It’s always exciting to wake up the morning of a race day. Today was no exception. Butterflies during breakfast and no problem to get out of bed when the alarm went off. After a good dose of oatmeal for long lasting energy (and a sure toilet visit) we drove down to Imst and searched for the starting area. We thought we knew where it was, but we were wrong. So a little after our planned schedule to be at start when the lineup opened, but no drama.
The reason we stressed this a little bit today was that they had seeded starting numbers into following boxes: A1 (elite), A2 (>100), B (100-200), C (200+). With our starting number at 291 A&B we were placed in box C the first stage and we had no plans to be standing here the next days. After the start went at 9:00 we had to wait some time for first the A1/2 and then the B group to get away before they let our group go.
So it was a fast chase with just a short jog as warmup to overtake as many as possible before the climb started. Good for us that I have some experience in maneuvering these fields of cyclists, and Sture followed my moves well. Before the race went full gass we had contact with the elite bunch of the race.
When the gradient ramped up we found ourselves in the first of today’s three major climbs. We found our rhythm and pace, but maybe overdid it a little the first one. Going hard equals burning a lot of sugars and the glycogen stores are a scarce resource. One important “skill” in a stage race is always to stay on top of your nutrition and fluid intake. Try not to get dehydrated and not to run low (or empty) of sugars. A hard efforts digs deep in the sugar depots.
After the first climb I was really happy with our tempo. We were picking places of other teams going a bit too fast from the start and fading backwards. As a team we also worked well together on the flat transport section until the second climb which was a longer, steeper gravel climb. We got some new bottles handed to us by our trusty serviceman and prepared to climb again.
The power was not as great as the first climb, but we were not the only team feeling the effort from the last one. So we kept climbing steady at a relatively good pace with just a few teams overtaking us. Sture had lost a few energy bars and started to run a bit low, so I force-fed him some more to keep the power coming all the way till the top.
The following descent was a bit faster and more technical on gravel roads to begin with, then transitioning to forest road and finishing on single trail with some mud. I’m happy to say that my teammate and road cyclist is picking up MTB skills rather fast and keeps well up also in the more technical descents. Hopefully the learning curve continues so we can ride with confidence in the more challenging descents later in Italy.
On the last flat section taking us into a visit in Switzerland we were pushing team time trail modus on some wet asphalt roads. At one point we went through a wet tunnel and heard some motorcycles entering the tunnel behind us. Suddenly we heard some odd noises of scratch* bang* slide* and turned our heads to see what was happening behind us. The driver came sliding alongside his moto. I don’t really get what he did to make that happen, but I figure he must have come a bit too fast and used front brake to adjust. Not the best idea on wet asphalt..
Final feed station was a short stop-and-go to top up a bottle and get in some energy for the final climb up to Nauders. The gradient was not as brutal as the second and longer climb, and it also eased off towards the top – so the more tired our legs got, the more gentle the climb. That was niiice 🙂 The last km’s to Nauders was easy rolling gravel downhill with some single track before a 500m ramp up to town.
We finished our first stage together at 4:32 and I think overall 48th position and 12th in master (30+) category. Good start for us. We try to enjoy the scenery also between all the hard work and most of all have fun. Tomorrow is the queen stage (the hardest one) and the weather Gods have not yet decided what to bring for us. We will see tomorrow.