I knew the Salzkammergut Trophy “Extreme” distance event was going to be tough. With 211 kilometres and about 25,000 feet of climbing it was probably going to be one of the toughest days on an MTB I’ve ever had. In spite of the stats, I had one eye on the fact I’m racing in a 24 hour race in two weeks so I planned to work hard, but not so hard that I buried myself. I wanted to recover in a couple of days rather than a couple of weeks.
The race itself was sandwiched in between a couple of 1000 mile drives in Guy’s van. The first leg will be remembered for the inexplicable delay in a ‘really busy’ but at the same time COMPLETELY EMPTY Channel Tunnel terminal and a subsequent mad dash to Munich to pick Guy up from the airport and then another mad dash through the rest of Germany and across Austria to make it to Bad Goisern to get signed in with less than an hour to spare.
Thirty hours had passed between me leaving my front door and us arriving at the campsite.
I forgot my tent. I’d left it at home. Bugger.
Martin the race organiser made a phone call to his mate who owns a camping shop. When I eventually found the shop the kindly Austrian gent unlocked the door (the shop was shut) and tried to sell me a 400 Euro expedition tent. I thought about the tent that would no doubt provide a means of survival in the worst weather the Alps could throw at you and the comfy, flat football pitch we were camping on and bought a bivvy bag instead. I was glad I’d forgot the tent – the night sky was an incredible sight, I wasn’t cold and I slept like a log.
Good job really. The race starts at 5am so the pre-race faff/panic/poo queue starts at 4am. Lee was lucky to be starting the shorter race at 11am but got up anyway to see us off.
Sam, Guy and me made it to the start line (about 500 metres down the road) with 5 minutes to spare. We were hundreds of riders away from the front of the race but it didn’t matter – we were here to enjoy the ride, have a laugh and enjoy the views.
I’d forgot how congested the first climb and offroad section can be when you’re nowhere near the front. I struggled to stay upright while trackstanding in a crowd of mountain bikers and mountain bikes that was slowly winching itself uphill. Every so often a small gap would appear and I’d ride faster for two or three seconds and overtake someone. This went on for an hour before we reached the first feed station. Cheese, sausage, bread, cake, carbohydrate drink, water, fruit…this wasn’t a UK feed station. There was a chance that we’d gain weight in this race.
After messing about for half an hour fixing a puncture in Guy’s front tyre we set off again and maintained the ‘moderate’ pace.
Another massive gravel downhill. A bit of nadgery, rooty singletrack. Some Germans walking with a pair of English pillocks shouting “Actung! Actung!” at them. Another massive, hour-long climb. More climbing. Another feed station. We stopped at all of the feed stations. I developed an addiction to the Austrian Pepperami-alike sausage.
The 30 degree heat eventually made the feed station sausage cheese turn unto Dairylea.
Then some more climbing.
Then a long flat bit along the banks of a lake.
Then the steepest climb on tarmac I’ve ever seen. Apparently it’s 43% at its steepest point, so I’ve no idea how anyone laid tarmac on a hill like that and I can’t imagine what sort of vehicle would drive up or down it. Anyway, this climb went on for what seemed like hours and hours.
Guy dropped back at this point and I pressed on – not because I was showing off or anything like that, I just wanted this damn race to be over as quickly as possible. I’d been struggling with the heat all day long and if I’m honest I was getting BORED OF CLIMBING HILLS NOW. After a slightly-contrived last few miles where the course got a bit ‘down the back of the garages’, the damn race ended and I flopped into the finish line paddling pool.
Yes. A finish line paddling pool.
Guy and Sam rolled back in a while later in the middle of a massive downpour of rain.
Next year I’ll hopefully return to the Salzkammergut Trophy. While I don’t regret treating it as a nice, social, day-out-with-my-mates this year, I’ll take a very lightweight bike (instead of a very lovely but not-super-light steel bike) and I’ll have a go at getting ‘round as fast as I can next time.
14 hours is an ok time I think (and I was 1st Brit) but it’d be interesting to see how much faster I could do it if I ignored the scenery, used the feeds sparingly and chatted less.
After a swift steak and chips, we drove back home in the van, which only took 23 hours….