An experience beyond all others…that in a nutshell is my succinct description of the 2014 CRAFT Bike Transalp. The seven-day mountain bike stage race would take the Orange Blur team of Café Hollander-Benelux racing (Harry Dörner and Mark Moore) from Oberammergau, Germany, to Riva del Garda, Italy. Along the 587KM, we would climb a total of 19,145 meters. Here is my recap.
Harry, who lives in the Salzkammergut region of Austria, was looking for a willing participant to take part in the 2014 version of the Transalp. He is a veteran of the event, having competed twice before. For me, living in Germany made it an easy decision. I rolled over the odometer to 50 in April, and was up for the challenge. Prior to this discussion, however, I had secured my place at the Frankfurt Ironman in early July. Yes, I did bite off a bit much…but Harry convinced me it was doable (and I convinced myself). I had two weeks to recover from the Ironman (on July 6) to the start of Transalp.
Training began last fall, and a common ride was on Saturday morning to Duensburg, one of the highest points in the region and an area with a wide variety of mountain bike trails. So in the rain, or snow, I would head out with some friends to ride to Duensburg, ride up and down several times, and return home…usually wet and cold. Little did I know that this training would foreshadow the Transalp.
Those that know me also are keenly aware that I am not, nor have I ever been, a “racer” when it comes to these events. I love to compete, and my reward is finishing with a respectable time and not being caught up by the sweep wagon. So with the Ironman completed, I worked on recovering for Transalp and focused on getting my bike ready. Yes, I ride a Trek Fuel that’s seen its better days…and I still ride V Brakes.
Saturday before the start I headed to Oberammergau with my wife, Christine, and son, Nathaniel. Christine would drive back to Staufenberg (our home), the kids would finish their last week in school, the family would drive to the finish in Riva del Garda. From there, we would spend some vacation time in Italy. Of course, I had this little ride to complete before vacation could really start.
We arrived in the small village of Oberammergau with no problems, and quickly met up with Harry and wife, Petra, to gather our starting packages. Each team member is given a large duffel bag to store all your belongings for the week, and the bag is transferred to the finish town (or your hotel). So that night I went over my list of items, packed and re-packed, and nervously counted down the hours to the start.
The pre-race briefing was uneventful, although the description of the teams competing was impressive. World champions, national champions, Olympians…a who’s who of mountain bikers. And ofcourse…Orange Blur.
Thanks to the Café Hollander-Benelux racing team (and the great sponsors), Harry and I came to the line in some excellent riding kits that allowed us to stand out in a sea of colors from other clubs and countries. More than a few times were we asked if we were from the Netherlands (perhaps folks were watching me struggle on the climbs and realized I was more accustomed to the flats), and that quickly evolved into a rather long discussion of the formation of our Transalp team. Perhaps the only lingering impact from the clothes is that after following Harry through hours of chugging up the hills, the Badger Alloys name is burned into the back of my eyes.
Harry made the right call for our hotel accommodations. We decided to go with a mid-level package deal in which organizers would secure us a room (and shuttle transportation) near the various stage finish/start towns. Of course, you could decide to camp (at gyms, sport halls, etc.) It was not without its hiccups, but for the most part was better than spending the night with a few hundred other mountain bikers on a gym floor.
More to come….
Words by Mark Moore