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TransAlp Stages 3-7

Stage 3 was modest-enough looking on a course profile, no massive pyramid shapes immediately catching your eye.

However, upon a closer look you could see this was for a lack of climbing but rather the absence of the down slope of said pyramids. The stage began with a long climb as is typical when you start in these little villages nestled in hollows between mountains. Among the lessons we learned in the first two days was to get to the starting grid early so that we could be at the front of our corral. We had unfortunately missed making the A2 start corral by a few places so we were among the faster riders in the B corral, and getting stuck at the back of it was maddening. This meant being done warming up a good 45-50 minutes before race start to snag a good position. We went out for about 20 minutes with some tempo to be ready to climb straightaway. The climbing began at a solid pace with several mixed teams around us. As the grade sorted things out, we got into a group of two other mixed teams. After yesterday’s successful teamwork at the end, we were feeling pretty motivated and getting much better at riding in sync. Good teamwork is like anything in life: best accomplished by being completely honest, being there for each other, and accepting help when you need it. Any bravado would quickly be called out by the unrelenting mountains. Jeff was great at pushing us to stay with those teams to the top of the 14 mile climb, I was suffering like I had not yet suffered this race, and really wanted throw in the towel, or throw something at Jeff, but I trusted his confidence that we could sustain the effort, and made use of his jersey pocket on a number of occasions. Finally, we passed one team on a single track, while the other team gapped us out of sight on their way to passing several other teams too.

After this long climb, there was no descent; rather, the course hit us with short punchy climb after short punchy climb. By punchy climbs I mean a succession of 1/4 to 1/3 mile segments at 20%, 24%, 26%, and 16%, if you’re into numbers. Many were walking, but we managed to grind up them with only one dab each. As blow after blow hit our legs, Jeff began to curse and yell and I talked him off the cliff a few times. Jeff quickly repaid this by talking me along the cliff.

The race description read:

"From the Alp it’s shortly a very steep climb towards Passo del Gallo, …and soon merges into a shallow, rapidly moving zigzag path in the airy coniferous forest. Overlooking the turquoise illuminating Lago di Livigno resting in its bed. That’s a stretch, which deserves more than the highest score on a scale. Here landscape and driving pleasure defy any categorization. Only at the end you have to overcome a ditch on a, by the spring thaw repeatedly battered, path where the bike - depending on the condition of the road - may needs to be carried.” (Side note: this is why I don’t let my students use Google Translate)

What the description omitted was the lack of any sort of barrier between oneself and a several hundred foot plunge down a rocky ravine to the “turquoise illuminating Lago” as you pedaled on a foot and a half wide dirt bench cut trail.

“Don’t look at anything but my wheel” Jeff ordered. So truth be told I missed out on the “landscape and driving pleasure” but retained my bones in 206 pieces so all in all that was a success.