The Transformation Begins
July 2002 — Ischgl to Nauders
It is interesting to see how people transform as we continue to race across the mountains. Today we ascend one of the highest passes of the Trans Alp. People feel tired and are apprehensive before the next climb which crests at 2700+ meters.
It is raining when we get up. Perfect weather for climbing. The climb is steep and we will be above the tree line again. Even with a steep grade, the traction is exceptional, creating an opportunity for me to recover without stopping but once. I forewarned Kurt that we would stop to let my left leg recover before asking it to sit in threshold/plus for three hours straight.
Luck is on our aside as this climb has waves in it allowing me to recover on the bike. The final 16%-plus grade for the next 1.6 kilometers looks very rideable therefore we assault the grade, taking a few short breathers to let my heart rate come below anaerobic.
The air smells of lichen and damp rock; we are definitively in the alpine. No trees here. At the top we eat quickly and put on warm clothes. I'm thankful that my fiancè, who was my support "team," made sure I ate well the night before. I feel better than I expected after yesterday's fool-hearted maneuver on the first Stage 2 climb.
At the bottom of the long descent we are on a groomed XC trail ridding high above the valley floor. Tunnels are everywhere. We cross into Switzerland on a main road and notice the sharp, rocky fjord-like valleys. Down a bike path, cross a bridge and start another climb, eventually bringing us back into Austria. More tunnels, more roots and fun, a quick break to eat, and shoot back to the finish in Nauders.
I remember a U.S. racer, Tim from Alabama, on Stage 2 said he thought was going to be racing but was more focused on finishing. Competition here is brutal but our main competition will always be ourselves. Each subsequent day I saw Tim he looked like he was falling more into a rhythm with the mountains. A very important transformation, without it, the race becomes hell.
— Brett Wolfe, MountainZone.com Correspondent