legs started to turn red. I was amazed to see that some people were just wearing shorts and race jerseys. Brrrhhhh, they must have been frozen. I was wrapped up in my arm warmers, base layer, jersey and waterproof jacket and not once did I wish I wasn't! I knew that the descent would be bitterly cold and that my biggest problem would be my hands. When we reached the top after more than an hour of climbing the rain turned to snow. I was shaking uncontrollably on the descent and braking was difficult because my fingers were numb. Each time the course flattened or climbed I cranked up the gears and rode hard to try and get warm. Now I look back I realise that the descent down to the town was actually really nice and there was a mixture of rocky single/double track and the iconic cave pass, but I didn't appreciate it at the time! All I could think about was getting some warmer gloves from Dave at the first feedzone.
Trails became rivers
The next section of the course ran alongside a river for approximately 20km before heading up the next mountain. I thought that it would be warmer and that my hands would defrost. They didn't. There was a small section of the course that went through a tunnel alongside the road. It was dry and I didn't want to come out the other side! When I met Dave at the second feedzone just before the next big climb I stopped to put on a warmer jacket and some super thick winter gloves. The next climb went up to 1800 metres and I wanted clothes! This stop took a little longer than I expected. My fingers were so numb that my little finger kept going into the same hole as the finger next to it.....arghhhh. I willed my fingers to work, and after several attempts I managed to push them in and get on my way.
I had lost the group I had been riding with but I eventually caught up with some of them. A few people spoke to me in German and I asked if they could speak English. They couldn't, but I figured that something was wrong. We climbed a nice steep trail alongside a venicular railway. The course then descended a little before starting to climb again. We were just about to start to climb when we were stopped by a marshal. I couldn't understand what was being said and part of me wanted to dart past him and carry on with the race. It was a race after all and we were losing valuable time! The marshal spoke English and informed me that the race had been cancelled because there was too much snow at the top of the next climb and we wouldn't be able to pass. Ughhhh??? Cancelled???? Really???? But I was leading the women's race after 66 kms....I couldn't stop.
Snow in July
We were redirected back down to the town and into a lovely warm fire station. I couldn't quite believe it and neither could Dave when I called him from the control room in the fire station. A nice fireman gave me a rubdown to warm me up ;0) and we were given fruit tea.
Only a minority of riders made it to the 66km timing zone so the results were taken from an earlier one at 30km. The organisers decided that because this constituted less than half of the 114km course that the results would not be official and there would be no rankings or podium. That was it.
The sun came out afterwards!
The next day I stood in dog poop and we both got food poisoning just in time for the flight back home. Yay!
It wasn't all bad though. The sun shone again the next day, the snow melted and I got chance to go for a quick spin while Dave enjoyed a pint (or two).