|Photo by John Hooper: Kevin Evans|
Trans Germany, Day 1, Sonthofen-Pfronten, 68km, 2600m
On arrival in Sonthofen two days before the race, the weather was perfect for us, hot and sunny. But true to last years race, that very quickly changed, and by the time we started on Wednesday morning, it was cold and wet. With the race climbing high into the ‘foothils’ of the Alps, it was hard to predicate the conditions at the top of the mountains.
Dave and I started well, the big group had splintered up the first climb and Dave and I were in the lead group of six riders, including current World Marathon Champion Alban Lakata, Christoph Sauser, Markus Kaufman, one of his team mates and us. Dave was looking really comfortable, whilst I was battling with the cold weather to breathe properly and finding myself having to manage my efforts carefully.
The speed was very high and after about 30km, we had already built a led of over 3minutes to the chasing group. It was here that I had to drop off the pace being set by Alban and Suzi and settle into my own tempo. Unfortunately for me, the cold weather and fast start and sapped my energy levels and I quickly had to move into ‘damage control’ mode. This was made very hard as riders started catch and pass me on our way to the finish.
At this stage I thought I would just conserve as much as possible, as I could then help Dave in the next few days. Little did I know that Dave missed a turn in the final 10km, and went from 40seconds behind the leaders, to 17minutes behind by the time he found the route again. Frustrating for him, but on the plus side, an exceptional performance considering the travelling, weather and higher speed and competition here.
Day 2, Pfronton-Lermoos, 78km, 2400m
The weather wasn’t a whole lot better on the second day, and the muscles were sore from the previous days trauma. I decided I had to ride the climbs at my own tempo, and not go so deep that I risked completely destroying myself within the first couple of days.
The pace up the first few climbs was fast, Dave again looking good, always in the first group. I was riding my own tempo, riding in a small chase group around a minute behind for the first half of the race. By the time we hit the final climb for the day, we had caught most of the front bunch. Karl Platt was having a better day despite a crash early on, and him and his teammate Thomas Dietch were chasing Alban, Suzi and Markus. Alban and Suzi would race each other for the stage win, Dave and myself finishing with Hannes Genze and Tim Boehme in 7th and 8th place for the stage, just a few minutes off. A better day for myself, for Dave, just lacking the motivation to try and compete for an overall podium after the bad luck from the previous day.
Day 3, Lermoos-Garmisch 88km, 1900m
Finally we had sunshine at the start! With the rise in temperature, a rise in motivation too. However by this stage, the legs were fairly shattered after the 7000m we had already climbed in 3days. The stage started as usual with a mountain to get over, and I just could not hold onto the pace of the first group, and I settled into my own sensible pace.
By the time we hit the second big climb, the front group had splintered and the second group, now contained all the front riders except for Alban and Suzi who were again racing each other flat out for the overall title.
Dave and I landed up having a great ‘motor pacing’ session behind a couple of really fast riders as we sped through the kilometers heading to the mountain top finish.
Again our group splintered up the last climb, with Dave racing against Markus Kaufman and Tim Boemhe for the line at the top. Dave finished in fifth place after sprinting for a possible 3rd, and I managed 7th about thirty seconds behind him.
At last I felt like I was finding some speed in my legs and both of us were in great spirits at the end of the stage, feeling some form coming along.
Day 4, Garmisch-Achensee Maurach, 99km, 1700m
The hardest part of the last day, for a change, was the first 20km of which was completely flat, and controlled by a lead vehicle that drove way to slowly. This meant that every fun rider pushed and shoved their way to the front, and by the time we hit the narrow bike paths, it was complete carnage. We had to fight our way around about 200 bikers, and on narrow gravel bike paths, this would be extremely dangerous. Riders were crashing, mowing into obstacles, and just far to dangerous. Eventually we hit some hills which would be the end of their time near the front.
The race then went through a ‘neutralized’ section for 30km, and resumed with 40km remaining. The legs didn’t appreciate the break, as we hit the big climb with around 40km to go. Everyone was in the same boat, Dave was in the front split of 5riders, and as much as my mind wanted to be there, my legs could only go at there own speed. The second group of around 6 riders rolled through together really fast and we were only around 10seconds off the front group by the finish. Dave had a good sprint and a final dig for a podium finish, but was just beaten into 4th place for the stage.
I rolled into the finish, relieved to have made it in one piece, and with nearly four hundred quality racing kilometers in the legs.
It was a fantastic experience and the preparation will go along way in helping us towards a good World Championships in three weeks time.
1st Christoph Sauser (Specialized) 11hrs04min
2nd Alban Lakata (Topeak-Ergon Racing)
3rd Markus Kaufman (Centurion/Vaude)
10th Kevin Evans (360Life)
12th Dave George (360Life)
Next race, Willingen Bike Festival, Germany. And a monster of a race, 125km with 3700m of climbing!
Till then, cheers.