MountainZone.combike transalp 

Stage 8
Mood is Good
July 2002 — Andalo to Riva
Preview  Intro  Stages: [1]  [2]  [3]  [4]  [5]  [6]  [7]  [8]  [Wrap]

Trans Alp
Stage 8 Photos
Mood is good on the last day. I chatted with Chris Eatough earlier and he and his racing partner, Jeremiah Bishop, the top U.S. riders, were trying for a Stage 8 win. They were going to try make the gap on the descent. The majority of the competition we encountered could climb like mountain goats but they rode ultra conservative on the downhills unlike some of us who preferred to let gravity do all the work after being punished for the climb.

Chris and Jeremiah had a successful race but not without drama. They hit an auto, but recovered to make it to the line for a stage win. The warm-up is short and steep but has great traction, only a 200-meter hill and then down and... Aargh!!! While passing the racing crews on the descent I get my first flat in eight days. We fix it and race into another town, across another reservoir followed by rollers and arrive at the steep climb. We accelerate knowing that there is supposed to be hiking ahead.

"A quick road descent leads us to what is considered one the most demanding technical sections, a long -29% grade straight down...."

Eventually we are parked again as people bottleneck in a difficult section. Kurt tells me to accelerate as the trail opens up to get ahead of the crowd before we get to the steep descent. The wet rocks afford no traction. I try to negotiate my way past hiking riders who are supportive and polite. I accidentally bottleneck a few people on short hiking section. Drats. But everyone is supportive and not worried about the few seconds lost. We start to circumnavigate the ridge. More stellar views. More steep loose ascents force me off the bike in half hop/run trying to keep the pace.

A quick road descent leads us to what is considered one the most demanding technical sections, a long -29% grade straight down, freefall, to the valley floor. I am not sure if it really even was a trail. We quickly descend with hands bruised and forearms burning with lactic acid to keep the bike in control. Freefalling is incredible fun.

My partner falls but is up and running despite a busted hand. Riders blow by us in packs as I try to keep my leg intact. The wind is fierce, my racing partner and now faithful domestique does his best Belgian/Dutch transformation by creating a draft to get me to the line quickly. With two flats and a crash we still pull in our best stage finish of 153 out of 218.

Brett Wolfe, Correspondent