Stage 5: Highway To Hell
After 3,364m of climbing yesterday, we were treated to 3,297m today. More than half the climbing on today's stage was accumulated on just one climb from Waidbruck to Gasteiger Sattel. The climb itself came in two stages, an hour on the road and then around 40-50 minutes on fire-roads. After a climb of this magnitude you begin to wonder what could possibly redeem the day's stage. The answer was some of the best single-track you could imagine, a fantastic combination of technical rocky sections, off-camber forest trails, and wicked descents with your bum on the back wheel.
The stage started from St Christina with a steady 5km climb (400m ascent). Our plan was to set a steady rhythm in a comfortable heart rate zone, but it wasn't long before Jon's body was telling him that he hadn't fully recovered from the virus he picked up earlier in the week. After 50 minutes, Jon pulled over to the side of the trail, short of breath with his heart rate way up in the red zone. After a brief conversation we decided that I would ride on alone and Jon would turn his heart rate monitor off!
The big climb of the day was actually quite enjoyable. There is something masochistic about riding a climb from 500m to just short of 2,200m. If you ride with a smile on your face then the kilometres fly by - all 20 of them. The last 8km were along fire-roads, which proved to be extremely difficult to pedal. Once over the summit there was a short descent and then one final climb before the single-track heaven.
It was at this point that Jon's day really went "Pete Tong". Having conquered the big climb, a spoke popped out of his rear wheel on the first short descent before the final climb. The start of the long descent into Sarnthein was a ridiculously steep and rocky section where more spokes popped out of the nipples on Jon's rear wheel. It wasn't long before only a handful of spokes remained connected to the rim, which was now severely buckled. Just for good measure, three spokes popped out of the front wheel. It was a long walk - just over 17km - to Sarnthein. The final 100m was a rather amusing "wobble" on the bike over the finish line. My day turned out to be rather enjoyable. Jon's day really was a "highway to hell".
However, such is the great camaraderie at the TransAlp Jon will be able to ride later in the week after the mechanics from Cube bikes swopped his tubeless tyres, brake discs and rear cassette onto a set of spare wheels. While Jon was sorting out his bike at the Cube technical support stand, my bike was being serviced free of charge by Scott.
Pete & Jon's sponsors: