Monday, September 17, 2012

Trans Alps Mountain Bike Race - Guest Report

Hi All  - yes I know I have been remiss in posting but being so busy with yoga and all now ( she says tongue in cheek) I just have not had time.  Seriously though  - I have been maintaining my yoga.

The weather has just been so awesome here in Vancouver that I have not wanted to miss a second of it before the rain comes back.

This post is courtesy of my "SO" - Joe who had the adventure of a lifetime this summer with his dad riding the Trans Alps Mountain Bike Race.

He originally wrote this for IMPACT magazine at their request - after submitting they have changed the story to an interview with his dad and him - to be published in the next issue.  So I thought I would "publish" his version for you all to read - since I have no intention of EVER doing this race and thus will never do a race report on it that I am aware of....


 I never imagined what I was getting into when my Dad decided that he wanted to mark his 70th birthday by participating in the transalp mountain bike race. You see I had done my first Ironman the year prior and so dad thought that if I could finish an Ironman that I would be able to complete the transalps race. Yeah that’s right, his birthday but I guess he didn’t want to have all the fun. Never mind that it has been dubbed the hardest mountain bike race in the world. 8 days, over 600 km and over 20,000 meters of elevation changes.
So it was with a sense of trepidation that I signed us up and began training. I actually thought that I had prepared well for the event as I think I had put more training into this thanI had Ironman. I should mention that my Dad was an accomplished cyclist who has represented northern Ireland, Ireland and canada in various cycling races. So I did not want to let Dad down!!
I flew out to Munich from Vancouver where I took two trains into the city of Oberammegau to meet dad for the start of the race. We had decided to go the route of staying in bed and breakfasts rather than doing the camping. Boy was I glad I let Dad talk me into that.
 Now as I had said there was a little bit of climbing involved in this race. We would in fact go over some of the highest peaks in Germany,  Austria, Switzerland and Italy, but there was nothing I could have done to fully prepare myself for the vertical climbs we endured during the actual event. The good thing though is that the ferocity of the climbs were matched and surpassed by the beautiful and panoramic vistas throughout.
Added to the sheer gradients we faced was the fact that about 75 per-cent of the course was off-road and over rough terrain. We also faced extreme weather conditions ranging from blistering heat at one stage, to being surrounded by snow at the summits of the Alps. The extent of the climbs, coupled with the repetition of having to face this day after day for over a week was a killer.  There were times when you would be riding up an incline and you would be passed by someone walking their bike! Oh yes there was walking. A lot more than I thought there would be. A couple of stages you make your way out of town and turn a corner and see 700-800 people off their bikes and walking. Oh and the hills do go on. You keep looking up to see where the top is, you get there and you turn the corner and it keeps going up and up.
Now for me the good part of going up was that you got to  come down. I enjoy descending a little more than climbing. Sometimes you are descending for more than hour at a time with not too many really technical sections with maybe the last day into Riva being the exception. I had problems with my rear brake from day one and unfortunately I ended up having to replace my brakes. The good thing after that was that I wasn’t coming down these steep descents with only my front brake to stop me. I must admit to being a little afraid on some of the downhills. Luckily I had the new brakes for day 6 when I needed them to stop me from a close encounter with a 90’ fall onto rocks below.
For me there are some experiences that I will hold onto. Getting to the top of the highest climb at 2718m or doing 70km/h+ down an Italian road, the descent through a Swiss alpine meadow straight out of the Sound of Music or the feeling of accomplishment that I got when Dad and I finished the race in Riva together as we had started. That was our mantra throughout the trip actually, we start…..we finish!
The overall experience is one I will never forget. I met some great people during the event. From riders to technical support to cameramen and organizers of the race and our meals. Everyone together made this an event which I would not only highly recommend but one that I would look forward to doing again.
At the awards ceremony at the end Dad was brought up on stage to a standing ovation and given an award as the oldest competitor in the race. I was so proud of my Dad and hope that maybe I will be able to finish the Transalps with my son when I’m 70. I finished as top Canadian in my age group! (no need to mention that I was the only Canadian in my age group)
So should you be thinking should I do it I would say most definitely Hell Yeah!!! Oh and if you should get the chance to do it with your seventy year old Dad go for it. (Even if he does beat you up the hills!)

Joe Smyth
Team  Glendale Dreamers

1 comment:

Christine Fretwell said...

Ah Joe. I knew your were Irish, but I've never heard you sprout such lovely prose.
I'm glad you had this adventure and lived to tell about it. Does your son ride? If not, I might be able to convince one of your Godsons to try this with you when you're 70.