Monday, September 29, 2008

Swiss Wedding

Saturday morning, I was off to my friends Alex and Ruth's wedding in a remote area of Switzerland. I took the train and 2 buses to get to the Golzern Talstation Seilbahn (gondola). Picture below shows the incredible road built out of the mountain that I saw from the train.
The 2nd bus ride was from the village Bristen up an insanely steep road built on the side of the mountain. I was sitting on the side of the bus that gave the high view of the steepness. It was scary! At the last stop, there were pre-arranged shuttles for the wedding guests to transport us up the mountain goat road to the church and hotel Maderanertal.
The hotel was the Swiss version of the Banff Springs hotel on a super small scale and in a very remote location.
View from my top floor room with the mountain Bristen. The hotel was age-old, wooden and creaky kind of like the Old-Timer's Cabin in Edmonton. It made the whole wedding event cozy being far away at this place.
The teeny church up the hill.

Alex and Ruth - post ceremony. The service was both in English and Swiss-German. Some of the songs were sung at the same time in both languages making it unique to listen to. I didn't understand Alex's vows as he spoke in Swiss-German. Ruth's vows were in English and were the most touching interdependant vows I've heard. Very cool!
Alex's triathlon group Tri Uri rode their mountain bikes up and gave them their wishes!

Rare pic of Marg in a dress (and those darn nylons!) with Alex and Ruth. It had been nice weather earlier. A fog blew in and it was super cold at photo taking time. Alex and Ruth posed with each guest for a photo.

Alex, an accomplished Swiss mountain guide, was encouraged to show his skill with his mountaineer climbing gear over his suit. His Swiss guide friend set up ropes for him to use ice-picks and crampons to climb high up the tree for the wedding guests.

The dinner at the hotel was great. Each guest had a teeny rock "cairn" with their name on it marking where we were to sit at the table. There was an English translation and a Swiss-German translation for all the British, Canadian and Swiss-German guests.

After dinner, there were many entertaining games played which had Switzerland (Alex) versus England (Ruth) in competition. It was good fun and with many laughs. The dance started with Alex and Ruth, then they split off and gathered more partners until almost everyone was dancing. I had a great time meeting Ruth's relatives and friends from England, and more of Alex's family and friends.

It was an adventure to make my way to Alex's and Ruth's wedding, and I'm super glad I went.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Epic 3 Passes by Bike

Next morning, sunshine greeted me. I could see the snow at the tops of the peaks. Breakfast was a bun, butter and jam. Good thing I stocked up with fruit, yogurt and chocolate from the grocery store.

My bike route for the day, the epic 3-pass climb… Furkapass, Nufenenpass and Gothardpass. Should be about 3000m of climbing.

I stopped to borrow a bike pump at the local sports store. Adrian who helped me just happened to race with Rocky Mtn few years back and used to go to San Diego area to train. It was great to chat with him. He thought the route I planned was a good one.

Leaving my B&B with more clothes than I wore on the rainy cold Day 1 at Tour-Trans-Austria, I was prepared for a leisure comfortable ride. Within 10-km, I reached the start of Furkapass. Ultra-scenic as I snapped a lot of photos. The 900m climb seemed to fly by with the open exposure and views. At the top, I put on extra clothes and slowly descended the steep switchbacks. The views were outstanding and jaw-dropping to see where the heck they built the road into the steep mtnside. Reaching the bottom, the next pass climbed immediately from the village. Fortunately, I bypassed this one and kept descending into the lowlands. The scenery began to look Canada-like with many evergreen trees. After abit of flats in the warm sun, the next pass began Nufenenpass. This one seemed to linger as the scenery was not as spectacular and the road just climbed relentlessly. Approaching the top, I passed two guys from Germany on a training ride. They stopped for lunch at the top. I put on warm clothing and flew down a super long descent at a gradual grade. It went on and on until I hit the village where Gotthard pass began. From afar I could see the pass roads way up and was surprised that I’d be up there soon enough.

Gotthard pass, built in the early 1800’s was mostly a road of carefully laid cobblestones. As I began climbing, I was tired and wondered if I wanted to bump bump bump the whole way up on the cobblestones for 900m. With a few breaks of fresh pavement, I decided I must take this old road. The other option was the paved highway. The sun was out and I removed a lot of my extra clothes. It felt great to climb with less restrictive clothing. This pass flew by as it was ultra scenic with the twisty cobblestone road. A strong headwind made one direction super difficult and I looked forward to turning a corner to get the tailwind for abit. On and on, bump bump bump, I reached the top. Threw some warm clothes back on for the final 13 km descent to Andermatt. Fast gentle descent. I stopped by the sports store to let Adrian know how the ride went. He said my 5 ½ hours for the 100-km, 3000m elevation climb was pretty good. That was probably the longest 100k ride I’ve ever been on, though also most scenic and fun.

Riding on La Salève

On Wed, Mary, Nigel and I took a road trip to the community farm they participate with. Putting in a few hours a couple times a year gets them a weekly assortment of fresh veggies. Our duty was chopping the last of the basil leaves from the plant. Nice smelling job anyways.We then went into France to where Mary’s partner lives in a renovated farmhouse. The outside looked like an old stone barnhouse.The inside was very modern. On their land, there were a lot of apple and fruit trees. We picked some yummy apples and coaxed a few walnuts off their tree. I’d never picked walnuts before. Leaving there, I was off by bike. Mary sent me on some small roads which would get me onto the road up to the mountain standing behind Geneva called La Salève.

After a short descent, it was 900m of elevation before I hit the descent that would take me back to Switzerland. The climb was amazing and a pleasant 5% grade. I had views of France on my right and Switzerland hidden in the mist on my left. Riding the road in the forest was refreshing. At the top, a mist was hanging at that level and it was very cold. Once I hit the village of La Croisette (a couple houses and a restaurant!), the descent was quick - twisty windy and steep 12-18% grades. It would have been a tough climb. My hands were freezing and I was more cold than I had been in the Tour-Trans-Austria. I stopped once to warm up then continued down the steep descent. Getting closer to the bottom, the road still twisted thru residential areas. I crossed a main highway and could see the border crossing up ahead. (Photo - view of La Salève from Swiss border) I zipped thru to Switzerland and was still descending. A sign said Geneve 6 km away. I followed the signs and found my way to Mary’s apt without looking at the map. I made it just before darkness.

On to Andermatte...

Next morning, Mary dropped me off at the train station. I was off to Andermatt via Brig. Out of the blue, I saw Sandra who was off to Bern to visit some people she met on the train the other night. I had met Sandra for Pain Au Chocolat and tea near the fountain the prior day.The train ride was super scenic from Brig with sunshine and huge mtns on both sides of the valley. I was optimistic I’d have a good ride from Andermatt,. Arriving to Andermatt, I just left the train when a “hello Marg” greets me from an approaching car. Surprise… it was Ruth and her sister, her sister’s two kids, mom and Alex’s parents. Ruth and Alex are my friends whose wedding I'm headed to this weekend. They all just happen to be on a drive. We chatted briefly. I tugged my luggage to my B&B 200 m away. My B&B is very basic though good enough. It is right next to where the Oberalp train goes up a huge climb. I can see the train outside my window. It looks like a ride from Disneyland with the train called “Glacier Express”. The trains are quiet and don’t toot their horns like in Canada.

A fog and misty rain blew in.

I ended up reading my intriguing book “Three Cups of Tea” and taking lots of naps. The book is about mountaineer Greg Mortenson and his pursuit to build schools for girls in the small mtn areas of Pakistan delving into Taliban country. I’m enjoying how the story unfolds and his connections with people developing. He lived a hobo lifestyle and managed to pursue the Pakistan project with what little he had and a great vision. The book documents his pursuit before and immediately post-9/11 while he was still in Pakistan. Very interesting commentary.

Monday, September 22, 2008


"Une amie à ma mère vient visiter la Suisse. Elle dort chez nous. Elle rentre d'Autriche où elle a fait une course de vélo sur sept étapes. Elle a finit 2ème et le tour s'appellait Tour-Trans-Austria." - written by Nigel Burzminski 22.09.08 for French writing class in Gèneve

DAY 7 – Everyone’s a Teammate!

On the start line Leah said she wanted me to cross the finish line with her holding hands in the air. Cool thought though I said if it works out, great!
The race started with a decent pace. Whoever was at the front broke the headwind for all.

The first climb was a gradual average grade of 5%. I was near the front of the pack with Leah. Then a 14% grade snuck in there and some of us drifted back. Our own little pack formed and we continued to climb at a hard comfortable pace.

Soon our small group caught the front group. Again, the pace went hard up a steeper section. I was breathing so hard I was amazed a lung didn’t burst. I was the last one in our group up the crest though was still in contact with the pack for the descent. Great - except I was cross-eyed from lack of oxygen and it was difficult to relax at the fast pace they swept around the sharp corners. The pace-line was too long and decelerated too much by the time I got to the corner. I had to accelerate to catch-up each time. IT HURT. The wind was strong and I soon lost the draft.

I descended on my own much more easily thru the corners. On the flat, it wasn’t long before 2 more teams caught me. We flew ahead and within a few km caught the lead group again. I didn’t have long to rest before the group took off again. The small group we formed had Leah and myself in it and six other guys. It was a great pace and perfect size group.

I got caught up in the paceline and pulled to the front. Leah helped get the 6 guys to do the paceline and we kept back of them with me behind her. I needed all the rest I could get. We all stayed together thru narrow roads of the small villages. Some areas looked more like mountain bike trails with all the tree cover over us.

The final climb of the day had me working harder than ever in spots before the pace would settle. We had to descend 1 km on hard-packed gravel and then ascend. Training on the 5-km gravel section near Predator Ridge in Kelowna was perfect for this. The final climb had Leah take off with another guy, and a handful of us scattered.

My new chain and cassette made the bike feel brand new. I still managed to drop my chain past the small chain ring with a quick bad shift. Twice I had to stop to manually put my chain back on, doh.

Meanwhile, I crested the last climb with some riders that just caught up. Bummer that they were poor descenders. I speedily caught up to one guy that braked at the last minute around a sharp corner which had me abruptly brake to avoid hitting him. My whole bike skidded out and there was ample opportunity to crash… though I let go of the brakes and all was ok. Must be my mtnbike skill as I wasn’t even freaked out though it must have been scary for anyone behind me.

Again it was difficult to keep on anyone’s wheel with the strong wind. With 4 km to go, the 1st place mixed team came whooshing by. This was their hometown so they knew every corner on the high speed descent. I jumped into their group and we stormed to Velden city center.

After a fast pace thru town amongst chaotic moving traffic, we finished at the edge of the lake. Many racers hung out a long time on the wooden docks eating post-race food. A lot of racers jumped in the lake or got thrown in.
I hung out with Leah and her mom for post-race by the water. Later, Team Tanner and I sat and soaked up the warm sun on the dock. We were happy to just sit.

Earlier I took the opportunity at the Scott Bike weigh-in for the lightest bike/racer combo. I removed everything I could from my bike. My clothes were skimmed down to jersey, shorts, helmet and shoes with insoles removed. I just came back from the WC so was ready for the weigh-in at 55.7 kg. Without the bike 48.2 kg (dehydrated!). The bike alone was 7.5 kg (16.5 lbs). Another woman won at 53.9 kg with bike, wow! The heaviest guy with bike was 113 kg!!

When we finally made a move to search out where Team Tanner needed to drop off their bikes to get shipped back to the race-start in Kirchberg and where I’d find my bike bag sent from the start to here. The race organization was just having my bike bag delivered to my hotel. I was able to stop the van and hop in with my bike. I was driven to where my gear bag had already been delivered to the hotel, picked up my gear bag, said sorry but thanks to the owner, and got dropped off at the place where all the other Cdn gals were staying.

Meanwhile, Erin and Sandra dropped off their bikes for the journey back then made the long walk to the hotel in their socks. They each carried a plastic bag with their extra clothes and bike shoes in it. They were pretty tuckered when they got to the hotel. They had to walk thru the main area of town like that. I’m amazed no-one gave them some coins!

Tonight’s last pasta party was awesome – no pasta! We had grilled sausages and pork with lots of choices of salads and baked potatoes.

Everyone got their awards and finishers jerseys. Leah's Mom and I sat back while the Cdn girls got their leaders jerseys.
We took our last chance to meet with a lot of racers. One rider sat by me during dinner and we chatted for quite awhile. When we exchanged email addresses I asked his team number and it was 51! I had wanted to thank and meet #51 since he helped me in the race yet didn’t know what he looked like. I was thrilled Lutz was him! This Tour was a very social bunch. A smaller group of racers meant a greater opportunity to meet the racers. The mix of teams with individual racers went well with all working together. With more individual racers, the incentive was there to be more open to meet others. More friendships formed all around.

Quite a few beers were dranken at our table!

Marg & 2nd place Mixed Team - Annika & Joachim
Uta & Günter who met on a TA Team in 2005 and are now married with kids

Friday, September 19, 2008

DAY 6 – Best All’Round Day

A cool 4C start with a neutralized descent to 26-km. We are getting very used to riding in these cool temps though I’d never wear as little as I have on at home in these temps. We had to go down quite abit of elevation and cross three sets of train tracks. Fortunately the Race Director’s car lead the neutral start at a wickedly fast pace. It was a feat to breathe deep and stay warm. Once we crossed the 3rd set of tracks, the group went a good pace up the gradual climb. It was perfect for me to hang with the lead group. (TA photo - Marg, standing of course on the RHS at the back with the neon orange jersey under a white jacket)Once we hit the first steeper grades, I dropped off the pace as did some of the bigger boys including my favourite three Italian guys from Team Paola Pezzo. I knew if I could hang onto their steady pace I’d have good company on the descent. (TA Photo - Marg just behind Team Paola Pezzo in blue)

Soon we hit the last 3-km of the climb where the grades turned super ugly at 11-18%. I sadly dropped off the pace of my Italian group. The leftover snow from earlier in the week made the mountain view outstanding. Up ahead I could see the final few curves with 100 metres elevation to climb yet. This gave me a surge of energy. I put my head down and just worked the final stretch and just caught up to the Italians before the crest. The solo Italian guy asked me if I just climbed all that in my 53. I was out-of-breath and it took me a moment to understand what he was asking. I then mistakenly said “no, my 50” meaning what large chain ring I had on my bike. I was mostly climbing in the big ring though they didn’t see me when I was in my small chain ring the last steep grade of the climb. So the Italians were impressed!

All four of us descended wickedly fast with hard braking for the tight switchback corners. Towards the bottom of the descent, I heard some foreign noise. I looked down and thought I dtopped my chain off the chainrings then realized I had NO chain! I stopped and dismounted and saw the chain dangling on the rear derailleur.

I saw a man walking and asked for assistance. I just needed someone there as I was breathing hard and shakey. He kindly helped hold my bike as I got out a spare chain link. We both clumbsily worked at fixing my chain when half of the link dropped into the dirt. We spent the next few minutes looking for it. Whoosh… a lot of riders go by.

Finally we found the link. I assembled it. Asked the man if he was with the race. He said “no, just on a walk”. I gave him a hug and went on my way. Next group was my original crowd I had been hanging with… the 2nd place mixed team and Team 89. We flew down the rest of the descent, me a little pensive with the chain.

With only 4-km to go, my chain released again. I stopped and almost thought I was doomed to fix it and might have to “run it in”! Calmly, I coaxed the link back together. Jumped on my bike to another mixed team I hadn’t ridden with yet. A woman that did Tour-Transalp in 2005 with an unknown guy for a partner. They fell in love and have since had two kids! Quite a TA story.

Soon a small group of fast guys swooped us up and took us to the finish in Murau. The sun is out and it is beautifully warm. Made it nice to socialize at the race finish.

I am super pleased with my day. I made the climb up strongly and fixed my own mechanical twice! All in all, if I had finished with the Italians I would have been 3-minutes behind Leah today. The Swiss woman Sandra in 3rd place almost caught up to me with finishing 2-min back. (I found out she lives in Switzerland near where the famous Einsidein -Iron Bike- mountain bike race starts. That race is Sep 28… hmmm…. possibilities.)

I only lost 8-minutes with fixing my chain which was a good lesson for me for another time. I again did not bring a chain tool with me. I fortunately had the spare link and that was all I needed this time. I have been carrying a tiny Crankbrothers pump with me in case of a 2nd flat. I have one CO2 cartridge with me. I thought that was a step up in gear for me!

Murau has a historical town in its city centre. I could see the old rock wall around part of it when I biked to my hotel. Tough to pre-book accom in Murau and I ended up with a crazy nice 4-star hotel. I’m writing this as I’m sitting in my clean bathrobe on the balcony in the sun with the mountain view! It’s rare I get this opp.

Leah is still storming up the front. Team Tanner were excited to finish well and have a good day together. Erin is an awesome climber and Sandra a speedy descender. They split up at times and catch up later.

Off to check out the old town!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

DAY 5 – Must Stay in the Draft!

Last night’s dinner party was definitely one of the best I’ve seen of all TAs. All-you-can-eat pan-fried chicken with side dishes and mega desserts. Only dish lacking was a green veggie. All the Cdn gals devoured quite a few chicken pieces except for Leah with her own Tupperware conconction. Tanner and Greg took a few days off support duty to go hiking in Italy so we won't see them until Sat.

It seems like the smaller the village, the bigger the food spread and excitement at the event. Same goes for at home as I doubt many Albertan residents know Transrockies exists though Canmore, Fernie and Invermere residents are probably well atuned.

Finally I had my first great night’s sleep. Must have been the fried chicken!

The joke was that Day 5 would only take us 2-hours. Well, I was finished in 2 ½ hours though it wasn’t a super easy effort. It was a day where staying in the draft was critical or it would be pretty lonely in the headwinds.

The morning started with a dense fog in the village at 0C! One of our coldest starts. Bummer the race didn’t start 2 hours later as it would be a short race day and temps would be warmer later (race plans for the later start next year). The first 15-kms ventured the scenic route thru a few villages until we hit the open highway. The race opened up once we hit the first climb which was a reasonable grade average 8%.

I just dropped off the pace of Leah’s group and barely hung onto the group with Team Paola Pezzo. I slipped off but had one guy for company which helped as we rode and groaned next to each other.

I was super happy to have a strong guy to follow on the descent. We picked up two more riders on the fast descent and one guy caught us. We worked together with me mostly hiding at the back of the pack on the descents. I put in an effort but my 49-kg was no match against gravity and the headwind vs the bigger boys.

Going fast thru one village, a driver got confused with one of the race flagman and DEAD-stopped in front of us. The rider I was following just barely escaped by swerving left around the car, and I miraculously escaped with millimeters from the rider colliding into me. Phew!

On the 3-D demonstration last night, the course didn’t look exciting. Yet as we rode, the scenery was outstanding especially as we approached the mountains high above us. The first view of the glaciers clinging onto the side of the mtn near Fitzmoos was breathtaking. Half-way the roads seemed to continuously gently climb at 3-4%.

Our little group split again on one of the climbs. We could see a small group with Team Paola Pezzo in it just a couple hundred metres ahead. So close yet so far.

The ride on the mountain roads was beautiful and quaint. My group of three worked together to the last fast descent into Ramsau am Dachstein. Most racers sat outside and nibbled on a cold pasta meal, and chatted. It was the most social time we’ve had post-race with the short finish time. It was abit cool sitting outside though the sunshine kept us warm.

My B&B is only 400m away. Super quiet and peaceful here. I was eyeing some of the goats in the yard wondering about access to raw goat milk! One of my recovery drinks calls for it though it is hard to come by. (photo- my b&b on right, farmhouse with goats, free range chickens and teeny horses on left) Hope my morning egg came from one of those happy chickens!
Pic of the huge mountain Dachstein that looks very typical of a Canadian Rocky mountain. This area looks like a fun place to explore with hikes and bike rides.
Sidenote on gear… Each racer was provided a huge bag for their gear, clothing and personal stuff. The race organization then transports all the bags to where the racers are staying each night. In advance, we needed to provide them our booked list of accom. It is so nice to ride up to my home for the night with my bag waiting for me. The only downside is my bag has to be outside by 7 a.m. each morning for the race organization to pick up. That leaves no last minute decisions on clothing choice as the weather changes from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. race start time. After I put my bag outside at 7 a.m., I then walk to breakfast at the B&B in my socks!

DAY 4 – Survived wickedly tough 3-peak climb!

Most of the 3700 metre elevation gain came 2/3 of the way into the race with climbing to 3 peaks Glockenhütte, Eisenthalhöhe, and Schönfeld. Each had a super wicked Cdn-temp cold descent with major twists, turns and speed. The first climb was manageable. The second climb was bare-able and the third one plain hurt as I was depleted.

The descents in between were work as one awesome descender (#51) waited for me to descend with him. To save time, I quickly put on my windjacket inside out and was pleased I managed to do the zipper up on the inside. My descender friend tucked in the teeniest position and kept looking back for me to be with him.

It was super nice to get quite a few compliments on my descending skills. My bike worked well with me (thx to the awesome work Jere did with my bike’s headset).

It was a beautiful semi-cool day with the sun out. The scenery going thru the mountains was awesome with the tops dusted lightly with snow. After the first BRUTAL average 18% climb (which is like Cameron Ave that we do on ERTC city circuit) for at least 4-km, racers dispersed and we had similar groupings to the previous day.

I’ve been riding around the top mixed teams though the first place team got away today. Spent a lot time around 2nd place “Team Agapedia Munsterland” with Annika and Joachim. Annika is a strong climber and Joachim at 80 kg has to catch up with her. Joachim and I have climbed together and then I got to follow his descent to catch Annika. Lots of fun!

I did get away on Annika today. When she caught me I put in a good effort to sit in the saddle and spin like a mountain biker to stay with her. It worked for awhile then I went and stand-climbed again.

Excellent comradry with the groups of racers I’ve ridden with. It feels like one big team until we cross the line.

I was so happy to get past the 3rd peak today and work with 3 guys the last 25-km to the finish.

My home for the night is 1-km away in a cute Gasthaus.

The weather looks good for the next few days!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

DAY 3 – A fun rollercoaster day…

Race temp at the start 8C and slightly overcast – typical Alberta weather before I left for Austria. Most everyone overdressed today still pensive about the last two days. At the last minute on the line, I ran over to Greg and gave him my plastic rain jacket and headband.

I dressed almost perfectly for today’s weather donning shortsleeve base layer, jersey, Jeantex windjacket, arm warmers, shorts with pockets, knee warmers. Overkill were the long wool socks. I usually put Vaseline on my exposed shins. Didn’t have any so I used the Coconut Oil I brought as an added food supplement (to fatten me up). Nice layer for warmth and bonus with that extra coconut smell!

I broke out the pristine white SIDI carbon shoes though they were hidden away underneath the Pearl Izumi booties. The shoes were awesome… totally comfortable on the climbs and whole race. I went a smidgeon too large in size when I ordered them. Found I had a good fit if I cinched them up with my foot further forward, otherwise a little movement only when walking.

4-km neutral start through the town then, boom, we hit the wall of 16% ugliness. Off Leah went and the women on two mixed teams and a whole bunch of men. Finally, racers stopped passing me and I was settled amongst a core group of my pace of climbers. I relaxed and kept my heartrate low. We had two of this wall climbs within the first 20-km.

Team 89 was awesome to follow. After the climbs we had a shockingly fast descent with sections of bombing straight roads. I was too scared to look down to see my max speed (was 80 kph) as my bike was close to speed wobbles if I didn’t hold her steady. A flat section had our group grow to about 10 riders.

Next climb was a good Canadian highway grade of 7% average. My group was a little slow. I jumped to catch up to a solo rider 100 metres ahead. He had my same pace. Once we hit the descent, I had to work hard and stay within a foot of his draft due to the wind and my 50x12 gearing. I got gapped by another foot and sadly watched him drift away.

The next pack soon caught me that had 3 strong Italian guys from “Team Paola Pezzo”. They got the guys rolling fast together. The road was gently descending, swooping around corners with ups and downs. It was like my favourite kind of mountain bike course with a lot of action. I was confident in the Italians fast cornering and laughed when we hit a sharp curve and they all hollered “whoaaaa” in unison. It was at a fartlek pace whenever we had a steep roller climb ahead of us. I was working hard in spots to just latch onto them before the next descent (though loved it!)

On one twisty corner we came smack into a man herding his cows down the road. Inevitable for this to happen somewhere on these small roads, so we squeezed through the cows and continued on.

I caught bits of the scenic villages we swooped through. It was the most fun road I’ve ridden in a long time. I was pleased with my confident cornering thinking how much easier it was on dry pavement versus the wet Day 1.

After the last wicked twisty descent, we had 25-km of mostly flat headwind road to Tropolach. The pack worked mostly together with a few lulls. We had around 20 riders cross the finish together.

Excitement at the pasta party with the Cdn women’s team working their way into the Leader’s Jersey.

photo - Canadian leaders jersey wearers on right
I stayed at the race hotel called Cube-Nassfeld. It is a huge concrete building with the rooms all little cubes designed for athletics. My room was long and narrow with 4 bunk beds and a long skinny shelve the whole length of the room. The front entrance way was a huge gear room for skis/bikes whatever. The gear room was warm for drying. It was great to shuffle all my gear the whole length of the shelve. When I heard there were washers I was the first one to use them. After wearing different combinations of all the scant few warm clothes I brought, I was very happy to have clean clothes!
photos - The Cube - gear room, bunks, shelves

Pasta party dinner – best so far with “roasted chickens”!! It was fun sharing stories of the day with the Cdn gals. Leah wanted me to add into the blog how I carry a plastic container with me to the pasta dinner to take leftovers for lunch the next day. This is a trick I learned from Erik’s La Ruta tips.

Once the race ends in the early afternoon, I have my recovery drink and nibble on the previous night’s leftovers. Venture off for a massage with the amazing Michael who I’ve seen at this race the last few years. Then shuffle gear in prep for the next day. I attempt to get online though the internet access has been limited in the ski towns. The race organization is working mostly by air-card. I must look into one of those things.

The awards ceremony is not as extravagant as it has been in the past with the music and flowers. Real quick, get the teams up there and individuals then on with Uli’s pre-race 3-D satellite course description and photos of the day. Oh yeah, each night the talks are TOTALLY in German, nadda English. As per request, Uli has a small private briefing with the small group of English speaking racers… after 1 hour of pure German talk. Oh well, we get to ask him direct specific questions about the course.
For the most part, I am having a relaxing time with super training in the middle. With 1/3 of the racers solo athletes, there is more openness to communication amongst racers.
Day 4 is a super tough day with 3700 metres :0 of ascent in 144-km. Most of the wicked climbs are at the end of the day. Expected to be at least a 6-hour day. Weather will be a little warmer, fall temps. Looks like fun on the 3D satellite map!

Day 2 – Lounging in Lienz

I arrived late to load my bike to get transport to Lienz. The lineup was already full of all the racers and their bikes. The buses were double-decker with trailers to haul the bikes. To speed things up, I found a spot underneath in the bus storage that would fit bikes upright. I lured all the people with small frames and we started loading our own bikes. (photo - check the snow under the cloud-line)Joerg managed to get us seats at the front of the top of the double-decker. The views were great. It was scary whenever the bus turned a sharp corner as we came inches away from trees and buildings. The scenery was nice though it was a little disappointing not to see a lot of snow on the drive to Lienz. The weather was warmer once we went over the pass and down the other side of the mountain. The mountain road we were to ride today was open to vehicles. Just a bummer the race was called off.

At Lienz, we arrived around noon. We were served goulash soup and sandwiches for lunch, which was unexpected and nice. I found my accommodation at a private house 1 km away. I had thoughts to go for a bike ride though riding in the bigger city wasn’t as appealing as lounging and taking a nap. I really needed the rest. Browsing Day 3’s race course, I decided to take the next day’s race at a training pace on the first two monster wall climbs within the first 20-km. (photo in Lienz)At the evening pasta parties, I’ve been hanging out with Leah and her mom, and two other Canadian women racing on "Team Tanner", Erin McGann and Sandra Foweraker. Erin’s family, daughter Tanner (7-yr) and partner Greg, are here as well taking interesting side tours while we’re racing. (photo - Marg, Leah, Tanner, Erin, Sandra)We concluded the big city Lienz was our least favourite place for the pasta party and accommodation. Our favourite place so far was teeny Neukirchen, each of us having very personable hosts at different B&Bs.

Leah’s mom has been searching for roasted chickens for us but hasn’t had success yet!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rainy Day 1

Clothing - highlight for the day!

Weather for race day was forecasted for rain rain and more rain. The predictions were correct in the temps starting at 4C. I went over my gear choices several times deciding on the best options for staying warm (but not too warm) on a rainy 120-km road ride day. Finally, even moments before racing I ended up with:

  • longsleeve winter base layer with thick fleece for the front side (Louis Garneau product too small for Diana - thx!), colourful neon orange Jeantex jersey (huge, they ran out of small), arm warmers, a Jeantex windjacket and a clear plastic rainjacket (quickly patched with clear tape on a critical area I ripped that morning)

  • I didn't bring anything but shorts and knee warmers... so I used my SKINS compression tights as my base layer with shorts and knee warmers on top. I wanted to save my compression tights for post muscle recovery but wow, they were awesome to wear during an event. Bummer they had to be subjected to the harsh road elements as their lifespan isn't great. I wore them underneath as they are super tight and my shorts have pockets on the sides excellent for easy access to food stored. Set-up was comfy with no chafing.

  • long wool socks, old shoes (had to go with what I was used to in harsh conditions), Pearl Izumi tight plastic wind covers, and at the last minute bulky MEC rain booties

  • lightweight Helly Hansen toque underneath my helmet, Adidas Supernova eyewear with clear/cloud lense for full visibility

  • very cool Louis Garneau warm gloves with nanu-type covers for the fingers to shield from wind.

  • Camelbak with sports drink; easy access to water.
This was the most gear I EVER wore in a bike race. I was comfortable the whole time and didn't remove anything. After the very first descent, my fingers were cold in my now rain soaked gloves. At intervals I sat on one hand as I rode to warm up my fingers. Once my fingers warmed up, they stayed warm. I also took a small bag of extra clothes stored in ziploc bags with me. I didn't have to access it, but took comfort in knowing I had warm dry items if needed.
With such a small group of racers (around 300) it was a very relaxed group with no anxiety in the starting corrals. As we hung out waiting for the start, we all chatted and gave each other support in how we would brave this day and get thru the elements. Leah Goldstein, an awesome Olympic calibre racer from Canada (with Israeli dual citizenship) and I hung out at the start.
We had a 15-km neutral start to get us to the first climb of the day. Fastest neutral start I've ever had at TA which helped keep me warm except for the water spray from bikes ahead. I was just starting to get cold the last few km before we were let loose. I welcomed the climb until, boom, I hit the 16% grade... my least fav grade. Riders started passing me and I saw Leah make her way forth. The climb went on at that grade and I found my rear tire slipping while I was stand-climbing. I did not get any distant views for scenery though did pass by many cute houses and villages.
Fortunately, it was a consistent light rain the whole time and no downpours. The first descent was challenging with the visibility only 20 metres ahead on twisty corners (like Costa Rica descent from the Volcano). I purposely stayed behind a rider to follow his lead as corners came unknowingly quick. I might have gone too fast if I went on my own. I could sense my brake pads diminishing already. At the bottom I grouped up with a couple guys on the flat sections, each pulling through to the front leading. We then dispersed up the next climb to the eventual crest.
I followed a good descender only to lose him to wait for his partner. The next long while I rode on my own until they caught back up to me. It was an effort to get food from my shorts pockets to eat with my nanu-type finger gloves on. I made the effort and ate all my food and had most of my drink. The only thing I missed out on was replenishing salt as it was not possible to grab those tablets while riding (and I needed them later!).
Finally, the last long climb of the day, I took my pace like I was on a relaxed solo road ride. Cresting the top I had a fun fast descent taking as much speed as I could see the road ahead - sometimes I felt like I was on my cross-bike. Many corners had a man with flag warning us of the curve. With my speedy descent, I had to brake harder just before the corner to take the corner safely. Not once did I feel my wheels skid out (put on new Vittoria Evo Pros). The descending was nowhere as difficult as I had experienced at TA 2006 on the rainy descents in Italy.
At the end of the last huge descent, one team I had been with sporadically finally caught up and gave a huge draft to follow in the last flat 8-km. An unexpected crossing up and over a steep bike bridge caught my legs by surprise and I got that inevitable cramp in my left adductor. I was caught between quickly relaxing my leg to release the cramp and not wanting to lose my draft. Doh, I had to drop my pace and relax my leg. I didn't want to straggle in alone in the wind not knowing when the next team would come from behind. I was stubborn and stood on my pedals and kept my leg straight as I hammered forward. The cramp released. They were just ahead. I counted 20 pedal strokes, and again and again, and grinned and beared it and finally caught them. Yay as we coasted into the finish. Ended up with only 25% of my brand new brake pads left!
I stayed at a cute private zimmer near the centre, close to the race massage. The woman at the zimmer had us hang our wet clothes in the warm furnace room for drying. The pasta dinner was at a hall up the gondola at 2250 metres. Once the gondola reached the top, the rain from below turned to snow (photo Joerg & Marg).
When I left the pasta dinner a couple hours later, the ground and trees were laden snow. Photo from gondola entrance as it was too dark for a good pic.

Tomorrow's race was cancelled as the passes Großglockner and Iselsberg would not be passable. The race organization was providing busses to transport us and our bikes to Lienz. I would have welcomed the challenge to ride up the pass but definitely not down.
In the end, I'm content with the extra recovery day. My sleep has been super light since the first good night sleep I had after arriving by plane. Keeping aware of any past symptoms reoccuring preventing my recovery as my throat is abit sore. Leah was still keen to get a road ride in later today and have me join her.
Off to catch Day 2 race bus!