Tuesday, 29 September 2015

That'll explain the pain then!

After visiting an excellent clinic in Monte Carlo (IM2S) I can now explain why I was in so much pain during the Swiss Epic: I sustained a 45mm fracture of the great trochanter (top of femur) the day before the race started. 

While riding through Verbier on my way back to our hotel I caught my handlebar on a metal railing. Strange how things can happen like this; after riding the technical trails of the Prologue course unscathed I launch myself onto the tarmac cruising through the streets! Initially concerned about the impact to my head but later realising something was wrong with my hip - I felt 'twisted' and 'out-of-line' and unable to bear weight on my left leg - I went for treatment with our team physiotherapist. Afterwards I felt in a little less pain but uncertain whether I'd be racing in the morning - the biggest problem with this would be letting down my race partner, Adel. 

Warming up the next day wasn't so bad, oddly walking was more painful than riding! The pain was tolerable until the penultimate stage when there was a long hike-a-bike-section up a steep forest trail. Hiking exacerbated the problem and the pain from then onwards became borderline bearable and throughout the whole of the final stage to Zermatt the mountains were alive with the sound of my screaming! Honestly, putting power through the pedal was truly agonising. Fortunately, a dropper seat post meant I was at least still able to get on and off the bike! 

After a few days resting in the South of France the pain didn't ease, in fact I had constant pain just sitting. Time to seek expert advice. We went to IM2S in Monaco and within several hours I'd seen an excellent Doctor and had ultra sound, X-Ray and MRI scans. Now that's efficient service! The Doctor advised me to off-load the leg using crutches and to "remember that the best parameter to judge about fracture healing is pain, whereas I realise your perception of pain is not really within the normal range! So in the meantime, relax and enjoy life, family and friends. You deserve a rest!

Sadly this all means ending my season early and missing the last two UCI World Series marathon races: Azores MTB Marathon and Roc D'Azur. You will however still find me at both races where I'll be following the Doctor’s advice and enjoying the local wine and food whilst hobbling around with my Ferrari-red crutches! 

See you!
Sal :)

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Swiss Epic

After 400km and 15000m of climbing over 6 days on demanding and technically challenging trails, me and my partner Adel Morath (GER) won the prestigious Swiss Epic at the base of the spectacular Matterhorn in Zermatt! Riding in the Swiss mountains was incredible and despite full throttle racing we were able to draw extra energy and motivation from the truly breath-taking vistas! The stage towns (Verbier, Leukerbad, Grachen, Zermatt) and especially the last two, traffic free towns, provided idyllic places for rest and recovery in top class hotels with quality food!   

This was the first time that Adel and me raced together so we were uncertain how the relationship would work especially competing against the well established duo of Annika Langvad and Ariane Kleinhans (Specialised RECM) who were the defending champions and race favourites. After a hard crash the day before the race started in Verbier I was uncertain whether I could compete but our team physiotherapist, Torsten Walter, was able to work his magic daily on my injured hip enabling me to make it to the finish in Zermatt - albeit in a lot of pain! 

Losing over 3 minutes to Annika and Ariane in the Prologue wasn't the start we wanted but with the long stages to come we were optimistic. The long climbs suited Adel and me and during Stage 1 we were able to catch and pass Annika and Ariane but with 1 km to go we lost the lead and finished 50 seconds back in 2nd position. On Stage 2 it was clear that the fast pace of Annika and Ariane had started to take its toll and we were able to take our first stage win and with it the coveted yellow leader jerseys!     

Over the following stages we were able to gradually build our lead and focus on riding smooth and consistent. With the relentless climbing and technical descents there's no time for recovery increasing the risk of mistakes. Adel and me rode really well together; throughout the race we had no crashes or mechanical issues - testimony to the great partnership we formed, and of course our excellent mechanic Peter Felber!

Stage races are brutal but the Swiss Epic is especially so and nothing is ever certain until the finish. This is clearly highlighted in the men's race where the leaders, Centurion Vaude, lost their lead on the final stage and BiXS-Stockli rode into Yellow for the first time. Despite our gradually increasing lead Adel and me were fully aware that the race wasn't won until crossing the line in Zermatt! Congrats to our men’s Topeak Ergon duo, Alban and Kristian, for winning the first 2 stages and finishing 3rd overall despite mechanical issues. 

Now I'm taking some days off and resting my hip in the Cote D'Azur before heading to the Azores for a UCI World Series Marathon race. It's nice not to wake up at 5.20am for breakfast ;)

Big thanks to Topeak Ergon for the amazing team support!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015


At 5am last Saturday we woke to the sound of rain, the Tre Cime (the iconic 3 peaks of the Dolomites) hidden within thick cloud. It was time to get ready for the inaugural  3Epic! Suppressing the thought of crawling back into bed and hiding, I went for breakfast: strong Italian expresso and oats with banana, honey and nut butter. Within minutes of the 8am start I was drenched as we descended the road to Lozzo Di Cadore before beginning the first 1100hm climb - waterproof shorts and a shower cap at least kept my chamois and head dry but my feet were swimming!  After an hour of winding up switchbacks to the summit, the rain started to ease but the temperature remained in single figures. At the top of the mountain I was glad to have my waterproof jacket and shorts, rubber gloves, shower cap and buff, leg warmers - even though they did keep falling down - and arm warmers, though I did regret forgetting my overshoes! 

At the bottom of the next climb the waterproof shorts had to come off, so I stuffed them down my jersey for safekeeping in preparation for the last descent. I also had to shed the rubber gloves because now my hands were swimming in cold water - but until this point they did a great job of keeping my hands warm! The climb snaked up to the picturesque lake at Misurina before taking us even higher on the old road to Monte Piana. A quick descent and then the infamous road climb up to Rifugio Auronzo where the technical hiking trail from Tre Cime di Lavaredo took us quickly back down 1100hm to the valley where we started. With fully pumped arms it was time to negotiate a few slippery forest trails undulating along the valley before the never-ending final 10km down the valley to the finish - sounds easy but I'm sure it caused much suffering and cursing!

Marathon races are tough, but in bad weather they are made even tougher! Simply finishing is a mighty challenge - but with great rewards - and it always amazes me to see so many people battling to the finish after enduring several hours; more than double the time of the winning men and women. 

A double win for Topeak Ergon Racing Team and fifth for Alban saw us win two big cockerels (wooden not real), 30kgs of prosciutto, 7 litres of bubbly and 3kg of cheese. Quite a scoop :)