Thursday, 7 June 2012

Racing the Alpen Tour Trophy

In previous years I’ve raced the Trans Germany, but this year we decided to start the Alpen Tour in Schladming, Austria. On the one hand I wanted to return to the TG because I’ve never taken the victory there; on the other I was tempted by the mountainous trails of the Alpen Tour. The mountains won and we loaded the van and set off on our drive to Austria.

My mountain climbing machine ;)

We had a couple of days to settle in to our hillside apartment in a small village just outside of Schladming. What a nice feeling to be back in the mountains looking up at snow capped peaks and forest covered hills.

One of the good things about the Alpen Tour is that each of the four stages start from Schladming; staying in the same place rather than relocating each day is less of an adventure but it’s far more relaxing and less logistically complicated! Each stage took the riders up to one of four different peaks surrounding Schladming:

Stage 1: Hochwurzen (69KM/2900m)
Stage 2: Planai (16KM/1100m). Hill climb time trial
Stage 3: Dachstein (73KM/2800m)
Stage 4: Hauser Kaibling (56KM/2000m)

The weather forecast wasn’t looking great so I was mentally preparing for some wet, cold racing. However, we were really lucky and despite rain in the night and mornings, the rain abated before the start and we generally had warm, sunny race conditions. In fact, on the first day the temperature reached more than 25 degrees and I was able to top up my fading tan lines! The warm, humid conditions meant that some riders fell victim to cramp but fortunately I’d added Elete electrolytes to my bottles so I remained hydrated and strong throughout. I also added Elete to my water before and after each stage to help recovery and to top up my reserves ready for the following day’s stage.

The Alpen Tour really is a nice stage race incorporating a variety of different natural and manmade trails, some of which are pretty technical, with very little asphalt. Even the uphill time trail included a rooty singletrail section that was pretty tricky in the wet. Everyday we enjoyed the steep berms of the Flowline downhill trail back to the stadium. 

The race went really well for me. I felt strong and I was able to set a good pace on the climbs each day. I took the lead early on during Stage 1 and I held on to the leader jersey over the remaining three days. I was looking forward to Stage 2 - an uphill time trial – taking confidence from my performance in the time trial that I won in Lanzarote earlier this year; however I was aware that I’d have some strong competition in the form of Vera Andreeva (Russian National XCO champion). I set off last meaning that I was able to chase down the ladies ahead of me; chasing is much nicer than being chased! I took care to make sure that I had plenty of fuel for such an intense effort and during the hour long climb I had 750ml of Torq vanilla energy drink and 3 Torq caffeine gels, which worked perfectly and I felt strong from start to finish. I won with a lead of 1 minute and 17 seconds J The next days went really well, no mechanicals and good legs. The third stage was particularly spectacular taking us high up into the Dachstein mountains. I always find it amazing to find myself running or riding through snow at the summits and I always make sure that I take some time to look at the views – this provides me with the motivation to dig even deeper.

Winning all four stages meant that it was a perfect race for me J Alban Lakata finished second overall and my friend and training partner Simon Willats ( finished 4th overall master in his first Alpine race. Many thanks to our excellent team support: Peter Felber (mechanic), Werner Faust (Physio) and Dave Padfield.

Now we have some time to explore and enjoy the trails in the mountains around Schladming J

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