The first stage went from Reschensee to Zernez over a distance of 76.93 kilometers with 1374m+. An easy stage to start with the course director reported during the briefing the night before. In beautiful surroundings with a clear blue sky, the first 9.6 km were neutralized with a circuit around the Reschensee. After more than 12 kilometers, the descent of the Reschenpass followed in the direction of Nauders. From Nauders starts the first short climb of a good kilometer towards the Norbertshöhe.
The tactic of Team CycloWorld was to start at the front of our starting section (B) and then try to stay in the front group. Start section A had started 3 minutes earlier but at the end of the neutralization we were connected to the tail of the group that had started in start section A. The pace was good and within 3 minutes we were on top of the Norbertshöhe. I had to ride a little red but Andries pulled me through. This was followed by a 6 km descent in which I was able to recover, as planned, in a large group. After a few kilometers of false flat uphill followed the climb to Sent. Here too I tried to climb with the group but had to work harder than planned. The heart rates went up also due to the sun was shining heavily on the riders.
After a short descent there was a 5km climb. We decided to slow down a bit and consolidate our position, Paris is still far, they say in the Tour de France. Andries helped me to climb at a steady pace. Meanwhile, he could take pictures and make friends with a Danish team that was going up at the same pace. The last climb was also taken without going full gas. We could not catch up with the groups in front of us and not much was happening behind us either. In the descent we were able to join a group in front of us so we could ride the last 10 kilometers to the finish without losing much energy. The last few kilometers Andries took the front of the group to prevent us from being overtaken by other teams.
After the first stage, Team CycloWorld is in 5th place in the Grand Masters category with 20 seconds behind the number 3. We'll see what that's worth. Tomorrow it really starts with the queen stage from Zernez to Bormio, 102 kilometers where 2758m+ have to be conquered. This will be done via the Ofenpass and the Stelvio.
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After a well-deserved night's sleep, we reported to starting area A for the second stage of TOUR Transalp. The other 600 participants spread out over the start sections A, B and C according to their classification of the previous day. It all went rather quietly. Partly due to the good organization that transports the necessary luggage between the start and finish places, as a cyclist you don't have to think about anything, race, eat and sleep.
The first 16 kilometers were neutralized due to road works, which was a bit unsettled due to the stop-and-go nature but did allow the legs to be loosened up for today's first serious climb. The Ofenpass: 9.5 kilometers with a gradient of 4.5%. In the meantime, the sun was doing its best and it quickly got warmer. In the long descent and another ten kilometers of false flat going down, there was enough time to prepare for the majestic end of this stage, the Stelvio!
The Stelvio is on the wish list of many a riders and rightly so. This alpine giant takes you in 24 kilometers to an altitude of 2758 meters in a beautiful setting. I wanted to enjoy it but also keep on riding! The first hour went reasonably well but the second hour was hard. The sun was at its highest point and the temperatures rose to 35 degrees. Fortunately, we ride as a team and because we wanted to defend our 5th place in the standings, Andries started pushing me. And that helped. Especially the last few kilometers to the top, we were able to ride reasonably well after we found the right form of pushing.
After the top of the Stelvio, there's a 20 kilometer long descent to the finish place Bormio. To keep it all safe, the clever organization had decided to put the timekeeping of the finish a few kilometers over the top in the descent. This allowed the riders to calmly descend the rest of this traffic-pressured descent. Arriving in Bormio, we were able to enjoy the food and drink that is abundantly available. The first results were also announced quickly and we saw that we had dropped one spot in the classification, from 5th to 6th place.
Full of morale we're going to defend that 6th place. With 5 more stages to go anything can happen! And by the way, our colleague Luc Nouwen is also performing well in the individual category. He's currently at a steady fifth place in the oldest age category.