Monday, 2 July 2012

Transalp St.7 : Trento-Arco

Distance: 101.9 km
Vertical Metres: 2,125 m
Passes: Viote/Monte Bondone (1,562m), Passo del Ballino (775m)

Legendary biker Charly Gaul was the inspiration for the last stage.  The first non-Italian to win the Giro twice, on a foggy and freezy day in 1956, the Luxembourger Gaul rode the ascent up to Monte Bondone, taking the last meters alone to win and be crowned champion; we would be getting significantly warmer weather when tackling the Monte Bondone (21.5km at 6.8%) to Viote.  The next part of the stage is a very fast descent into the Sarca valley, via Ponte Arche to the last small pass, the Passo del Ballino (10.2km at 3.6%).  The final act of the Schwalbe-Tour-Transalp is to descend alongside the turquoise Lake Tenno and on to the finish in Arco.


Preparation for Stage 7.  Just finishing off my daily startline Honey Stinger Waffle:

And we're off.  Under the start banner and into the neutralised 10k through the streets of Trento:

The first climb.  Just 21.5 kilometres at 6.8%.  It is 9:30am and already 30 degrees C:

This is a tough climb.  Not just the heat, the length or the gradient, but also the fact that there are already six days riding in my legs, and because, being the last stage we are pushing harder than we have before:

And there's some steep bits:

The first feed station, at the top of Bondone.  I fill my two bottles with 'ISO' and a pocket with a handful of pineapple - very tasty, and easy to eat on the descent:

A short flat bit before the fast descent:

The very fast descent, at taken upto 86 kph / 54 mph:

Forming a group and working together to cross the 20k lumpy bit to the next proper climb.

Starting the last climb of the day, and the last climb of the Transalp: 

The second feed, mid-way up the Passo del Ballino. Not long to go now, just a quick pit-stop for one bottle:

The last few kilometres of climbing of the Transalp.  Expending that last bit of energy looking to catch the group ahead, to try make up a few places and a few seconds:

Closing in (and passing) the group at the top of the pass:  

The amazing Lake Tenno on the descent:

An very satisfying first sight of Arco, Lake Garda and the finish line to the Transalp 2012.

Totals ~ Duration: 3:50 ~ Riding: 3:47 ~ Dist: 101.8km  ~ Elevation Gain: 2125m
Averages ~ Speed: 27.2kph  ~  Power: 207w  ~  Heart Rate: n/a ~ Cadence: 79  ~ Temp: 29.9
Max  ~  Speed: 86.1kph ~ Power: 748w  ~  Heartrate: 157 ~ Cadence: 192 ~ Temp: 36.0C
Metrics ~ TSS: 245 ~ NP: 241w ~ IF: 0.803

Stage 7 - Pos 184/678 teams (27th percentile).  Overall - Pos 233/695 teams (35.5th percentile).  Saved the best 'til last.  A shorter stage, so pushed hard on the first climb, recovered (a little), and then pushed onto the finish.  Great result.  An excellent last day.  What a fantastic week.

A long, well deserved lie-in.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Transalp St.6 : Crespano del Grappa-Trente

Distance: 146.4 km
Vertical Metres: 2,740 m
Passes: Foza (1,083m), Melignon (1,508m) / Passo del Frica (1,117m)

The penultimate stage is the longest of the Transalp at 146 kilometres, however, with only 2,740 metres of ascent it is not the the hardest. The stage starts downhill from Crespano to the centre of Bassano del Grappa and on to Valstagna; where the first climb of the day starts - a remarkable switchback path beaten into the rocks up to Foza (14.5km at 6.5%) and on to the green high plateau at Asiago. After the descent to Arsiero the route climbs again towards Vena (19km at 6.3%). From here the route proceeds downhill for the final 45 kilometres via the Fricca Pass to the Cathedral Plaza in the city of Trento.


At the start of Stage 5.  It is already 25 degrees C at 8:30 am.  This is going to be a scorcher:

Positioning our bikes at the front of Pen B:

And we're off.  The Race Director Car leads out the race:

The first 24km were neutralised due to the nature of the roads, so the race director held the pace steady in the run down and through Bassano del Grappa and on towards the first climb.  I say steady, but this was still at over 30kph.  Race marshalls (on motorbikes also kept a space (100-odd meteres) between pens A&B, B&C, etc.:


Shortly after the above, things started to go wrong.  Frist, MM had a flat rear tyre.  At this time we were barrelling along at 35kph comfortably within the Pen B pack.  We pulled to the side and, to his credit - performed a super quick tyre change (4 mins).  We were straight back on the bikes and it joined the pelaton in the middle of the Pen D riders.  The problem was two: 1. the narrow streets (below) made passing tricky:

2. Theses riders, further down the overall standings, had less impetus to keep the pace high, close any gaps, etc so the pelaton was braking up which meant more effort to work our way back towards the front:

By the time we got to the first climb, we had got through pen D and were mostly with pen C riders.  The climb to Foza, whilst beautifully scenic, carved into the rock as it zigs & zags its way up the rockface with views accross the valley it is narrow.  And we were climbing together riders who we would expect to be out pacing, this meant working our way through a crowded pack.

This is when the next issue of the day occurred.  MM & myself lost sight of each other.  I felt I had been ahead and dropped the pace a little looking out for MM.  Then was concerned that he had had a 2nd flat.  I continued on, but at a low power, all-the-while looking for him.  I decided that I would get to the top and wait 5 mins before pushing on to the feed station where I'd wait again.  Very frustrating.  At the top MM was there; no puncture, he had also lost contact and had thought I was ahead.  He had been waiting a few minutes, and was moments away from setting off.

I took my frustration out ion the traverse across the plateau to Asiago before the main descent.  Pushing on to try and make the second lot of time we had lost on the day.

The first descent, the chase for lost time is on:

The start of the second climb.

19 kilometres and over an hour later.  Still climbing.  Pushing on, as whilst there is still 45km to go it is mostly downhill and is all fast.

Totals ~ Duration: 5:53 ~ Riding: 5:44 ~ Dist: 147.7km  ~ Elevation Gain: 2740m
Averages ~ Speed: 25.9kph  ~  Power: 192w  ~  Heart Rate: 130 ~ Cadence: 73  ~ Temp: 28.4
Max  ~  Speed: 71.7kph ~ Power: 797w  ~  Heartrate: 152 ~ Cadence: 190 ~ Temp: 35.0C
Metrics ~ TSS: 317 ~ NP: 221w ~ IF: 0.738

Stage 6 - Pos 240/664 teams (36th percentile).  Overall - Pos 242/695 teams (35th percentile).  A frustrating day all, but we didn't do to bad coming in 240th on the stage and holding onto 240th spot in the overall standings.  Once again, it was tough out there due the intense heat - up to 35 degrees again as per yesterday.  One to go.

The finale - 102 kilometres and two passes; one significant (Viote) and one less so (Passo del Ballino) for a total of 2,125 metres of climbing. And the forecast for the final day: yup, very hot again...

Stage 7 Route Profile and Preview

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Transalp St.5 : Falcade-Crespano del Grappa

Distance: 128.7 km
Vertical Metres: 3,047 m
Passes: Passo Valles (2,032m), Passo Rollo (1,972m), Monte Grappa (1,674m)

A tough transitional stage from the Dolomites to the Southern Alps. The stage starts with the dual climbs of Passo Valles (11 km at 8%) and Passo Rolle (6 km at 7.7%). This is followed by the longest descent of Transalp; 50 kilometers that start steep off the Rolle and continue at a more gradual gradient on to Ponte Serra. The real challenge of the fifth stage will be the ascent from the floor of the valley up to the peak of Monte Grappa (averaging 28km at 5%, but with several kilometres at up to 17%).


The start of stage 5.  Pen A forming behind the Race Director Cars.  With pens B, C & D further back.  The 'neutralised section' in this stage was a few hunder metres to get the pelaton out of town, then the route headed immediately up the valley towards the Passo Valles.  The temperature at 9am was already in the 20's:

Midway up the the first climb of the day, Passo Valles.  11 kilometres at 8%.  Starting to feel the fatigue of the week we targeted 240 watts for the 55 minute climb:

A typically beautiful & scenic descent.  Taken at upto 78 kph (49mph):

Working in a large group to traverse from the bottom of the Rolle to Ponte Serra - into a headwind - to get to the start of the Grappa:

The climb of the Monte Grappa. 21 km until the feed station, a further 7 km from the feed to the top.  The whole climb averages 5%, but has sections that are 17% steep.  If you are familiar with your Surrey Hills climbs; then think of this as 10 ascents of Box Hill with a Whitedown in the middle for good measure.

Totals ~ Duration: 5:17 ~ Riding: 5:14 ~ Dist: 127.9km  ~ Elevation Gain: 3047m
Averages ~ Speed: 24.5kph  ~  Power: 211w  ~  Heart Rate: 134 ~ Cadence: 72  ~ Temp: 24.9
Max  ~  Speed: 78.2kph ~ Power: 817w  ~  Heartrate: 155 ~ Cadence: 138 ~ Temp: 35.0C
Metrics ~ TSS: 328 ~ NP: 236w ~ IF: 0.788

Stage 5 - Pos 203/654 teams (31st percentile).  Overall - Pos 242/695 teams (35th percentile).  Another great day, again.  Felt tough out there due to the intense heat - it was 35 degrees Centigrade at the Finish - but we had our best result yet at 203rd for the stage.  And have jumped up the overall standings by 25 places.  All good.

Another monster.  146 kilometres (the longest of the Transalp) and two significant climbs for 2,740 metres of climbing. And the forecast: very hot...

Stage 6 Route Profile and Preview

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Transalp St.4 : St.Vigil-Falcade

Distance: 107.0 km
Vertical Metres: 2,561 m
Passes: Grodnerjoch (Passo Gardena) (2,116m), Passo Sella (2,234m), Passo Fedaia (2,054m)

This amazing stage goes through the centre of Dolomites with breathtaking mountain views and three of the most beautiful & challenging passes: Passo Gardena (Grödnerjoch) (9.5k at 6.3%), Passo Sella (Sellajoch) (5k at 6.8%) and Passo Fedaia (11.5k at 5.3%). These mountains are best in class in the the Dolomites.


At the start in St. Vigil.  Our first day on Pen B:

The climb of the Grodnerjoch (Passo Gardena), the imposing Dolomites in the background:

 Descending Passo Gardena towards Passo Sella:

 The super-fast descent of Passo Fedaia - a new max speed for me at 86.3 kph (54 mph):

Chaingang off the lower slopes of Passo Fedaia to the bottom of the valley. 

Totals ~ Duration: 4:20 ~ Riding: 4:17 ~ Dist: 107.3km  ~ Elevation Gain: 2561m
Averages ~ Speed: 25.6kph  ~  Power: 207w  ~  Heart Rate: 138 ~ Cadence: 75  ~ Temp: 23.3
Max  ~  Speed: 86.3kph ~ Power: 744w  ~  Heartrate: 156 ~ Cadence: 170 ~ Temp: 30.0C
Metrics ~ TSS: 255 ~ NP: 231w ~ IF: 0.769

Stage 4 - Pos 227/667 teams (34th percentile).  Overall - Pos 267/695 teams (38th percentile).  Another great day, and we move further up the overall leaderboard.  We are now 267th, well inside Pen B (100-299), having moved up 23 places as a result of coming 227th on stage.

The 'Queen' Stage.  129 kilometres with three significant climbs - Passo Valles (2,032), Passo Rolle (1,972m) & Monte Grappa (1674m) - for 3,047 metres of climbing. And the forecast remains hot & sunny...

Stage 5 Route Profile and Preview

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Transalp St.3 : Brixen-St.Vigil

Here we go again...

Distance: 85.1 km
Vertical Metres: 2,939 m
Passes: Wurzjoch (1,992m), Furkelpass (1,763m)

Stage 3 Route Profile and Preview

This stage might only be 85 kilometers long, but it is the steepest of the Transalp, packing a punch in the form of two tough climbs.  The Würzjoch (Italian: Passo delle Erbe), at 29km is almost 1,700 metres of ascent @ 6.8% - but this is misleading as it includes several short descents and plenty of steep ramps, including sections at 19%. The second major ascent of the day is the Furkelpass, which averages 8.1% over 9km and includes several steeper sections including a kilometre at 12%.

Sunny morning...
After yesterday's weather, we were blessed with a beautiful day for the third stage.  A hearty breakfast in the hotel and we were at the start in the main square in Brixen a little after eight which had us relaxing at the front of Pen C waiting for the 9am off

Pen C was released about a minute after Pen B and we crossed the start line at 9:04ish.  The pace was pretty start from the start and we let those eager to hare up the valley go.  We had a plan, and were not going to deviate from that at this stage.  The pacing had seemed to be pretty good over the last few days but this was a shorter stage (estimate 4:15 today v 5:27 yesterday) and that meant options for going harder. With that in mind we had decided to climb at 260 watts (87%).  And that is pretty much how the first climb panned out, the main part of the Würzjoch is the final 16k to the summit - which includes several 'bike path sections, through the forest, with stretches of 10-18% ramps (see picture).  We kept plugging away, keeping the pace consistent, as we did a lot of the hares that had torn up the road early came back to us and I felt that we had held our own over the first climb (last 16k in 1hr 18 mins at 253 watts).

The decent of the Würzjoch, with the major challenge being the rutted road surface.  Usually when negotiating alpine descents you like to chose your line based upon the bends, the rutts added to the challenge as you had to pick a line with an decent  the road surface.  Before the Furkelpass there were several smaller climbs linked together by descents through the forest.  We kept the pace high, pushing-on wherever possible and were making progress passing other teams.

After the second feed of the day, all that remained was the top 10 kilometres of the Furkelpass and then the descent to St Vigil.  I focused on the 10k, the descent would take care of itself once I had got to the top.  I broke it down into sections - the climb was the equivalent to five 'Box Hills' all of 2k length and 120m asecent - every 2 kilometres I mentally chalked off another 'Box Hill'.  Four to go, three, then two to go.  Just 4k to the summit.  Now we were above the tree and pushing into a headwind.  Even the false flats required a full effort.  Ever the while I was keeping my power at the 260w I had contracted with myself that morning.  My legs were tiring, but my heart rate was remaining under control.  There's the summit.  10k in 48 mins at 261 watts has seen us pass yet more teams.

Over the top and straight onto the descent - the last 5k will take just 6 minutes averaging 48 kph - and we are gunning for the finish.

Totals ~ Duration: 4:20 ~ Riding: 4:18 ~ Dist: 85.7km  ~ Elevation Gain: 2791m
Averages ~ Speed: 19.8kph  ~  Power: 220w  ~  Heart Rate: 137 ~ Cadence: 68  ~ Temp: 20.4
Max  ~  Speed: 75.0kph ~ Power: 833w  ~  Heartrate: 153 ~ Cadence: 178 ~ Temp: 27.0C
Metrics ~ TSS: 289 ~ NP: 245w ~ IF: 0.817

Stage 3 - Pos 239/606 teams (39th percentile).  Overall  - Pos 290/695 teams (42nd percentile).  Result.  A great day, and a great improvement.  After the results from stages one: 346th (50%) and two: 313th (45%) really pleased with this move up the field, both in terms of the result on the day and on the overall leaderboard.  What's more, we're be starting in pen B tomorrow...

Lined up for us tomorrow is a beut of a stage.  At 85km it is very much a case of 'short and sweet' - as it includes two major climbs (Wurzjoch & Furkelpass) for 2,939 metres of climbing. Practically the same as today's 125km stage!  Oh, and the rain seems to have moved on as the forecast is for warm & sunny.

Stage 4 Route Profile and Preview

Monday, 25 June 2012

Transalp St.2 : Solden-Brixen

So, one stage done, six to go.  Onto stage two...

Distance: 123.87 km
Vertical Metres: 2,998 m
Passes: Timmelsjoch, Jaufenpass

Stage 2 Preview
Timmelsjoch Preview (as climbed by Garmin-Barracuda's Christophe Le Mével)

Early Start...
Logistics of the day meant that desopite the stage not starting until 9am, all bags had to be put in reception by 6:30am!  This meant that everything packed and ready the night before and a snap decision at 6:25am what to wear - bear in mind that the forecast was for torrential rain all morning, 9 degrees C at resort level and 4 degrees at the summit.  When the alarm went off it wasn;t looking to bad out there so I optied for minimal rain cover (rain jacket, wind gilet & too warmers).  By 8am, I had breakfasted, and typically the weather had gotten a whole lot heaver, it was absolutely pouring out there.  On the way to the start there was a stark contrast of optimists like me (summer attire & rain jackets) and pessimists in the full on storm gear (booties, waterproof trousers, gortex jackets & waterproof helmet covers were all typical).

The real challenge for today (other than the weather) is the 2 major climbs, once these are done the leg to the finish should be straightforward.

Summary of the day.  A day of two halves.  The morning in Austria in the wet, the afternoon in Italy in the sun...

The morning: Climb of the Timmelsjoch in the rain:

The afternoon: The Jaufenpass in the sun:

On to Brixen...
Once the tricky, switchbacked descent of the Jaufenpass is completed, there was still 36k down the valley to Brixen.  This is where we got a decent bit of luck as almost immediately after we hit the valley floor we were able to latch onto the back of a bunch with five other teams all doing there bit to keep the pace high ensuring that we all made excellent progress to the finish.

Totals ~ Duration: 5:34:01 ~ Riding: 5:20:59 ~ Dist: 123.7km  ~ Elevation Gain: 2787m
Averages ~ Speed: 23.1kph  ~  Power: 183w  ~  Heart Rate: 134 ~ Cadence: 69  ~ Temp: 20.8
Max  ~  Speed: 66.2kph ~ Power: 836w  ~  Heartrate: 156 ~ Cadence: 184 ~ Temp: 33.0C 
Metrics ~ TSS: 313 ~ NP: 218w ~ IF: 0.757

Stage 2 - Pos 313/660 teams.  Overall  - Pos 322/660 teams.  A better day all round.  Not only did I feel stronger, but we also moved up 24 positions (348 > 322)  - it would have been more if we hadn't been beset with a flat - and are working our way towards Pen B...

Lined up for us tomorrow is a beut of a stage.  At 85km it is very much a case of 'short and sweet' - as it includes two major climbs (Wurzjoch & Furkelpass) for 2,939 metres of climbing. Practically the same as today's 125km stage!  Oh, and the rain seems to have moved on as the forecast is for warm & sunny.

Stage 3 Route Profile and Preview