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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Distance: 88.24 km
Metres of climbing: 2,364 m
Saddles: Passo le Fraine (1,705 m)
Today was tough! I didn’t get the best start as my chain jammed 800m from the start once I had fixed it took ages for me to get going again because of the sheer number of bikers squeezing down this small Italian road.
This bad luck continued throughout the day, my back which has been fine for the last four days, really hurt sending pains down my leg and into my foot, not ideal on a day when you have 3,000m to climb!
I kept it steady and tried to break the day down into sections. I would not think further than the next water point or saddle summit this helped a little but it was one of those days when both mentally and physically I felt pushed to the extreme and had to dig deep to just keep going in the right direction.
By the top of Passo Gavia at 2,600m I was really struggling and there still seemed so much left in front of me. I got off and stretched out my back while Michelle kindly waited this seemed to ease the pain in my leg and foot.
Michelle and I then descended down the road to the Enduro challenge which was a mixture of dusty steep trail and rock gardens. I have been really enjoying the singletrack its been such good fun and pushed me out of my comfort zone. Today I got over confident at one point and ended scrapping my ankle down the rock which was not pleasant and reminded me that I needed to go careful with two days left to complete the race.
After the enduro challenge the route climbed steeply 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, I just didn’t see how I could keep going. 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!
I was relieved to see Michelle at the top who then helped me with my bike up a few steep climbs as she could tell I was in trouble.
The path was undulating and continued to climb further we passed a emergency helicopter and then were rather shocked when we turned the next corner to see a cyclist ready to be air lifted out, it put into perspective how even though my body was hurting I was still able to ride.
We pushed on once more every kilometre seemed to go by so slowly I was relieved to see the finish!
Distance: 86.32 km
Metres of climbing: 3,073 m
Saddles: Passo Gavia (2,621 m), Alta Via Camuna (2,393 m)
Arriving at the Bike Trans Alp in Austria
We arrived in Imst, Austria for the start of the Bike Trans Alp on Thursday evening very late after a 17 hour journey from the from home. Dad was amazing and drove all the way do So I would have ample time to get used to the climate and altitude.
We spent Friday and Saturday playing around on the trails which was great fun and Dad got to use his new cameras which he was super happy about!
The start of the Bike Trans Alp.
Day one – the long one
The start was exciting and full of people buzzing around, Michelle and I were gridded right at the back as we had never raced any stage races before, but that was fine with me I was just happy to have made it this far!
Just after 9 we rolled over the start line for a day of highs lows, ups and downs.
The race started with a tar mac climb through the village it was great with people cheering and ringing bells it reminded me of the start of Ride London.
The day started cloudy but soon the sun shone brightly down making the hill climbing hot and dusty work!
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.
It was in one of these little towns I turned the corner and bumped into Dad it was great to see him and also good timing as I had run out of water!
Tom and Dad supported Michelle and I with bottles along the route which was fantastic thanks guys!
The vertical challenge was a timed stage, it was an unrelenting climb which went on forever! The climb went on and on after this vertical stage until we reached the top of the mountain pass. The reward was a sensational downhill through woods and out into open pastures through the valley.
We were making good time and the hours were flying passed, the final 20km was tough. We had worked hard on a road section to stay with a bunch and I paid for this on the hill climb later, luckily just before the climb was a water point where I indulged in cucumber dipped in salt and water melon my new favourite snack!
The last 9km was almost all up hill and seemed to go on forever! The finish line in Nauders was even up hill!
It feels good to have completed the first day I learnt a lot and we had good fun as a team once we settled into a rhythm.
We finished the first stage in 6 hours 16 a great first day and 89km ticked off!
Day 2 – Three countries, lots of climbing
Today was exciting we made our way from rank D to B! feeling very impressed with ourselves we made our way up out of the start with maybe a little too much speed!
The first 10km was up. The up was on gravel track most of the way which was loose making the climbing arduous. We climbed under lift stations and im pretty sure when there is snow this is probably a blue run!
We made it to the water point at the top, passing groups of cows who I think thought we must be mad! The water point was a light bit of relief, it was good to stop stretch out and have some much needed water melon!
The next descent was loose with great sweeping bends but was over too quickly and we were climbing yet again!
My favourite stage today was the Maxxis endure challenge although I found it difficult and walked in places, it was great fun and being in wooded single-track reminded me so much of Wales and after a tough climb it was nice to remind myself of why I was here!
You can probably already guess but after this came yet more climbing! Today has been really hot and the heat has got to me slightly so I had to pace myself on this second long climb, the view from the top was incredible and well worth the sweat to get there.
Today we have ridden in three countries, climbed to the dizzy heights of 2270m, ate a shed load of water melon, and enjoyed stunning views and blistering heat!
All in all a good, but tough day in the saddle. The end was tough for me today, the heat sapped my energy and I was glad to finish. 5 hours 01 minutes, 56km and day two completed!
Tomorrow we ride from Scoul to Livigno. Stick around for more on our Alpine adventure.
Thank you to my amazing Dad for supporting this trip and to everyone at home cheering us on!
Thank you also to Specialized for my super Era which has been a dream to ride so far, thanks to Bike Fixers, Dog Tag and Grip Grab for all your support.
Last week I went to specialized to pick up my new Era, I met Olivia from specialized who took me to meet the guys doing my bike fit Murph and DA.
I had a body geometry bike fit which started with talking about my background and any injuries I had sustained. This was a relatively short list, however I find it interesting the few injures I have had seem to all be related back to my back injury from years ago kitesurfing. My top tip, when you have a physio and exercises keep doing them and then go to Pilates to keep your core strong, it’s like any muscle if you don’t use it, you lose it and it impacts on other muscles.
I then had a physical assessment to check my alignment, leg length and flexibility. During this we also looked at the contact points on the bike so shoes, gloves and saddle. To find out what size saddle I needed I had to sit on a piece of memory foam which recorded where my sit bones were, from this Murph (one of the fitters) could work out the best width saddle for me.
One of the parts I found really interesting was this heat mat that I put my feet on and it showed where the parts of my feet where connected to the ground. Doing this test was really interesting because I learnt that I have very high arches in both my feet, which don’t collapse when I am standing, which is good. This was interesting to find out as I have always struggled with finding supportive footwear and now know why!
Because of my high arches I had special green insoles designed for people with high arches out in my new s-works shoes I immediately felt more supported on the inside of my foot.
After a few more tests it was time to get on the bike, the information Murph and DA had collected from the tests helped them to pin point changes that needed to be made straight away.
Once I was on the bike they wired up the joints of my body so that they could see my movement patterns on the computer screen.
Using side analysis they looked at my full leg extension which determined whether my saddle needed to be higher, which it did. This also helped judge how far forward to push my saddle to create more of a bend in my elbows.
The front camera showed my hip, knee and foot alignment, as I was already aware that I have one knee that moves towards my frame more than it should DA looked at my cleat position and step up and we moved my cleats to help correct my knee alignment. This was also helped by the new supportive insoles.
I get a funky bend in my wrist which seemed to happen whether my hands were wide on the bar or not, Murph cut 35mm off each end of the bar which seemed to suit my riding position.
They also looked at my riding position from behind which highlighted an issue I was having with my saddle, my left hip would drop and I had to keep moving myself backwards to get comfortable. We tried a variety of different saddles. The last one was, called power, it seemed to lock me into a stable position and also felt like my weight was distributed more evenly between my sit bones.
A little video of the bike fit:
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This process was really thorough and we spent a long time making little tweaks until I was in my optimal riding position.
I am now going to ride the bike for a couple of weeks and see if there are any little niggles that need ironing out.
I was really impressed with the whole fit and how such small tweaks can make such a difference. From having such an in-depth fit I have realised how important it is for your bike to fit you properly to be comfortable and also to make the most of the power you create! This is going to be especially important during the Trans Alp as I will be riding my bike for around 5/6 hours a day for 7 days.
Thank you Murph and DA for a brilliant fit and cuppa T! A massive thanks to Specialized for supporting my 2016 race season, I can’t wait to race my new Era.
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Thanks for stopping by! 🙂