Saturday, 21 August 2010

Ischgl Ironbike, Austria

After the World Marathon Championships in Germany we decided that it would be rude not to head off to Austria to race in the Ischgl Iron bike. It didn't look far on the map, so the day after the world champs we set off. Eight ours later we arrived. The scale on the map was deceptive!

As we turned off the motorway and started heading through the seemingly endless tunnels, the landscape started to get more and more mountainous. It's amazing to enter a 10km tunnel and emerge on the other side into a valley surrounded by towering mountains. It's hard to describe the feeling I get when I'm in the mountains. I honestly love it and I genuinely get a sense of belonging. I can see myself living in one of the traditional wooden chalets with flower boxes on the balconies. One day perhaps…….

Ischgl is a really great town. We parked the van and didn't get back in it again until the day we left. Everything you need is literally on your doorstep: supermarkets, cafes, and restaurants (even a pizzeria which made gluten free pizzas, crepes and bread ☺ ☺). In fact, Dave was able to take the chair lift to the feed zones!

In the days leading up to the race the weather forecast was for rain, with snow at the top of the mountains. This brought back memories of the Salzkammergut Trophy in Austria last year, which was cancelled half way through the race. We had to seek shelter in a fire station, which was made worthwhile once I was rubbed warm by one of the nice firemen ;0) Fortunately the organisers of the Iron Bike had a contingency plan in the event of snow - the course would cut out two of the highest points but would largely remain unchanged. Luckily I had packed some warm gloves, wind vest, and overshoes!

Photo by Stefan Fischer

The course in Ischgl is pretty challenging, involving almost 4000m of vertical climbing in 80km, with the majority of climbing in the last 50km. Each rider is able to choose between three different distances during the race. I planned from the start to race the full distance, but I was feeling pretty tired from the world champs the weekend before so I wasn’t entirely sure on the start line.

I had a good start and rode with Birgit Söllner (Firebike) for the first 10km. Without realising I found myself alone with a group of men half way up the first small climb and I passed the first feed zone in first place. I felt good so I decided early on that I’d ride the full distance.

Unlike most marathon races, there were points on this course where it was not possible for team supporters to reach, particularly the feed zone in Switzerland and the one at the top of the last climb, so self-feeding was necessary. I carried a Torq Single in my pocket, which provides enough powder to make a 750ml of energy drink.

Dave's view of the race from the cable car

I knew from test riding parts of the course a few days earlier that the first big climb got more difficult from about 2500 vertical metres to 2800 metres, partly because it was steeper and muddy, but also because the altitude started to affect me there. It was these last few hundred metres of climbing that made me worried that I'd finally pushed Dave well beyond his limits. Whoops!! With this in mind I knew that it was important not to over-cook the climb earlier on; however I also knew that there was a long descent down into Switzerland and that Birgit 'the downhill bullet' could soon be on my tail!

Fortunately when I made it to the last long climb back up out of Switzerland I didn't have any close female company. I continued to try and reel in some of the men as I ascended the steep, loose climb. I tried not to look up towards the summit because it was possible to see small ant-like figures in the distance making it only too clear exactly how much further I still had to climb. Although I felt strong throughout the race, my legs were starting to grumble a little at this point. It was a relief to see the final feed zone and stop for a quick refill. It was mainly downhill hill from here. Wahoo.

The final descent was steep and fast. I had to pump my brakes to stop them from overheating. It was a pleasure to see photographer, Tom Janas from on one of the last corners before I entered the ski-lift tunnel and exited into the town centre. A glance over my shoulder confirmed I was alone. Job done. Yay! Time to go for a large gluten free pizza and crepe filled with strawberries, banana and chocolate sauce. Yummy!


1 Sally Bigham (GBr) 5:14:45
2 Katrin Schwing (Ger) 0:25:06
3 Birgit Söllner (Ger) 0:26:07
4 Verena Krenslehner (Aut) 0:28:42
5 Silke Keinath (Ger) 1:11:42

Full results can be found here

Katrin Schwing, Sally Bigham, Birgit Söllner
Photo by Stefan Fischer

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