Stage Seven: It's My Birthday And I'll Ride If I Want To
Our race strategy was determined by the lack of accommodation at Andalo (the stage finish) as well as Jon's health. Jon was happy to ride from the "C block" at the back of the field while I joined the "A block" again at the front of the field. Once over the finish line I would head straight for the Tourist Information Centre to find accommodation for the night.
There was the usual start to the stage - up, up, and up again. The 23km climb from Kaltern (at 400m) to Graunerjoch (at 1,800m) was mostly on fire-roads and it proved to be a real slog. Before he reached the summit, Jon was sick again. The "trigger point" was around 1,500m, as on previous stages.
Once over the summit the descent was fast and furious, an exciting combination of fire-roads, single-track and some very rocky sections that caused numerous punctures. All the riders in the "A block" are skilled mountain bikers, even those who would no doubt regard their spiritual home as the road rather than the trail. The only "hazards" are therefore those thrown up by the trail. In contrast, riding from the "C block" Jon encountered both natural and man-made hazards. The downhill skills displayed by some riders are not only a danger to themselves but to other riders.
After the long descent there was a 15km section of road that climbed steadily through orchards that were heavy with summer fruits. The temperature also climbed steadily and the second feed-station was still 10km away. Riding with a Camelbak Racebak I had plenty of fluids on board, but other riders took every opportunity to take on water - from local farmers, spectators at the side of the road and even the village fountain.
It seemed odd to place the second, and final, feed-station just 10km from the finish, but it soon became apparent why as we started the final climb of the day. The trail rose from 500m to 1,100m in just 5-6km. Some sections were impossible to pedal even in the granny ring. In the mid-day heat this short climb to the finish pushed many riders to the point of exhaustion, especially those who failed to take on sufficient water at the final feed-station.
The small town of Andelo was fully booked, so after the race we faced another 5km ride to the town of Molveno to find accommodation. Thankfully the ride was downhill all the way. Tomorrow morning, of course, we will start the day with a 5km climb back to Andalo before the final stage even begins.
Pete & Jon's sponsors: