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09-07-2024 | Eveline van der Hek

TOUR Transalp: Challenging and stunning

In 7 stages, 800 kilometers, 17,000 meters of elevation across the Alps. Or rather, across the Dolomites, from Lienz (Austria) to Riva del Garda (Italy). Figures that capture the imagination. We're talking about the TOUR Transalp. A seven-day gran fondo for individual riders and duos (mixed or unmixed) with mass start, timekeeping, and classifications. With The Ride already in our legs and only four real rest days between the two events, we took the test.

Cyclists starting the TOUR Transalp

Different types of participants

Jasper and I participated as Team CycloWorld, which we renamed Team Cozy before the start. I currently pedal less watts per kilo than is ideal. Besides, we have no podium ambitions. We mainly wanted to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and reach the finish line. We soon discovered that there are two types of participants. The classification riders who like to measure themselves against others and those who, like us, take their time and need to finish the Transalp. I estimate both groups to be about the same size. We saw many different nationalities around us, ranging from Canada to Japan and from Denmark to Italy.

Scenic view of the Dolomites during TOUR Transalp

Beautiful routes

Biking in the Dolomites is like cycling through a guidebook. The scenery is truly magnificent, and not enjoying it is impossible. Lienz and Riva del Garda are some 180 kilometers apart as the crow flies. So the organizers had plenty of room to string together many beautiful roads and cols and divide them into seven stages. These differed in distance and meters of elevation, but a first day with "only" 73 kilometers and over 2,000 meters of elevation gave a good idea of what to expect for the rest of the week. Few free kilometers and regularly tough gradients in the double digits. The Pordoi, Falzarego, Fedaia, and monster climb Monte Grappa were in the route this year. In addition, we often topped something that had no name. The reward was always great, as many wonderful descents and beautiful views followed.

Drone shot of the scenic route during TOUR Transalp


The organization pays great attention to safety and care of both bike and rider. At many intersections, there were traffic controllers, of which at least 99% did their job well and stopped the traffic in front of us. On the first descent of stage six, Jasper crashed, and we were able to test the assistance ourselves. Once downhill, we stopped one of the cars, and appropriate action was taken immediately. The fall was not severe, but one of the shifters had to be straightened and a few scrapes disinfected. All in all, it took us half an hour, and everything was fixed. Because of this, we ended up in the back of the field that day and found that motards from the organization regularly came by to provide assistance where necessary.

On the way, we were able to refill water and sports drinks at two refreshment stations each stage and eat some fruit, nuts, and cake. There was also plenty of food and drink available after the finish line. In most finish villages, the locals had arranged sandwiches and bottles of soft drinks. Special mention here for the volunteers from San Zenone degli Ezzelini, who were ready with a fresh pasta meal after the queen's ride. Divine!

Cyclists preparing to start a stage of the TOUR Transalp


During the Transalp, you can arrange your own lodging, use the Transalp Camp, or have your hotels provided by Host Events. We chose the latter because of the convenience and comfort of a good bed. I have enough experience with multi-day trips involving camping, and I dare say now that a hotel offers a lot of added value, especially when it comes to resting well. Hotel Seegarten in Kaltern even managed to get us from 'demolished' status to 'ultimate vacation feeling' status after the sixth stage.

Selfie taken by participants during the TOUR Transalp

Hotels do come with a price tag. As an alternative, Transalp Camp offers a whole week of lodging and breakfast in local (sports) venues for €200. Raymond de Lange won a starting ticket for the Transalp at CycloWorld earlier this year and tested the Camp:

'Tour Transalp Camp is an adventure. We slept with about 50 men and women in sports halls, a theater, and a youth hostel and shared some toilets and showers with sometimes hot water. The togetherness is great; everyone helps each other, and you get a school camp feeling. Everywhere clothes are hanging to dry, phones and bike computers are lying together like a plate of spaghetti. From 9 p.m., everyone is in bed, and at 5 a.m., the first one wakes up, who then wakes one after the other. Most have breakfast at the designated location, some in their sleeping bags. An hour before the start, the bag must be dropped off so it can be transported to the finish location. In the beginning, it is uncomfortable, but after two days, you don't know any better, and living from a sports bag is fine. The food is reasonable to good, often pasta in the evening and bread in the morning.'

A few critical remarks

First of all, the TOUR Transalp is highly recommended. However, I do see a few points that could be different and better. On several climbs, the grooming station was located where it was 8% or more uphill. It is preferable not to interrupt a climb, and getting back on at such percentages is not pleasant for everyone, especially when there is other traffic. The exception was Monte Grappa. In a climb of almost 30 kilometers at a temperature above 30 degrees, the average cyclist cannot make it on two water bottles. There was no house, bar, or anything to refill, and the organization's cars and bikes were saying no to the guy behind us asking if they carried water. We had just enough together, but it is really irresponsible not to make extra water available in such circumstances.

Drone shot of the TOUR Transalp route

Furthermore, I have never cycled anywhere where there were so many empty gels on the road. Dozens of them every day. That should be able to change, although of course, the organization can do little about this.

In conclusion, the organization is very focused on the classification. That's where all the attention goes. Not everyone is so fast that they finish before the podium ceremony at 3:00 pm. It's no problem if you miss it, but it is a pity that the activities on the finish grounds fizzle out after that ceremony. The same goes for the expressions on social media. Lots of the same images of groups of cyclists riding in the vanguard. For me, the real hero is also in the rear. The rider who sometimes crawls up but keeps going meter by meter. No support from groups that keep him out of the wind, but rather enjoying the road he covers. Proudly crossing the finish line because this stage too can be ticked off the list. An event like this could not exist without these participants.

Cyclists crossing the finish line of the TOUR Transalp

On the other hand, the mutual support is great. Every day, for example, we meet the ladies and gentlemen from Berghem and the men from 9th Wave Cycling. During a climb, at a care station, or after the finish, a word of encouragement, uplifting words, or a good joke, and you're ready to go again.

Final verdict

From start to finish, the event is well organized. You will be treated to routes that are as challenging as they are beautiful. Whichever category you belong to, it is clear that the Transalp is not for the faint-hearted. With the necessary hours on the bike in preparation, perseverance, and enough love for climbing and descending, you get an experience that will stay with you for a long time. Tip: registering early can save you a few hundred euros.

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