Editor’s note: The is is a 7-day mountain bike stage race that, this year, begins in Mayrhofen, Austria, passes through Switzerland, and ends in Riva del Garda, Italy. The will traverse the European Alps on a combination of trails, gravel roads, and a smattering of paved roads. Approximately 600 two-person teams from some 40 countries (teams that must finish each stage within two minutes of each other) will be at the start line on July 16.
Join the adventure as Elevate Partner and Coach Jay English shares his experience through daily dispatches. Follow along as the members post to social media using #elevatephwtransalp (kikin_mtb, bikeworksabq, jayenglish42)
As I write this 7 days before we leave Albuquerque for the BIKE TransAlp, my bags and bike are nearly packed and travel details are set — well, all but the hotel.
Whether we will have hotel rooms in all the stage towns is not clear at this point. But I’m not too worried; we will figure it out and it’s all part of the adventure.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The journey to the starting line of the Bike TransAlp began in the winter of 2016 when Mario Fuentes-Zaragoza asked me to join him on the epic ride as his coach. It didn’t take long for me to say “yes.”
Fast forward to today and, unfortunately, Mario will not be joining us. But because of his vision, we have a solid group of riders entered.
When I found myself without a teammate, Dan Swinton of Bikeworks stepped up. Dan is known in the cycling community as a very strong climber, a master of suffering, and a great dude. We had just put together a racing team for the season with Bikeworks, so the addition of Dan to the TransAlp squad was a natural. And he said yes.
As with most of the great Mountain Bike Stage Races in the world, each stage is done with two-person teams — each stage must be started and completed with a partner. This started as a safety measure as the race traverses extreme and remote terrain.
With modern communication technology I’m not sure partners are necessary, but this cool tradition remains.
In March, serious training appeared on our calendars. With nearly 60,000 feet of climbing on the race route, the focus of the riding program included a fair amount of going uphill.
The first stage will include the two biggest climbs I have ever done, back to back to total over 10,000 ft of elevation gain. That is like riding up to Sandia Crest from Albuquerque twice, on a mountain bike.
To be honest, the sheer amount of climbing on the route caused a bit of anxiety. But as the riding volume kicked up and I started to get up earlier and earlier to do climbing repeats what fear I had gave way to motivation and anticipation.
Training hours in the plan I laid out for the group ranged from nine in the early weeks of March to about 16 in the past few weeks. The vertical feet gained since March is about 210,000 (8 times up Everest)
Early in the season, Kikin Garibay, Roberto Barron and I did the three-day TransRockies Moab Race together, along with other folks from our Elevate community. I have coached Roberto and Kikin for a couple of race seasons now and helped Roberto get through an injury late in the game. Roberto is improving on the mountain bike and becoming a climber. Kikin has transformed into an animal and is the poster boy for having a great attitude, and being dedicated and consistent. He has performed well enough early in the season to get an invitation to be a domistique for a Mexican pro team during a 5 stage road race in Costa Rico.
My goal all along has been to make the most of this experience by keeping it enjoyable and working my training into my life as a husband, father business owner and coach. I feel ready now; ready for the struggle, the pain, experience, and the camaraderie.
Dan and I are arriving for the TransAlp three days early to allow for travel and shake some jet lag. Enrique and Roberto will be joining us the day before the race start.
A distant cousin of mine, Birgit, (whom I have never met) has been helping with some of the logistics from our arrival in Frankfurt to our start day.
When we arrive we will make our way to a town outside of Munich to meet and stay with Birgit and her family. My Grandmother’s family was displaced by the second World War, and some of the family returned and resettled back in Germany. My grandmother had told me how her father (Birgit and my great grandfather) had been a committed mountaineer and climbed some of the most aggressive routes in the Alps. The family connection and history that is connected to this race is special.
So, there you have it. A very compressed 6 months of training and preparation for an epic trip and bike race. I’ve been riding since I was 5, and the bike has always been the center of freedom and adventure for me. This appears to be my biggest adventure to date.