TCRNo6-Journal, Part 2: From the Start in Geraardsbergen to CP 1 (Bieler Höhe, Silvretta Hochalpenstraße)

For the first time I publish my TCR Race Journal bi-lingual. Suchst du nach der deutschen Version? Folge diesem Link.

Haven’t read the first part yet? You find it here.

I’m relaxed, my route is tried and proven. Whats just before me I did exactly so last year. The location of CP 1 means that we would have to ride east-south-east again. Direction Lake Constance. Which meant that until the River Saar my routing would be identical like for TCRNo5. I also hadn’t any need to make big changes. Across the Ardennes like the crow flies – this was a great choice for me last year. In my preparation I just improved a tiny hook I had to take in Belgium last year because of traffic regulations. My route took my over small and quiet roads through the night. But this also meant I was carefully managing my speed. It would neither make sense to push through every small hill as short it may be nor to hit the deck because you were taking corners too fast where you never could be sure to completely can assess the appearance of grit patches or cow remains and the like in the beam of your light. Or were a car could suddenly appear. This is a game you don’t win in the first night, but you can loose it definitely. 

Known route also means: I know where I can stop for a lie-down. Like at the TCRNo5 I intend to make a short sleeping rest already in the first night to be in a sensible day and night rhythm already right from the start. I’m not that advanced yet that I feel I have it in me to ride straight from the start (or at all) through the night and the following day without any lie-down. I’m afraid that I’m catching a deficit right from the start of such a multiday endeavour. And unnecessarily so where you can go into the day way more refreshed with a short snooze. Emphasis on short! This year I had the resolution (and rehearsed it already on the Three Peaks Bike Race) to sleep a little bit shorter and even more important, get started way earlier in the mornings. Daylight is precious! More on that you can read in the following post already mentioned in part 1 of this journal (it’s written in German, though: Zahlen, Daten, Fakten).

I was surprised that even James Mark Hayden, the winner of the TCRNo5 and who would 8 days later also be the winner of the TCRNo6 mentioned in his concise report series which he just published a few days earlier that he also normally chose to rest in the first night! Just this year he didn’t, he writes. Hm, ok. ;-)

But I did. Yes, shorter like last year and yes, it was a good thing to do. Not only for getting rest but also for fetching a price. With the photo of my first bivy which I made at the exact same small school yard in Agimont like last year I made the third price in the Rider’s Blog:  „MOST UNAPPEALING SLEEP SPOT AWARD – This was a particularly difficult category to narrow down, so many spots that made us appreciate our beds and wonder what on earth made them decide that was the spot to bed down for the night. We narrowed it down to these three: Torsten Frank (#209) stole a tramp’s bed for the night

Same place like last year. But without bench and trash bin. But with added cardboard. :)

It were 114 km and 1.268 metres of climbing for that first stint until Agimont. It took me 5.15 hours. And I slept for 2.75 hours.

Map and elevation profile Stint 1

Early risen and for the immediate break fast I gulp down the first Fanta of the race. And an iced mokka. Both of these I got in the night out of a vending machine I came across unexpectedly.

Warenautomat in der Nacht

I unwrapped an energy bar, hopped on my bike and went off in the morning, chewing.


Stint 2 – Push into the Rhine Basin in baking Heat

I’m getting real breakfast in the same Sandwicherie like last year. In Phillippevill, Namur, Belgium. But this time without stopping for a seat. I order a café au lait pour ici in my pretty rusty schools french and enjoy it standing while my sandwiches a porter are made. Then I’m on my way again. I have learned. :)

A quick Café au lait and the wrapped Baguettes to take away.

Not only this day, no, also nearly the whole race would again prove to be an extreme heat event. And it begins relentless. I stop at gas stations despite still having water. Just because I crave ice-cold coke and new freshly cooled water. Sometime later another gas station stop. Two ice-cold coke, one Cornetto icecream, half a litre of ice-cold water for one bidon and applying sunscreen in the shade.

Around 16:00 o’clock I’m again in Siersburg and stop at the same Eiscafé like in the last year. Now I allow myself a rest and sit down stop. TCR bikes seem to naturally attract each other. Or was it the Eiscafé? In any case I’m getting joined by another participant after half of my icecream bowl. He’s riding a nice 3T Exploro.

Eiscafé Stop in Saarland.

Soon I’m alongside the Saar River and discover that the bike track I want to ride onto is close. This doesn’t deters me – I just continue on the road and soon find the next access to the bike track. Closed bike tracks and bike tracks as such – this should develop as a recurrent theme of the next days. Let me put it this way – some bike tracks and bike lanes are quite nice, yes. But as long as they are put in place only in hindsight and are getting closed haphazardly or used for other purposes to someones liking without declaring it for the (transfer) traffic and clearly caring for providing a workable and signed out circumvention I can’t take them, their planners and the responsible politics seriously. As long as people are just thinking „well, so the cyclist could just ride on the street or could push their bike over this rubbish rubble path“ I ride where I deem it fit. Regardless whether there is a bike lane or bike track or not.

Closed bike tracks and bike tracks as such – this should develop as a recurrent theme of the next days.

But I digress. I love cycling alongside rivers. The Saar Radweg makes no exception. It’s very nice to ride and provides nice views onto the river. Quite effortless I’m riding on my aerobars in a comfortable pace. There an oncoming cyclist is greeting prominently. Hmm, I think. Would this may be a dot-watcher? Well yes, it is. Shortly thereafter he’s catching me up from behind again. Indeed he timed his todays ride so that he would catch me and could join me a bit alongside the river. How cool is that!? Sadly I completely forgot to ask for his name. Here right at Saarbrücken my route has it’s only slip. Instead of further following the cycling track along the Saar right across Saarbrücken and further on I turn right and collecting several not too gentle climbing meters just to follow the beeline towards my destination and joining back on the Saar cycling track a while later. I wonder how that happened. Because I didn’t change my route from last year in this stretch. I probably didn’t pay enough attention to possible komoot.de routing fuck-ups. I routinely double and triple check any route planning I do regardless in which program or website I use. To easy that a last tiny click to nudge the route in one place might lead to a hick-up of the routing algorithm on some other place of the already finished route. It shouldn’t, but it can. Well, that was just a slight bummer here and now. And it was the only one.

Beautiful here at the Saar River in Saargemünd.
And floral decoration they have down here..

But shortly thereafter, a little after the village of Saargemünd I’m effectively leaving familiar TCRNo5 terrain. Now my route is fresh and new for the TCRNo6. I again cross the Vosges hills but more south than the year before. I want to cross them today and want to reach the Rhine basin. Ingwiller in Alsace is the first bigger village which I reach after 16,5 hours in the saddle just shy of eleven o’clock in the evening. Made it! Now where do I finde a nice bivy spot? I always was a kind of a synanthropic species in that I chose places in villages or man made structures to place my sleeping mat rather than onto dripping with dew wet meadows or in forests surrounded by bears and wolves. So I begin looking for secluded and sheltered bus stops with nice benches or supermarket entrances and the like. I’m crossing the outskirts and then the small city but no opportunity comes across. So I quickly open Google Maps on the ever readily positioned iPhone on my cockpit. Uh-huh – there at the roundabout, then turning right I will eventually find some supermarkets. Guess there I can find something. Even before I reach them I find another building with shops and offices at the left and behind it some empty, sheltered parking boxes. Perfect! 

Nicely hidden away from sight and wind I prepare my sleeping spot. It’s 23:15 o’clock, I was on the road for 16.66 hours since my short lie-down in Agimont and out of that 12.3 hours in moving. 292 km and 3.036 metres of climbing.

Map and elevation profile Stint 2

After 5.5 hours sleep I gather my stuff together refreshed, not without documenting my bivy spot beforehand and start the new day.

Biwak in Ingwiller

Stint 3: Across the Black Forest to Lake Constance

„I have a bike, two cold cheeseburgers and a morning! Yo“

That’s the first Tweet I soon sent that day. My first breakfast consists out of cold cheeseburgers from last evening. I enjoy the early morning. Morning haze slowly rises from the meadows. What is also rising are the odd TCR participant here and there. I tweet amused „The hi-viz poppies are blossoming in the meadows…“ after I saw a rider just rising and packing his stuff, clad in fluo yellow. I wave, shout „Hello Good Morning!“ and ride on.

What you don’t find blossoming in the meadows… ;-)

At around 8 o’clock I arrive in Straßburg. Pretty bad idea. Commuter traffic. Many construction sites. Even more traffic lights. Typical inner city cycling lane routing. That winding and abstruse that you stand there, head-shaking and face-palming even in following your pre-planned track in the highest zoom level of your Wahoo and wondering around which corner you are supposed to wrestle your bike now this time again. What a relief when I’m finally crossing the River Rhine and can say Good Riddance to Straßburg!

Picturesque timber framework behind Titanium and Carbon.

On the other side of the Rhine lies the city of Kehl. There I find a great bakery / confectionery with a few tables and chairs outside. Looks rather big inside and has a really wide range of offerings. And a really good coffee. After the first bread roll sandwich and some plum cake I promptly fetch a second big coffee from inside. Then inside again and visiting their toilette. Then also purchased some water there. Well yes, that was a bit of a longer rest, but a very effective breakfast-and- getting-ready-for-the-day rest. Well refreshed and stocked I continue.

One flat tire. And that in Germany. Because of using a cycling track, of course. Go Figure.

Flat across the Rhine basin, through Offenburg and then after Offenburg into the valley of the Kinzig and it following upstream. Part on quite nice cycling tracks part on normal roads. I meet Andrea Polo, Cap #031, again. This time for the first time after the registration where he already greeted me. Very cool. We talk a bit until our respective routes diverge again. Speaking of cycling tracks: one was closed again. Myself and two other riders ignore this barrier. It’s clear that that particular closure is only because of cutting works of trees and bushes. And the twigs and branches which got heedlessly left on the track. No worker to be seen far and wide. While I push my bike alongside the barrier and over the embankment or because of some thorns from the bushes it must have happened – a short while later I realise that my front wheel is getting soft. Damn, I have a flat! But – lo and behold – it should be the only flat tire, why yes the only mechanical at all of my TCRNo6. I can be super satisfied by that. All the more in regard of the really awful roads I would encounter later. One flat tire. And that in Germany. Because of using a cycling track, of course. Go Figure.

Flat tire. The only one.

Ok. I look for some shade and a place to lean my bike to. Out with the front wheel and looking for the hole in the tube. A tiny thorn. With a tubeless setup the sealant would most probably had worked it’s thing and I most probably wouldn’t even have noticed the incident. But if it hadn’t worked then I would have had a rather messy job to do. Because of that I simply rode with a normal clincher setup this year. For the Three Peaks Bike Race I had Vittoria Corsa G+ Clincher Tires (front 25 and back 28 mm) and for the TCR I choose 28 mm Conti GP 4000. The version with the reflective stripe around the side wall. Makes sense for an ultra-race with high amount of riding in the dark. I quickly find the tiny hole but realise that the vulcanising fluid in the little tube is half empty and pretty dried out. Bummer. Newb-Mistake. Because luckily I rarely have a flat tire and when, I’m using those pre-glued patches. You can buy those in tiny, stamp-sized kits and they are rather convenient. So I produce one of those out of my handle bar bag and put it over the hole on my tube. While I carry spare inner tubes, even 4 of them, I don’t want to start using them yet that „early“ in the race. It’s just the second day after all. And besides, they are at the very bottom end of my seat-pack. As well as is my second vulcanising patch kit. You don’t think I would throw in a used and dried out patch kit haphazardly in my kit if I could not rely on a brand new and unopened spare kit, now do you? But – because I’m lazy I just use the pre-glued patch as I just mentioned. Those things normally are good for around ten days or a few weeks even. In the cold of the Winter rather less. But in the extreme heat of the Transcontinental summer also which I find out rather soon right after the next supermarket foodhaul. Or I messed up the glueing area with my half dried vulcanising fluid.

Anyways. My frontwheel was flat again. Ok, this was a sign. Don’t fret. Shouldn’t I rearrange the contents of my seatpack anyhow? I can combine this with rummaging for the spare inner tube. So I pushed my bike further into the shade and inserted a brand new tube in the front wheel. It should be the only thing I had to fix for the whole TCR as I now know. After fixing the tire I went straight away back into the supermarket and got me an icecream and Fanta. Just before that I had two Yoghurt, fresh and cut fruit and iced coffee. Heat!

Gengenbach in the Kinzig Valley, Black Forest. Nice village.

Well, Kinzig valley, Black Forest. Great surroundings. But – this also meant that the next climb wouldn’t be far. Well, it wasn’t. After Hornberg the first real task of the TCRNo6 lies ahead. The Reichenbacher Steige. A bit over 440 metres of climbing with 8 % grade on average produce ample sweat-attacks. I see a few TCR participants. After cresting the heights of the middle Black Forest my route continues a bit rolling a bit flat but all in all slowly descending across the Schwarzwald-Baar county. While crossing this region and Villingen-Schwenningen I’m often repeating my new found mantra which I just came up with today: „Don‘t fret, ped!“ (al). Don’t fret, pedal. It’s just such a great day today. Well yes, quite a scorcher but I won’t complain. I like it. And I had tailwind even. So don’t fret. But the morning traffic in Straßburg, several construction sites and road closings (mostly cycling track closings, mind you) went on my nerves today. But: Don’t fret, ped! :)

„Don’t fret, ped!“

There could well be the next food stop. But strangely right here and now it’s rather forlorn. I’m just crossing small villages and right next to my route no opportunity presents itself. Indeed – even in Bad Dürrheim no immediate road side café, bakery, shop or gas station where my track leads me. And I’m not in need nor willing to diverge even one metre from my track. Something will come up sooner or later. A little later I have success in Unterbaldingen. A small village shop which I would have expected in this character rather in the Balkans then in Germany is directly next to the street. And it has coffee and cake. Hooray!

With this coffee and cake I take place on a rustic wooden table between shop and street:

Cakestop at the village shop

While I just sat down, Johanna and Marion, Cap #255a and b are coming by. Hey, Hello! Some short greeting words but not more, they both don’t seem to be in the mood for stopping right now. I enjoy my coffee and cake, check Twitter and the tracker site. Resting probably for 20 or even 30 Minutes. But nevertheless, right after leaving the small village I see Johanna and Marion on the other side of a big and trafficked road discussing. I wonder what they did all the time while I had my cake? But I’m separated by several lanes from them and on the cycling track on the other side of the road so I ride on. A final climb after Geisingen and then: Whohooo – I can see the mountains! And Lake Constance! Down it goes towards Radolfzell, then onwards to Constance. The heat is hitting me like entering a steamed washkitchen. Was it summerly 29 Degrees Celsius on the top at Geisingen here the mercury is instantly hitting 37 and a bit later 42 Degrees. Whew! Then I reach Constance. I ride up to another TCR participant. He’s from Latvia. But works in London. He’s not made for the heat, he says. Uh – haven’t we seen us this morning in Kehl? Yes, right – there he was pondering shortly whether he should join me while he saw me having breakfast outside of the bakery but decided to continue. He wants to look for a hotel in Constance he says. It would be way cheaper right here than in Switzerland. Oh, right. Switzerland! He’s right. Hmm – the end of the second race day and the third night is looming. Now also I would prefer a hotel or guesthouse night after two bivys. To charge my battery packs and such things.

But right now it’s to early to stop. I want to definitely continue into Switzerland. On the riverside of the Rhine I check Google and booking.com. I calculate how many kilometres I roughly want to ride in the early evening and where that might lead me. Around this area I then look for options for the night. That’s mostly a very quick thing to do. The village of Romanshorn suggests itself. There is even a youth hostel there. Ages since I visited one. But promises all I need (shower, bed, electric current) and is cheap. I called and got confirmation for a room. Albeit a multi-person room. Ok, will do. So now for the food restocking. Back on the main street where I had seen a a big Edeka Supermarket some 100 metres further on. It was a really big one. I tether my bike around a tree in front of it and go shopping. Like always something for immediate consumption and the rest for on the bike. The rest is now a bit more pronounced as it will be my evening meal when in the youth hostel. For the celebration of the day there is even room for a alcohol free beer:

Foodhaul Edeka. Smoothies, Wraps, Orangina, Sandwiches and Couscous-Salad. And alcoholfree Beer.

While I eat my chicken wraps sitting on the pavement Jakub is tweeting me he had found a Vietnamese. Whether we would join for an evening meal. Oh no – bummer, I’m already eating.

Soon thereafter I’m crossing the Rhine via the bicycle bridge at the outlet of Lake Constance. Wow, what a busy goings-on with strolling pedestrians, cyclists, folks playing ball or jumping into the river.

Crossing the River Rhine in the early evening in Constance

I cross the bridge, localise a bank, withdraw some cash from the ATM and continue into Switzerland. The progress is very good over the Lake Constance cycling track and partly over the rather quiet roads. Soon I’m in Romanshorn already and see three TCR participants at a gas station. One of them waves. It’s Jakub. I pull over and we talk a bit. He’s making fun out of my intention to stay in a youth hostel or any real bed, even. He’s a die-hard bivy guy. Oh well – to each his own. ;-)

Shortly thereafter I arrive at the youth hostel. Well yeah – this will prove to be an overnight stop with difficulties! After I lock away my bike (it needs some persuasive powers to bring it in and get the permission to lock it in the outside ladies bathroom which is closed over night instead of just put it between the other „normal“ trekking bikes which are in a not so safe open cage sort of thing) I’m getting told how and where to fetch my bed sheets and towels. I take my „night sack“ which is basically a light drysack in which I keep my tooth brush, tooth paste, wall charger, USB cables, chamois cream, T-Shirt etc.. All this stuff is in there so that I can it quickly pull out of my seat-pack and have it with me, even when my bike is locked somewhere downstairs and I go to my room. This way I also can pack it after waking up and doing my morning stuff and when going back to the bike I’m ready to go and just put the drysack back in the seat-pack, put a bit of sutff in my front handlebar bag and then I’m already good to go again.

Well, so I take my night sack, my purchased food from the supermarket which is in a small pouch on the back and the bed sheets and go upstairs to the multi-bed room. Upstairs means 4 storeys. And no elevator. Aargh! Then downstairs again. The mens showers are on the basement floor. They only open with your key-card. And are timelocked. After 22:00 o’clock they don’t open anymore because of night time noise levels. Aargh No 2. Luckily the host isn’t far and opens the showers for me. I would have been pretty pissed otherwise. Freshly showered I then wanted to have my evening meal while I write a few tweets, upload my Strava file and want to write a few lines to comment on my day and such stuff. But: no cellular network connection! Aargh No 3! The very back of beyond in Switzerland it seems. And there you go and think the Swiss are further ahead of the Germans… The youth hostel has wireless LAN. But only via the services of the local community provider whose login portal couldn’t be moved to send the required password to my phone. In the meantime I already went upstairs and downstairs again for three times to try to solve that issue. To no avail. Oh well, great. Then I go to sleep, I guess. But before I’m going to wash my kit. But then, sleep. No. Way too hot. Attic floor and multi-bed room. To fat ceiling fans stirring the thick pea-soup as boisterous as noneffective. While I have earplugs they only help against the noise, not the heat. I take my pillow and bed sheet and go downstairs all the way to the lower basement. I saw a social environment there with some couches. Well, it’s cozy there, but still to warm for me. Damn! Aargh No 4! Allright then – I guess I shouldn’t let go of bivying: I take my pillow and bedsheet for a second time and wander outside in search for some opportunities. There, a bench in the garden behind the building! So I finally find sleep!

It seems I just can’t let go of sleeping outside…

I originally arrived at 21:35 o’clock in front of the youth hostel. Actual sleeping time was only 6 hours. At least the host couple was very helpful and the breakfast nice. I had a shower, washed my kit and charged up my devices (Power bank, Wahoo, iPhone). Lesson learned: youth hostels aren’t efficient means of overnight rest while in bikepacking races.

245 km, 1.867 metres of climbing, 15.35 hours from start, 10.25 hours moving time.

Map and elevation profile Stint 3

Stint 4: CP 1 Bieler Höhe / Silvretta Hochalpenstraße and Rider on the Storm down the Paznaun Valley and towards Innsbruck

Of course I had to make use of that yummy Swiss breakfast. I have paid for it after all and I had arranged with the host that I could begin early still before the usual breakfast time. He would be there anyway preparing it and making coffee and stuff. At 08:25 o’clock I sit on my bike and press „Start“ on my Wahoo.

A wonderful start into the day alongside the shoreline of Lake Constance! Partly directly at the shoreline via the Lake Constance cycling track, partly over the roads with super smooth Tarmac (ahh, Switzerland! :)) and which where totally quiet. Today is national holiday in Switzerland. Perfect!

Lake Constance

While I often looked out for fountains in vain in Alsace and in the Rhine basin this would now change. Love the alps! The start was made by this drinking water fountain in Thal at Lake Constance which I where thankful for and refilled my bottles with cool water.

Santé

At Lustenau I cross the River Rhine and arrive shortly thereafter in Austria. The first town there is Hohenems. I immediately use a shopping centre to make a stop for a second breakfast. You can’t go wrong with cake. Regardless of time of the day!

You can’t go wrong with cake!

With that heat I’m already in my usual scheme of appetite which I developed last year also. I’m having no fancy for stuff which isn’t creamy, semi liquid or somehow chilled. Hashtag #CaloriesmyWay, Hashtag #eatingcontest.

Today is CP 1 day. It isn’t far anymore. Just behind Feldkirch I’m already in the Montafon. This is the long valley which leads all the way up to the Bieler Höhe, the end point of the CP 1 Parcours. The parcour itself is the climb which is called „Silvretta Hochalpenstraße“ and it’s real start is in the Village of Gaschurn, where the actual Control point is.

I’m making good progress. First through Bludenz. I’m surprised as I see that the familiar Milka chocolate is being made there.

„I’d like to have 5 kg to melt myself, please.“

I now find fountains more often. I like that. If they have such a nice view, all the more:

Montafon fountain

On the half way point between Bludenz and Gaschurn I use the opportunity of a supermarket, I guess, a Lidl, to buy stuff in Schruns. The discovery: Almdudler Ginger & Matcha. Great! Refreshing, slight boost for the immune system, what’s not to like? Well, could have more calories… ;-)

Foodhaul Schruns

A bit later I’m in Gaschurn and at the explorer Hotel which hosts the Control Point. Bam – the first stamp on my Brevet Card

The first stamp on my Brevet-Card. 2 days, 16 hours, 12 Minutes.
The explorer Hotel in Gaschurn was hosting CP 1

Transcontinental Race Control Points are great! Is it just by accident when you meet and see other riders (more often in the first days, way more rare in the later days when the race strings out and the routes may differ more) it is at the Control Points where naturally all routes meet. And therefore  riders come in and go at every time of the day (and night). And not only the riders meet there, of course there is also the crew of the volunteers, manning the CP, provided you reach it before its closing time. So I meet Christopher (lieblingstouren.de) there which I know already from the TCRNo5 and a few Gravel Fondo events in the Black Forest. I can’t remember whether he was an official volunteer or just visited CP 1 to catch the atmosphere and some photos of the participants. Speaking of which I remember never having asked him for the results… Just as I wanted to continue, Svenja, Cap #185 arrives also. I had a nice conversation with her already a bit earlier that day. After a few more words I start into the CP 1 Parcours.

But not without stopping at a kiosk and buying a Calippo ice pop. I press it against neck and forehead first and then lick at it piece for piece in the lower and still gentle rising stretches of the Silvretta Pass.

Cools and provides a few Calories. Licked down below. But took the package all the way up to photograph it. ;-)

Phew – the Bieler Höhe is not to be underestimated! Gradients up to 14 % are pretty demanding in that heat. I’m glad I bought those fruit pulp sachets in Schruns. They are like big and more liquid (but also less calorie dense) energy gels and are similar convenient but more readily available nowadays in supermarkets. There’s few other stuff I could have used to fuel me on the go on these steep stretches while riding continuously. I never actually researched the elevation profile of the Silvretta Pass. How bad could it be? This is no bragging but I love riding alpine passes and if they are not somewhat renowned for being especially steep bitches there is no need to get too much involved in the elevation profile. Just show up, know roughly how long the climb is and simply ride up and enjoy! So I didn’t expect to ride that steep stretches for that long. I tweet

„Silvretta, du Sau! Wow! I don‘t know if I ever climbed that steep for so long! In any case never with all that gear. Near the end of Parcours CP 1 at the Bieler Höhe.“

And I think to myself in the light of quite a few discussions on facebook and other social media that the knee caps of quite a few fellow riders won’t be amused. The Silvreatta Hochalpenstraße is a toll road already in its lower stretches. But there I found there wasn’t any nice view and only construction site traffic. I was wondering at that time for what a car driver should shell out their money. But a bit further up I could accept the reason. There were quite a few steep hairpins and a very nice view for the money:

Silvretta-Hairpins.

After I finally reach the top and see the pass summit signpost I have to make a selfie, of course.

Me, slightly flushed after arrival on top of the Bieler Höhe

Then I continue to a viewing platform and the beginning of the dam. There it is, the Silvretta dam. I take in the view and make more photos:

At the Silvretta dam. Parcours 1 done!

I waiver the possibility to visit the restaurant or bistro there and rather continue after having a banana. Onwards and downhill from here. I plan to visit the first opportunity in the next village. Be it a café or a supermarket.

This next village is Galtür. I find a café right next to the street but I don’t like the facilities there. You can only sit inside and away from sight of the only place where you can leave your bike. And no nice opportunities to lock it up around there. Because of this I immediately continue after assessing the situation.

Attention, dear Café and Bistro owners. This one is valid as well for bikepacking races as for the sunday stroll by bike: Provide nice and sound opportunities to lock up valuable and delicate road bikes (they have different needs than that heavy clunker your nice might have) in the immediate view of your potential guests which would love to leave their money at your place. Provided we find such opportunities. If not, we just continue (caveat – does not apply for starved TCR riders in the middle of the balkans. But everywhere else. ;-)).

But this doesn’t slow me down more than one circle with my bike in front of that café. Immediately  after this I encounter a small supermarket. Lock up my bike, enter it quick and gather things to eat. Before the cashier a rather long queue. Damn… Oh well, doesn’t matter. I down the first yoghurt while waiting. Then drinking half the bottle of Almdudler. After this I pay and continue eating outside. Two more milkrice bowls get inhaled. I even found Powerbar Gels and took a few to restock my reserve.

Foodhaul Galtür. At least the stuff which survived my waiting on the line for the cashier.

Just as I’m again on my bike I quite surprised. Where has the sun gone? The sky in front of me suddenly closes pretty fast with clouds. Gazing back and it looks even more aweful. First thick drops are hitting me. Ok – a quick decision. I don’t try to wait in Galtür or at the bus shelter I just stopped at to pull out my rain jacket. But rather I continue and try to stay ahead of that storm front or better to get out of it again in the first place. It’s a race, after all! So directly I continue downhill the valley.

View down the Paznaun.

Some ferocious gusts are developing. Luckily they blow down the valley. So they help me, but are unpredictable at times. In my head a mind melange from diverse pop and scifi-culture is forming. Some bits of „Riders on the Storm“ and something along the lines of „once, as we fought the Orion wars and have ridden pulsar fronts…“

In Ischgl I take the wrong exit out of a roundabout and have to turn back. Good heavens – I only have to ride some 40 metres up the valley and the rain is hitting my face hard. I really have to fight against the wind. I then turn my steed in the roundabout right again and have to be vigilant not to fall over. Then again downwards the valley. Also over unpaved roads. The main road features a row of tunnels which are normally allowed for cyclists (at the very least in downhill direction) and probably also rather safe. But they were deemed unsafe by the race organisation which only has the best of intentions for us riders and for a safe race and so these tunnels in the Paznaun were declared as banned for us participants. Well, in the Paznaun these tunnels often are without a real alternative. At least a paved one. But ok, rules are rules and me and my bikes aren’t made of sugar.

Somewhat further downhill I’m finally completely out of the rain front. But not yet out of the valley. That part promised another treat for us riders. Of course also the last tunnel out of the valley was officially banned. The only available diversion consisted of the following: Enter the first metres of the tunnel gallery, then turning immediately right down the gorge and then crossing the Trisanna River over an old derelict bridge and a similar derelict road up steep on the other side of the gorge again. Whohoo. ;-) At least it provided the opportunity for another great photo subject!

Wild romantic Trisanna Gorge.
Up left is the gallery and tunnel which we mustn’t take.

In all that wild hounding I completely forgot to look for the power status of my Wahoo. Which, as good as this device is, doesn’t alert you when it’s power is low. Usually I plug my battery pack in after 10 to 12 hours so that it recharges again. This I had forgot today. Bah – if it’s not on Strava, id didn’t happen! Not without my data. So I stopped, plugged the device in, waited until the Wahoo had restarted and rebuild the file and began a new file. 

Soon thereafter I’m at the vicinity of Imst but continue right towards Innsbruck which I won’t reach today. On a small hill near Ötztal-Bahnhof a cyclist with bikepacking gear is turning into my route via a roundabout. It’s Malte, cap # 36 which I meet for the first time here. We talk a bit but not for long since the road is a main road and it is going downhill again. Not ideal to ride abreast and talk to each other. I let him go and ride after him in ample non-drafting distance. He’s got quite a pace I think to myself. To turn up to him again would mean I had to invest more Watts then I really wanted to spend. I also needed new water so I stop in Silz when I see a road side fountain there to refill my bottles. Soon thereafter also my stomach grumbles. Yeah, something warm to eat would indeed be nice now. There has to be a Burger King or McDonalds in Telfs, I think. Yes, there is, Google Maps is confirming. But I have to cross the River Inn and ride into the center of Telfs. Those 2 km in sum there and back are worth it for me. Google very conviniently provides the the way-finding to the McDonalds. Amongst other things such close range navigation off my pre-planned route is the reason why I have my iPhone prominently on my cockpit.

I have just taken place on one of the outside tables with my Burger menu as another TCR rider arrives. Of course – you either meet at Control Points or at McDonalds… ;-) It’s Anisa Aubin, Cap #21! I already met her in the TCRNo5. This was at the very end where I just had scratched in Bulgaria and was on my way to Sofia. There I met her somewhere in between at a gas station. She was downright sick and was in company with another TCR rider who took her into his care sort of for the time being. I got told a wild story on getting her out of the company of some men who wasn’t so clear whether they helped her or not while she was struck by food poisoning. I just had overcome a similar condition but was better again. She then looked like I the day before but was adamant to reach the goal. Which she did!

This year she more or less happened to visit Geraardsbergen out of a whim and talked the Race organisers in letting her start. Lo and behold – knowing Anisa, her toughness and always open to amazing stories and encouraging women to participate – they gave her the permission. And so Anisa was part of the TCRNo6 and was now in Telfs at the McDonalds. And her shifting was broken. A third TCR participant joined us a bit later. We exchanged stories and near time plans. I wanted to continue into the night, as far to Innsbruck as I could. And I hoped that the weather would stay ok. Anisa wanted to take the opportunity to visit a bike shop next morning in Telfs so looked out for a hotel. Smart choice. I myself, continuing riding through the night, illuminated by heat lightning pretty soon found me beneath real lightning and thunder. Thick drops began to form. That was in the village of Hatting just before Inzing. I rolled through the village on the look out for sheltered places to place my sleeping mat and bivy. The bus stops I encountered weren’t to my liking. An entrance of a public library was tested but deemed to be too visible from the street for my taste. After a bit of circling I ended up in the entrance area of a public community building. Not ideal, but ok. The wind would sweep the whole night over the foot area of my ultralight bivy but the rain wouldn’t reach me. And the place in front of the entrance was a bit secluded.

Bivy in Hatting

At 22:52 o’clock I stop my Wahoo, make my night time sleeping place and read the diverse social media and looking at the tracker site while already lying down. Around me the thunderstorm is continuing. It’s Wednesday, 1st of August. I reached and left behind me CP 1 today, have ridden 232 km and climbed 2.475 vertical metres. This took 14,5 hours travel time which consisted of 12 hours of moving time:

Map and elevation profile Stint 4 a and b

That’s it for this chapter and part two of my TCRNo6 Journal. My journal will continue soon with the way from Innsbruck to CP2 in Slovenia and thereafter back north into Austria again!

Up till then, happy training and big ring it!

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