We woke early at our comfy B&B lodging in Villabruna in order to savor the beautiful, humid Veneto morning and get ready for what would easily be the fastest day of the TransAlp. This was one day we would not have to worry about whether or not to take a vest or rain cape, as the it was already 25 degrees C when we began to pack the car for the short drive to the start in Feltre. I like hot weather and after the fickle conditions of the high Dolomiti I was ready for some heat and humidity.
The course was somewhat downhill in the beginning making for ridiculously high speeds – nearly 50kph for the first hour – and more than a few accidents and close calls. One week of riding in the mountains had not taught the less experienced how to ride in a big bunch and this, coupled with a week’s worth of fatigue, made for scary ride. Eric had the outside of his Sidi grazed off in the first big shunt, which didn’t seem to actually hurt anyone. I spent about an hour of the race chatting with him, in between bouts of extreme fear for my safety.
Once in a while, a local rider would jump into the bunch and just ride along, always without a helmet, hair perfectly gelled, and, curiously, always with a ritzy pair of racing clinchers. One fellow was on Zipp 404s and another on Mavic Cosmics. I have begun to think that most young Italian riders actually train on their expensive aero racing wheels. Or, perhaps they all have sets of Lightweights tucked away for their Sunday adventures? All I know is that I can't afford to train on wheels like that!
Eventually, the roads turned into flat, levee-top farm paths, giving a somewhat Flandrian feel to the whole event. Gone were the mountains, and in their place heat, wind, and tiny, rough roads snaking through orchards and wheat fields. It was beautiful and I was happy as I no longer had to haul my 80kg body up mountains and could finally put the hurt on the midgets who had been torturing me all week.
So, put the hurt on them I did as we constantly had to close gaps left by others in order to stay in the main group. Christoph, not being a regular bike racer, had a bit of trouble with the repeated accelerations, but we managed to stay in the game rather well. The confusion came in the feed zones where many had stopped for water and food. This led to mass confusion and lots of hammering to get back to the bunch. Eventually, we all settled into our groups and carried on towards Bibione.
I pulled the rookie move of the week by showing up at the start without any food in my pockets. The two bottles of energy drink I had didn't last long and as the temperature rose to 37 degrees C, I was soon out of fluid. A quick refill stop at the second feed took care of that until about 20km from the end where a generous hand-up from the Sparkasse support guys got me the last bottle of water I would need. I begged some food off a nice Milanese fellow in our group and about 15 minutes after that, I was all set to hammer into Bibione.
And hammer we did as neither Christoph or myself could wait to get home safely. Christoph's family had driven down from Munich to see him finish and Stacey was there as well, having already had the first of her two refreshing dips in the Adriatic.
It was both a relief and a feeling of great accomplishment to ride over the line together after a tough week of Alpine racing. Christoph and family headed out for a week of R&R in Siena, while Stacey and I made a beeline for the nearest gelateria. Ah....Italia!