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By Drew Geer
Drew Geer and Mark Gouge are racing the Jeantex Bike Transalp 2008 powered by Nissan, an eight-stage epic mountain bike stage race, from Füssen, Germany, to Riva del Garda, Italy, passing through Austria and Switzerland. The two are racing for the Chipotle-Titus-VeloNews team.
Naturns to Andalo Italy
We are riding lower down the Trento valley which runs from Verona up to the Austrain border. The start & finish towns are small resort towns where Italian & Germans vacation in the mountains. Many of the Italians in the region speak German instead of italian as this used to be Austria before WWI. They call the region the Sud Tirol (the South Tirol)
“Hopp! Hopp!,” the Germans yell, and there are more German spectators than anyone else.
It is very hot here and we searched out shade at the start. The starting climb was 22km up a forested mountain but the trees provided only a little respite from the sun. It is absolutely amazing how so many people are still riding so hard every day. The starts remain fast but the groups break into long trains of riders early on the climbs. Thomas and Mike have good legs today and shoot up ahead. Mark gets stronger every day but my race plan needs to be to conserve on the early climb so I can make it to the finish. I am in the little chainring where I would normally be in the middle.
Our heart rates no longer climb into zones 4 or 5 as our legs are too tired to push that hard. At our level, this is a race of leg power, not so much cardiovascular fitness. I’m sure the top riders are still able to push it to redline even this late in the race.
Fabulous fast, descents today with a mix of single track and loose, steep rocky double track. We are mixed in some large groups and passing is difficult which keeps us a bit slower. That is actually not a bad idea as full speed descending on entirely unknown trails can be a bit tricky. Thomas took a small spill taking some risks today but no significant injuries.
The finish today is actually downhill, but only after you pay for it with a very steep 7k climb. Fortunately this climb is up a small creek in a tunnel of trees so it is cool.
Mike and Thomas finished the day in 15th and seem to be holding onto 14th in G.C. There are teams near them that are still trying to move up.
Mark and I finished — period. Just finishing the race was our goal coming in. We rode very well for five days and started shooting at top 20 but have reverted to our original plan.
Tomorrow is an “easier” stage. Easier is relative as there is still a 300-foot climb out of the start. Every one of these climbs in the Transalp would fit the criteria for a Category 1 or HC climb in Tour
de France terms. The race then seems to drop right off a cliff — dropping 800 meters over a kilometer or so. Locals tell us this is loose rock and a pretty tricky technical section which is a big plus for us. It is then a fast run to the finish at Riva del Garda.