Guest post by Peter Ebro – Denmark Gravel racing

Guest post by Peter Ebro – Denmark Gravel racing

Gravel races in Denmark

A couple of years ago, gravel cycling was totally unknown for Danish cyclists. It would be wrong to say, that every cyclist knows gravel cycling today, but almost every month a new gravel race pops up in my Facebook feed, that is already packed with pictures from gravel social rides. Gravel cycling is now booming in Denmark at the moment, and will only get bigger.

Gravel cycling in Denmark, is defined by the social element, together with the adventure part. There are of course riders in front of every race, that are competing to win the races, but believe that for most Danish gravel cyclists it’s about experiencing new routes, in new areas together with like-minded cycling friends.

I have personally participated in a couple of these gravel races, and Hansens Cykelløb is be far my favourite. I participated in the second edition in 2017 together with my colleagues from GripGrab. A 130km long gravel race in the Danish countryside of Northern Zealand. The race is arranged by the Danish ice cream brand Hansen, why the three feed stations where well equipped with the best ice cream you can dream of, and of course good coffee and sandwiches. Not the best fuelling for riding on the AT threshold, but perfect fuelling for a cozy ride with your friends. Exactly how I like it! I’ll be back for more ice cream and gravels in 2018.

Read Tim Wiggin’s, from Wiggle, race report from Hansens Cykelløb at:

https://www.lifeinthesaddle.cc/2017/08/the-­‐hansens-­‐cykellb-­‐ice-­‐cream-­‐gravel.html

 

Pivot 24:12 – The ups and downs of 24 hours solo

Pivot 24:12 – The ups and downs of 24 hours solo

Mud bath. Just about covers the weather for my first ever 24 hour solo race. Pivot 24:12 is based at Newnham Park in Plymouth, an old mountain bike cross-country course I have ridden sections of it before and was excited to return.

A mixture of wet weather and a dog who likes to try and go through the side of the tent meant an early start Saturday morning to travel down to the venue.

We arrived into a wet campsite full of brightly coloured tents, loud music and plenty of bikes. The event had a real festival feel to it and a friendly atmosphere. We pitched the tent on the side of the course and I prepared my food and drink for the next 24 hours. I was going to try and stay on natural foods and had plenty of dates, salted peanuts, malt loaf, bananas and cheese scones. I also had Cliff shot bloks and SIS energy gels. Hydration wise I had Dirolyte which is a great as it doesn’t taste of anything but replaces all your electrolytes.

My plan for the race was to ride for 7 hours until 7pm then have a hot food break and then continue to 1am when I would have a little sleep before continuing again around 4am. As this was my first 24 hour race my goal was to survive and ride for over 15 hours. Knowing my body I knew I needed to have some sleep in order to keep going until mid-day on Sunday. So I would break up two riding stints with a nap.

Plan in place, number board attached and food in my pocket I headed to the start line.

A key area I need to work on is getting to these mass starts earlier! I was way down the field which meant as soon as the race started I had to work hard to get through the crowds of riders, some in sumo suit fancy dress, this wasted valuable time. I didn’t let it worry me though I kept checking my heart rate and reminding myself to pace it, after all this was a marathon not a sprint.

The course was a 14km loop which consisted of one main gravel hill climb (The Cliff Climb), lots of fast twisty singletrack through woods, a bomb hole run, a river crossing and a grassy descent. If it had been dry this would have been a really fast course, the rain however had other ideas. As the laps added up so did the amount of mud you had to push yourself through, I had to stop a few times to unclog mud from my gears but apart from that I was feeling strong and going well. I had stuck to my food plan and was drinking as much as I could, the mud was making drinking hard my water bottle tops were caked in mud, so I was drinking muddy water some of the time which wasn’t pleasant. Martyn would get out snacks ready for me and fill my water bottles up. Having a good support crew is really important for endurance racing you need people ready to wash down your bikes, sort out food and keep egging you on when you start to flag. Luckily I had pitched next to a mechanic who helped me out with washing the mud off my bike and oiling my chain to keep things working. Thank you bikecity.biz

On my third lap I was making my way back into the arena when I heard a crunch, stopping, I saw that my rear mech and hanger were caught in my wheel. The only thing I could do was get off and carry my bike until I made it to the arena where I got some help, frustratingly I had to have a new rear mech which was an expensive and timely process! I took this opportunity to have some warm food and change my soaking wet clothes.

Back in the saddle feeling a little flustered I made my way back to where I had come off course and continued.

The night shift.

At 8pm as planned I pulled off and had a hot food break and a well needed cup of tea before fixing on my Exposure lights and heading back out. In the dark the course felt different the rain sounded louder and the descents were harder. After the Cliff climb was the motivation station reaching this point where the gazebo, dressed in fairy lights boomed out loud music was one of my favourite places on the course it was just before a long wooded section which in the dark was eerie and mysterious. It felt longer and there seemed to be no one else around as I made my way through the mist. I was soon joined by a twinkling light up ahead and had to work hard to catch them for the long fire road descent which took us back up to the motivation station before swooping off down more singletrack.

Once I had got over the idea I might get eaten by the bogey man, riding at night is an interesting experience your other senses come to life as your eyes adjust to the change in lighting I could hear the rain clearly, the crunch of a branch I was suddenly aware of the water dripping down my face and the cold in my fingertips. I felt alive.

To enjoy mountain biking at night you need a good set of lights, ideally a head torch and a handle bar mounted light this helps increase your field of vision. Having a head torch is great and the Exposure Joystick I was using was great through the wooded sections and bomb holes as it allows you to move the light in the direction you need it. On my handle bars I had an Exposure Strada which created a large field of vision in front of my bike.

Nearing the end of my second dark lap I had lost all use of my back brake because of the mud and was having to manage my speed with my front brake, starting to feel tired as well I decided to pop into the mechanic tent to get it looked at.

Riding into the arena the rain was being blown sideways under the big lights it was easier to see just how heavily it was coming down.

I stood in a queue to wash the mud off my bike and then took it to the mechanics tent where I waited under the light trying to keep warm. Teeth chattering away I made the decision to have a well-earned rest for a few hours, so after my brake was fixed I headed back to the tent, put some oil on my chain and peeled each sodden layer off. I have never been so muddy! A quick baby wipe shower got most of the mud from my arms, legs and head. My plait was caked in mud and I decided to embrace the mud and get some sleep, after a midnight snack of cheese scone and blueberry muffin of course! It took me ages to stop shivering my whole body was frozen, Luna (the dog) was a great foot warmer.

4am. The alarm started ringing but not quite loud enough to drown out the rain on the tent, I decided to have another hours sleep… 5am I slowly wiggled my way into dry clothes and sorted my bike out as Martyn made porridge and a cup of tea.

Making my way back to the arena to start another lap I felt re-energized, my mood boosted by the appearance of the sun and blue sky! I set off on what was meant to be my first of five laps… The mud had turned to gloop not dissimilar from trying to ride through pva glue and it wasn’t long before I was pushing my bike up a sticky climb at the top I jumped back on, pushed down on the pedal and heard the heart sinking cracking sound. I didn’t need to look, I knew what had just happened although part of my brain would not register there was a problem. I got off and pushed my bike further around the course stopping before the climb to assess the problem. My derailleur was bent out of shaped but had flung itself back I unclogged all the mud, three pedal revolutions later I was back with my feet on the ground unclogging yet again. This time the bend in the derailleur looked worrying, for a split second I wondered if I could push my bike round… that’s not a good idea the rational part of my brain decided and so it was with great frustration that I walked back to the arena with my, yet again, poorly bike.

The mechanics couldn’t fix the issue and had no more rear mechs to buy so my race was over. I felt disappointed that I couldn’t finish my race the way I had planned but the lesson learnt was that you can’t plan for everything and sometimes things happen which are beyond our control and we have to just go with the flow. (I am not usually good at doing this). I washed my bike down and headed for a shower. Martyn made me a cup of tea which I enjoyed in the sun as he packed the car. Leaving the arena I decided to just see where I came as I dropped off my exposure lights and couldn’t quite believe it said second place! I needed a second opinion so ran to the car and got Martyn who confirmed that yes my eyes were in good working order.

I was really shocked and felt a little bit of a fraud as I had only done 9 laps and had a nice sleep so hadn’t been through the sheer pain and suffering some had. I worked hard for those 9 laps and had solid lap times which I am really happy with. I need to practise getting to the starts earlier which I think will help my overall position.

I enjoyed my first 24 hour race the conditions were super tough but I kept positive and kept pedalling (until my bike broke) I think this event will be one to add to the calendar for next year.

Top tips for a 24 hour mountain bike race:

  1. See it as an adventure, enjoy the ride
  2. Have a good person to help you out and motivate you
  3. Have a selection of snacks you never know what you might crave at 2am
  4. If the weather looks like it might be wet take lots of changes of clothes it’s better to spare some time to get warm and dry (don’t forget dry gloves and socks)
  5. Have a plan / goal
My top ten tips for your first cross-country mountain bike race.

My top ten tips for your first cross-country mountain bike race.

So you want to enter a mountain bike race? Go for it!

I have raced cross-country mountain biking for 4 years now and it is a really great way to get into mountain biking and meet awesome mountain bikers who will make you feel part of the family. As a women rocking up to a mountain bike race, which is a male dominated sport, can feel a little daunting!

I remember my first nationals; I drove myself to Kent which was about 3 hours from where I was living to this big field. I arrived mega early and hardly anyone else was there. I went out and practised the course, which was far tougher than the regional I had been used too, but I enjoyed the challenge. Returning to the field it was now full custom lycra kits, rollers and turbo trainers humming away, everyone looked so serious I felt out of my depth and a little daunted.

Before we were gridded we had to go into a holding pen, a little bit like sheep at the county show, and ‘warm up’ I was over thinking everything and feeling quite uncomfortable and not ‘ready to race’. Until a lovely girl called Fern started to chat to me and within moments I felt calmer and not so alien. The race went well and I left feeling happy and a lot more confident in my ability and looking forward to my next race.

From experience these feelings I felt are not uncommon among the women I have coached, so I wanted to share my top 10 tips.

  1. Don’t take yourself to seriously, everyone starts somewhere, the fact you’re out doing instead of saying you would ‘like to’ is something to be proud of
  2. Believe in yourself, your stronger than you think
  3. Have a good breakfast – Whatever works for you just make sure you eat and also drink
  4. Have a pre-race/challenge meal ready and waiting with a friend or in the car
  5. Know where the start and finish of the race is (usually the same place, but I did miss coming third once because the finish was somewhere different!)
  6. Make sure you drink whilst you race
  7. If you have a number on your back, pin it on whilst bent over so it’s not too tight
  8. Have a practise lap, if something seems technical do it a couple of times, allow plenty of time to arrive and feel able to do this before the start of the race
  9. Plug in to good music whilst warming up
  10. Chat to people we’re a friendly bunch 🙂

Race across the roof of Europe – Bike Trans Alp 2016

Race across the roof of Europe – Bike Trans Alp 2016

The Trans Alp Bike Race claims to be the toughest amateur Mountain Bike stage race in Europe. Six hundred teams made up of two riders, set out from Imst in Austria on a seven day epic that ended this year in Arco, Italy. Of the six hundred teams 16 were women’s teams.

The race is an ultimate test of mountain bike endurance and skill. My team mate Michelle and I spent seven days doing battle up mountain passes, riding along valley floors, passing through tunnels and dropping down breath-taking descents as we crossed from Austria to Italy. We passed through 3 countries, climbed over 17,000mts, the equivalence of climbing the height of Everest twice over and rode 521km. As a team we burnt around 70,000 calories, went through 4 sets of brake pads, ate a lot of water melon at the rest stops, consumed 36 energy gels from High 5 and SIS, 12 bananas, drank around 4.5 L a day and spent 44 hours in the saddle.

The Trans Alp was far tougher than I imagined, no training in the relatively flat UK can prepare you for exhausting 2,000m climbs that took us over and through the spectacular scenery.

After 17 hours of driving we arrived at our B&B and spent Friday relaxing and exploring the trails nearby on our bikes and trying the local pizza. We were being supported by my Dad. Having competed at a high level himself (Kayak Slalom for GB) he was excited to be supporting Michelle and I and also came with vital knowledge on what we would need whether that be encouragement, food, water or just a thumbs up as we raced past.

On Saturday morning, I woke with some pre-race nerves and a degree of uncertainty had started to creep into my mind. Could I actually do this?

Imst had become transformed in just a few hours from a quiet alpine town to a hive of excitement and activity. Mountain bikers, some already with number boards on the front of their bikes and carrying the massive blue bags with Trans Alp bike race written on them, which would take their clothes, bike spare parts, food etc from hotel to hotel, were heading off to find their hotels for the night. The streets were filled with music, banners and the general excitement. I felt a wave of eagerness myself. This was it, after all the training and planning, we had made it to the Trans Alp start.

 

Signing on was a simple process, and the level of race organisation was excellent. After attaching the race number board and transponder to the front of our bikes we were given pasta party vouchers (each evening the race organised a pasta party to help riders refuel), freebies and of course a big blue kit bag to put everything in to be transported from hotel to hotel. It reminded me of Ride London but on a massive scale!

It took me an age to drift off to sleep my head was full of checklists and questions. Were my tyres too hard?  Had I got my nutrition right? Would my bottle jump out of the bottle cage?

Stage 1 Imst to Nauders

The start was a mass of excited riders all looking for their grid positions. We were assigned into one of five bays, so that the starts could be controlled and avoid un-necessary collisions. Because Michelle and I had not raced a stage race before we were gridded in D which was at the back. The atmosphere was exciting with music blaring loudly with intermittent instructions being given out over the tannoy system in several different languages. The professionals supported by their teams were on rollers warming up whilst one or two had chosen to wear fancy dress over their biking kit! The race was mainly made up with riders like myself – just looking to finish in the best achievable time, but for a few the prize of winning gave the race a very different edge.

This first stage was 88km and included 3,000 metres of climbing along the famous Via Claudia. Having never climbed 3,000 metres in one day before I was in for an interesting day’s work ahead.

The climbing was rewarded with the most amazing scenery through the mountain passes. At points after climbing we would sweep back down into the valley and through picturesque little towns full of people cheering which really lifted my spirits and kept me going.

During each stage there was a ‘vertical challenge’, timed section of climb. Todays was mega tough as we climbed on a loose fire road. Due to the steep gradient, every now and again my pedal stroke would send my back wheel spinning out. I was not impressed when, after the vertical challenge section ended, I found we still continued to climb! I had thought after the vertical climb there should be a downhill reward!

Stage 2 Nauders to Scuol

This short, but decidedly diversified stage took us through three countries: Austria, Italy, and Switzerland.

The day started with the great news that due to our time on day 1 we had been moved up the start position to from rank D to B! Feeling very impressed with ourselves Michelle and I set off potentially too fast for the 10km uphill which greeted us.

One of my favourite parts of every day in the Alps was the Maxxis Enduro Challenge. This was a timed section of the day, usually a downhill technical section. Today’s reminded me of Wales, on a steeper scale with wooded tracks through the forest.

The heat was starting to get to me, with temperatures in the thirties I found the uphill sections energy sapping and I had to constantly drink to rehydrate. Having Dad and Tom here for support was proving valuable as they found places on route to give us extra water which I needed. Having someone at the finish line each day to help wash your bike and then find your hotel was also a big bonus of having a support team. Some of the hotels have been out of town and having someone to drive you to the accommodation so you can get showered and stretch off and refuel quickly helped both Michelle and I recover each evening.

The routine at the finish soon developed into: washing the bike, washing ourselves, stretching, eating, having a massage and then trying to get your brain which is buzzing with the wonders and efforts of the day to turn off and let you sleep.

Stage 3 Scuol to Livigno

The morning started at 6.30 am as we clambered out of bed to pack and take our kit bags down to reception so that it could be taken to the next hotel destination. Then, breakfast, the most important meal of the day. Even more so when you’re riding through lunch time! I supplemented my European breakfast of fruit and yoghurt with porridge and also had a few slices of bread with either honey, Nutella or egg depending on what is on offer. Eating so much in the morning is hard but I knew I needed to keep refuelling with carbs if I hoped to make it to day seven!

This stage had some of the most breath-taking scenery I had seen. Climbing high over Pass da Costainas the route continued to make its way through the valley on an amazing bit of singletrack which at one point included traversing a steep sided track around the reservoir and crossing a waterfall.

 

 

Stage 4 Livigno to Bormio

On Day 4 came the longest climb of all, the Umbrail Pass (el. 2,501 m) which is a high mountain pass on the SwissItalian border.

The road twisted up through the valley climbing for 1,000m with an average incline of 9% until we ran out of tarmac. At this point we were sent off road on a 400m steep climb to the summit of Bocchetta di Forcola.

Standing above the snow line was unbelievable. Mountains stretched out as far as the eye could see and down below a trail of ant sized cyclists made their way up to the summit. A breath-taking moment I will never forget.

 

 

 

Stage 5 Bormio to Mezzana

The Queens stage and the toughest day of my Trans Alp experience. I had my first mechanical after my chain jammed 800m off the start. My body then had its first mechanical when my lower back problems reared their ugly head sending pains from my back all down my leg into my foot.

By the top of Passo Gavia at 2,600m I was really struggling, I got off and stretched out my back while Michelle kindly waited. This seemed to ease the pain in my leg and foot.

The Maxxis Enduro Challenge section, gave some light relief and a lot of fun which helped me forget the pain as my mind was focused on making my way through the steep rock gardens down to the valley floor. It was over too quickly and we were climbing once more.

By the feed station at 45km I was again in a lot of pain and felt overwhelmed by the fact there was still over 40km to go until the finish of the day. It is in these moments we all find out the strength of our character. It was a lonely climb to the top of the pass and I battled a lot of negative feelings in those 5km! As my Dad often says: ‘anyone can do it when it’s easy it’s how we cope when the going gets hard that defines who we are’.

I was relieved to see Michelle at the top, she then helped me with my bike up a few steep climbs as she could tell I was in trouble. Having a good team mate on a stage race was more important than I realised. Having someone there through the tough times even if just to offer a few words of encouragement makes all the difference.

Stage 6 Mezzana to Trento

Day six started with some nerves. I was worried about how my back would be when I started hard uphill sections, after the previous day and felt rather emotional about being so close to the finish line.

Luckily sleep, Pilates and painkillers seemed to work okay and after the congestion created by the downhill start the long climb was okay and I felt alright if I stayed at a steady pace. Michelle is a better climber than me and at this point had disappeared into the distance. It was nice to see her walking back down to help me with my bike on a steeper section when I was struggling to push up. In a team event it is these little moments of support that keep you going and also bind you together.

The highlight of the day was steep woodland single-track. It was challenging but exciting to be off road in such a magical place on single-track which would be pretty impossible to find by yourself. I had to keep an eye on my riding line to avoid boulders hidden in the leaves. It had been drizzling at times and with hard tyres, because of all the climbing I had decided to run harder tyres, choosing the right line and missing wet roots was critical.

One of the highpoints was riding through a very long dark tunnel where the temperature was so cold it took my breath away. It was really eerie riding from bright sunlight into such a dark place. It seemed to go on forever. A small group of us stayed close together and you could tell no one wanted to be alone in this tunnel!

The path then continued to wind through apple groves and vineyards until the final descent which was more like a scramble than a bike track! We had to carefully make our way down the rock face carrying our bikes some of the way, as it was super steep!

To my surprise, my body was handling the long days. Pace is key and I had found a race pace I could maintain for the 6-9 hours of continuous riding the days were made up of. The climbing was a lot tougher than I expected but having never biked more than 4 days in a row before I was really pleased to make it to day 6 feeling ready for day 7!

Stage 7 Trento to Arco

The Trans Alp has been an amazing journey, I have been working hard towards this final day for 10 months and the idea that journey was ending was a little overwhelming. So it was with both happiness and sadness that I lined up in Trento ready for my last 54km of this beautiful race.

After a dry start leaving Trento, we started the gradual climb up from 200m to 1700m. The climb started on road turning to forest tracks and gravel paths as we gradually wound our way to the top of the pass. I was feeling great, no aches or pains and was actually enjoying the demanding climb. (Clearly I’m getting used to the Alps !) Some sections were pretty steep and with all the rain over night rather slippery too.

Once the terrain was more rideable I enjoyed the forest trails which were very like those at home. Although drenched by now my spirits were far from dampened. This after all was just like riding in Wales!  The Specialized Era was fantastic, apart from a few gearing issues caused by the 42t sprocket I put on for the huge climbs. The low stand-over height and rear shock have given me confidence to push myself on the single-track sections and the rear shock helped take the pounding out of climbing and descending which helped my back no end.

I have relished pushing myself out of my comfort zone and have found this whole week one long learning curve on bike handling, climbing, team work, nutrition and positive mental attitude! Enjoyed it all.

The rain soon set in hard and I was so glad to have my Gore Tex jacket. The feed station at 19km was full of chilly cyclists sipping hot soup, still with smiles on their faces.

I didn’t stop for long just grabbing some pineapple and a drinks refill before continuing climbing to the summit at 24km.

I reached the top feeling relieved that my last big hill climb was behind me, but sad that I was nearly half way through the final stage. During this race there have been many highs and lows and I have learnt so much about myself, met some wonderful people and have fully immersed myself in the adventure.

The downhill section was bone chilling, the first part was grassy paths through steep sided gulley’s, which in the dry would have been great fun, but the rain had made them like ice rinks and together with a group of riders I caught up with, I cautiously made my way down these steep parts. Once we hit the fire road, I enjoyed the sweeping corners singing songs with the word rain in them, as I made my way down to try and keep my spirits high as the rain tumbled from the sky.

The feed station at 32km came with a very welcome hot tea and waffles. Just up the road was my Dad, like an ‘angel‘, he stood with dry gloves and arm warmers. I have never been so happy to pull on a cosy warm layer and this really helped get me up what was now my final short climb section in the Alps!

At the top of the climb Michelle was waiting huddled with Tom. We finished the final downhill section together. Now we were not as high, it was warm and damp, a little bit like a summer in Wales, so I felt really at home whizzing down the trails looking for the lines which avoided any slippery roots.

Racing into the back roads of the town, full of puddles and pot holes and through the final finishing archway was incredible, I felt like I was dreaming. After thinking of this moment for the last 10 months, visualizing what it would feel like to have accomplished my dream – it is difficult to describe how I felt. Relieved to have finished climbing mountains for a while, exhilarated to have pushed my body out of the comfort zone and so proud to say I completed the toughest Stage race in Europe! WE DID IT!

Thank you to my Dad, all my family and friends who supported me. Thanks to Specialized for designing such a great bike – the Era and supporting my adventure. Thanks to Bike Fixers, Grip Grab, Food for Thought and Dogtag for supporting us on this journey of a life-time.

 

Trans Alp Day 7 – The final ascent

Trans Alp Day 7 – The final ascent

Today was a mixture of emotions standing on the start line I felt elated to have made it this far, with no serious mechanicals for both me and the bike! But unhappy that it was to be the last 54 km ride in this beautiful race.

IMG_3868 (1)

The start

After a dry start leaving Trento, we started the gradual climb up from 200m to 1700m. Starting on road, turning to forest tracks and gravel paths as we steadily made it to the top. I was feeling great today, no aches and pains and was actually enjoying this demanding climb. (Clearly I’m getting used to the Alps!)

Some sections were pretty steep and with all the rain over night rather slippy too and had to be walked. I joined a trail of silent cyclists pushing their bikes with a feeling of accomplishment that we all shared being there on the final day. Once the terrain was rideable I enjoyed the forest trails which were very like home in a way and the rain was certainly not dampening my state of mind as I looked for the lines ahead. The Era has been fantastic, apart from a few gearing issues caused by the 42t sprocket I put on for climbing. The low stand-over height and rear shock have given me confidence to try lines and go down singletrack which I know I would usually not do. I have relished in pushing myself out of my comfort zone and have found this whole week has been one long learning curve on bike handling, climbing, scrambling, nutrition and positive mental attitude!

sportograf-84432104

The rain soon set in hard and I was so glad to have my Gore Tex jacket. The feed station at 19km was full of chilly cyclists sipping hot soup still with smiles on their faces.

I didn’t stop for long just grabbing some pineapple and a drinks refill before continuing climbing to the summit at 24km.

When I reached the top I felt relieved that my last big hill climb was behind me, but sad that I was nearly half way through the final stage. During this race there has been many highs and lows and I have learnt so much about myself, met some wonderful people and have fully immersed myself in the adventure, one that I am already looking to replicate by taking on another stage race, these thoughts filled my head as I soaked up the downhill. The first part was grassy paths through steep sided gulley’s, which in the dry would have been great fun, but the rain had made them like ice rinks and together with a group I cautiously made my way down these steep parts. Once we hit fire road, I enjoyed the sweeping corners singing songs with the word rain in them, as I made my way down to try and keep my spirits high as the rain tumbled from the sky.

sportograf-84432445

The feed station at 32km came with a very welcome hot tea and waffles. I had two cups and carried on. Just up the road was my Dad, like a hot water bottle angel, he stood with dry gloves and arm warmers. I have never been so happy to pull on a cosy warm layer and this really helped get me up what was now my final climb in the Alps!

At the top of the climb Michelle was waiting huddled with Tom (her boyfriend). We finished the final downhill section together down some rocky singletrack which I really enjoyed. Now we were not as high, it was warm and damp, a little bit like a summer in Wales, so I felt really at home whizzing down the trails looking for the lines which avoided any slippy roots.

Racing into the back roads of the town, full of puddles and pot holes and through the final finishing archway was incredible, I felt like I was dreaming. After thinking of this moment for the last 10 months, visualising what it would feel like to have accomplished my dream it was difficult to describe how I felt, relieved to have finished climbing mountains for a while, exhilarated to have pushed my body out of the comfort zone both in descending and climbing and overwhelmed to now be able to say I completed the toughest Stage race in Europe! WE DID IT!

IMG_8908

Thank you to all my family and friends who supported me. Thank you to Specialized for letting me use the Era, Thanks to Bike Fixers, Grip Grab, Food for Thought and Dogtag for supporting us on this journey of a life-time.

IMG_8942

 

Trans Alp Day 6 – Team work, tunnels and thunderstorms

Trans Alp Day 6 – Team work, tunnels and thunderstorms

Day six, of the Bike Trans Alp, started with some nerves, I was worried about how my back would be after yesterday and felt rather emotional about being so close to the finish line.

Luckily sleep, Pilates and painkillers seemed to work okay and after the congestion created by the downhill start the long climb was okay and I felt alright if I stayed at a steady pace. Michelle is a better climber than me and at this point had disappeared into the distance; it was nice to see her walking back down to help me with my bike on a steeper section when I was struggling to push up. In a team event it is these little moments of support that keep you going.

After the feed station the fun stuff began, with an enduro challenge section through the forest on steep woodland single-track it was challenging yet fun, you had to keep an eye on your line to avoid boulders hidden in the leaves.

IMG_3864 (1)

I enjoyed this section a lot and felt good by the end of it. Our path then stayed mainly off road and wiggled through valleys with short sharp climbs and descents. One of the highlights was riding through a very long dark tunnel where the temperature was so cold it took my breath away. It was really eerie riding from bright sunlight, into such a dark place. It seemed to go on forever! A small group of us stayed close together and you could tell no one wanted to be alone in this tunnel!

The path then continued to wind through apple groves and vineyards until the last final descent which was more like a scramble than a bike track! We had to carefully make our way down the rock face with our bikes it was super steep!

My body is handling the long days well, as long as I stick to a steady pace and refuelling regularly. Before I came away I asked Sally Bigham for advice which has been absolutely brillaint as I have been eating little and often fuelling with between 70 and 90g carbohydrate an hour to keep my energy levels high.

So far my bike had been amazing I changed my brake pads yesterday but apart from that no mechanical issues bar a few jumpy gears. Thanks Specialized.

The climbing has been a lot tougher than I expected but having never bike more than 4 days in a row before and the fact I live in such a flat country its been hard to train for such monster climbs, I am really pleased to make it to day 6! Bring on the final stage I can almost taste the Prossecco!

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Distance: 88.24 km
Metres of climbing: 2,364 m
Saddles: Passo le Fraine (1,705 m)