Friday, 31 July 2009

Day 3 - Highway to Hell.

Mayrhofen to Brixen

Today's stage is the longest in the race. 95kms but only 2122m of climbing. The catch is that pretty much all that ascent is concentrated into one single climb. It's a pretty stark reality - ride uphill for 30kms then ride downhill for 65kms. There are one or two "blips" on the downhill where the trail goes up for a wee while, but apart from that it's pretty much like freewheeling all the way from Inverness to Invergarry, albeit reaching speeds of 84km/h on some of the steeper bits.

Of course, being a race, no-one is much bothered about freewheeling and we spend most of the road sections tagging onto fast chain-gangs to maximise speed and minimise effort. The descent is initially on fast gravel tracks which Dave seems to thrive on. I try to go as fast as I dare but the penalty for messing it up on the loose corners is always at the back of my mind and I find myself holding back a wee bit. The danger is the front wheel breaking away on the loose stuff and the skill is to trust the traction through the racing line where the road has been swept clear. Dave is good at this - I'm not, lacking the necessary flow.

The climb gives a good insight into how to pace ourselves for the week. It's on tarmac initially then onto steep gravel switchbacks. There's even some singletrack but everyone is off their bikes and walking creating a huge bottleneck. All a bit frustrating. Eventually we reach the dam below the pass at Pfitscherjoch and there's a feed station. Beyond this it gets steep and rocky; great technical riding which we manage quite a bit of despite the legions of pushing Europeans getting in the way.

The stage finishes in the Cathedral square in Brixen and it feels good to barrel into town through the cheering crowds. Longest day done, but Hell is just around the corner on the next stage...

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