When I tell people I’m from the Netherlands and I love mountain biking I usually see a big question-mark appear on their faces.
Mountain biking, Netherlands? How do you do it? It’s a flat country, right?
Yes it is. Unfortunately. But what if two road cyclists from the Netherlands decide to ride the big climb-fest Transalp, would they survive?
Maurits Buist and Henk Bos (Team #87 Habitat Mountainbike-team) give you an inside look into their TransAlp 2015:
For Henk en Maurits it was the first time to ride the Bike Transalp. And also to ride such a long stage-race in general.
Maurits: “Normally we ride road classics with a duration similar to the Transalp – 4 to 6 hours. But the race intensity of these races was nothing compared to a 7-day mountain bike stage race with more then 100 kilometers per day.
In preparation to the road-race season we did a lot of mountain bike beach races to stay active and fit during the winter period. To be better prepared we also did some marathon races like the bike marathons from in Riva and Willingen. Furthermore we did some downhill training with the technical trainer (Gert Tholen) of our team Habitat, a UCI Elite Mountainbike team.
The team gave us the chance to ride the Transalp as a supporting team for two mountain bike big-shots. Unfortunately one team had to cancel the race last minute so we needed to adapt our role, now being team #2, and had to focus more on the actual results instead of just being a test case for 2016.
Our fitness was adjusted and we were a bit more skilled in riding through mountain areas quickly. But with the new focus on performance we had to rethink our tactics.
Well then, there you are. Ready for stage #1 of the Craft Bike Transalp. 102 Kilometers in length and 2200 meters of altitude from Ruhpolding to Saalfelden. It occurred to me how nervous I was, but not too annoying as I can sometimes get before a start. The first stage I was just particularly curious.
The first two stages went pretty good. Our plan was to save our legs in the first 3 stages and start to go faster from stage 4. This did not happen however. Stage 1 to Saalfelden and stage 2 to Mitterstill went well. We lost 4 precious minutes during stage 1, as we needed to wait for a guarded level crossing. Doing an average of 37 an hour for 40 kilometers this was not a very welcome interruption. Too bad for this energy output…
The next stage we both suffered a lot from the heath. Our race gloves for example are fully ventilated and always work great but this time they felt like an oven. We drank more than 7 bottles every stage, but that did not prevent a collapse in stage 3.
Then came the ‘queens stage’ with a true hiking trail in the first climb. It was such a tough section. The heat was killing me, so to keep moving Henk decided to carry my bike as well. We were able to overtake some riders in the downhills and finished in the top-40. But not with a big smile on our faces.
Despite the awesome trails, the fantastic ‘beach weather’ and beautiful mountain surroundings my focus was on Henk’s rear wheel the upcoming days. I managed to hang in but a rank in the general classification was far out of sight.
We did everything in our power to be as good as we possibly could.
Our rhythm after the races was: Get hydrated with carbohydrates, have a good protein drink from Born sports care, do a little spin on the bike to get the legs loose on our way to the hotel. Our sports physiotherapist became our buddy this week. Rutger had fixed us a small meal after we where showered. After a short nap we started to clean our bikes and give them a careful inspection. Lubricating the chain and checking brake pads was our daily routine. Then came the tires. We tested a new tire sealant from an English firm. Shortly after having prepared the bikes, we got back to the hotel to get a massage and rest.
Later in the evening we joined the organizer’s pasta party. Afterwards we had a small walk and prepared the water-bottles for the next day. Every morning we had breakfast 2 hours before the start, got dressed and rode to the start boxes.
It all comes to an end.
The final stage to Riva was a special one. We have been there several times for the bike marathon, but this time the finish was in sight and apparently that last thought of finishing provided a bit more strength. Henk a.k.a high-speed-train paced over the flat sections. I could only stay on his wheel. In the climbs we could give it a bit of a push and we were hitting it in the downhill sections. Here we overtook more than 20 teams.
With less than 500 meters to go Henk started to sprint. We were near the finish!
Conclusion: we’ve made it, fine final rank with zero flats. In seven days from Ruhpolding to Riva, 611 kilometers and almost 20.000 meters of altitude.
Next year we will definitely be back with a better preparation for extremely hot weather.”