Stage 1: Sonthofen to Pfronten 68km/2557metres
Thunder storms and very heavy rain the night before Stage 1 brought back memories of the Trans Germany last year, particularly being so cold that braking, eating and changing gear were no longer possible! Fortunately I'd brought all of my warm clothing just in case of bad weather. Phew! I pulled out wind vests, wind jackets, water proof jackets, winter gloves, neoprene overshoes, arm and leg warmers, and a buff. There was no way that I was going to get as cold as last year, though I might overheat ;)
I was looking forward to the stage because it had the most climbing of all of the stages; however my legs simply said "no" and I was unable to keep the pace of Pia Stundsted (Finland) and Milena Landtwing (Switzerland). I knew that I would be tired going into the Trans Germany following high load training, but knowing that I was underperforming meant that I had to fight hard to stay positive. I finished in 3rd place and a massive 8-ish minutes behind Pia and 1 minute behind Milena.
Stage 2: Pfronten to Lermoos 83km/2298metres
Stage 3: Lermoos to Garmisch 83km/1881metres
The cloud and mist was starting to clear and it was finally possible to see the top of the mountains :) My aim for this stage was to try to stay in a fast group, preferably with Pia, because from km 30 to km 70 the course gradually descended. Everything went perfectly to plan and I was able to ride with Pia up the first two climbs and then tuck in with a fast group of about 15 guys. The pace was fast but comfortable and I was looking forward to the finish which was at the top of the last climb (the descent to the finish was neutralised). At approximately km 45 the track narrowed and the group quickly slowed to pass over a small bridge, I changed gear at the front but my chain dropped off on the inside. It took about 20 seconds to put it back on and by that time my train was disappearing into the distance. Despite my efforts there was no chance that I could jump back on :( 30kms later and at the bottom of the final climb to the finish, a group from behind caught me and Milena was in it. I knew that I only had 200 high metres of climbing to go, so I dug deep and managed to keep hold of 2nd position - 3 minutes behind Pia and 1 minute ahead of Milena.
Stage 4: Garmisch to Anchensee
Stage 4 was unusual because it had two races in one: Race 1 was over the first 30km; this was followed by a 30km neutralised section; and Race 2 was over the remaining 40kms. Race 1 counted towards the overall race time, but only Race 2 counted towards the stage. Race 1 was going to be hectic because it was slightly downhill for the first 15kms meaning that hundreds of riders would all be jostling for places and trying to get to the front. My plan was simply to stay out of trouble and finish Race 1 unscathed! The start was even crazier than I expected and before long I was behind hundreds of riders! Once I crossed the finish line Pia suggested that we wait for Milena and ride the neutral section altogether. It was really nice to chill out, chat to people, and take in the scenery :) However, the downside was that once the race started again I wasn't in the mood for racing anymore! It took me a little while to get back into the swing of it, but once the course started to climb I found a good rhythm and rode together with Pia until the finish line at the beautiful Austrian lake. I took my first stage win, 5 seconds ahead of Pia and about 2 minutes ahead of Milena.
1. Sundstedt Pia 12:31.32,02. Bigham Sally 12:47.52,4
3. Landtwing Milena 12:57.42,2
It was a successful race for Topeak Ergon Racing Team with team mate Alban Lakata also taking 2nd position in the men's category :)
1. Sauser Christoph 11:04.57,6
2. Lakata Alban 11:06.11,4
3. Kaufmann Markus 11:11.59,2
So, now it is time to chill out before the European Marathon Championships in Kleinzell, Austria on Sunday.