Todays race was exceptionally hard, I was riding my single speed fat bike, the Surly Pugsley. I haven’t weighed it but I’m sure it weighs somewhere around 14 – 15 kilos. But it’S fun to ride! More so when the surface you’re riding on is soft and deep, like snow, sand and mud. Today we had no snow and no sand but a little bit of mud. I found out that the big 3,8 Nates can be leaned way over in slippery turns and still have enough traction to rail the corner.
Author Archives: phillipfogg
Grenzsteintrophy 2013 the fourth lesson
A lot of excitment leading up to this event, as usual. I felt I was mentally prepared and had all my gear down, I just didn’t feel physically top fit. None the less we, Team mate and good friend Michael Cleveland, headed up to Baltic port of Travemünde. We meet with some of the other racers at a local eatery in town and talked about gear and the Tour Divide Race.
After a fitful nights sleep we were up and ready to depart. A quick coffee and pastery at a bakery and we went to the ferry to get across the river to where the start was.
We all gathered at a secluded beach and took pictures until it was time to leave. These events never really feel like a real race at the start, the pace is not too high so if you want you could ride up with the lead group. I decicded to go purposely slow to conserve energy for the coming days.
I’m not going to draw this out and do a minute by minute account of my race, I’m just going to tell how it ended and throw in some pictures.
Day one went really good. Made it past Dannenberg and bivi’d in the woods with Jeff Tomassetti, from Florida. 226 km.
Day two started out good but through overgrown trails and really shitty logging roads became somewhat frustrating, also the heat was killing us; it got up close to 36°C latter in the day. Got a room and took a shower! Felt great afterwards. At dinner I ordered a non-alchoholic beer and wondered why it tasted so good, only to realize that it was a real beer! Got a good buzz off it J
200 km. on the day.
Day three was a tough one; started good but then took a wrong turn and ended up doing 30 bonus km’s. Some monotonous tank plate sections in the brutal heat with a tailwind sucked all the energy out of me. Then the long a extremely brutal climb up and over the Brocken mountain took the rest out of me for the day. My little finger on my left hand started to go numb. Found a great B&B in a quaint town in the Harz Mtns.
Day four was maybe the most brutal, a relentless up and down all day 125 km and 2600 meters of climbing. I’ve had big days, more km and more vert but this one really kicked my booty! No really big climbs just a lot of them. Got another room/shower and an awesome meal. Felt like a human again. Except the little finger and ring finger of my right hand was starting to go numb, the left was the same.
Day five; another hard day? Hell yes! More relentless terrain, steep hills; too steep for my gearing. Even too steep for Casper who had a Sram 1×11 set up. His front chainring was a 22T, and the biggest rear cog, 42! He still had to push. Saw more beautiful country, and places that I have never been.
Got a big burst of motivation when we came to my section of the GST, I though, heck yeah! I got this! Later in the afternoon I started to think otherwise. Why punish myself like this? I wasn’t havingfun anymore; it was great having a riding partner like Casper and we talked about all kinds of stuff but the riding was not fun. A lot of the route was along overgrown trails and old loggin roads that I avoid when I ride. To me it seemed like the other scouts wanted to make it artificially hard. Isn’t riding your loaded bike self-supported off road for 1250km hard enough? Anyways, I made my decision to stop even if I had just over 300 km to go. In the end it was the best decision for me to make. My hands were getting worse, my right was going lame, I didn’t have the dexterity in it any more. So call me a wimp and quitter but I don’t care, my health is more important than a finish.
I made a couple of good friends and I learned again, for the fourth time, that multi-day self-supported racing is not for me. I’ll stick with one day races from now on.
Like to thank some of Big Wheel Racing’s sponsors; Jelle at Singlespeed.nl, Supernova lights, Geax tires, Effetto Mariposa for their superior tire sealant, The Sock Guy, Osprey Packs, Spok Werks and Crema Cycles. I had no issuses with any of my gear; everthing worked just the way it’s supposed to.
This past Sunday, the 21st of April I did some scouting for this year’s Grenzsteintrophy selfsupported race. The route has been revised and refined since 2011; with the goal of making it a bit more rideable and enjoyable. If that’s at all possible for a multi-day self-supported race. Up until 2011 the followed almost 100% of the old patrol roads from the East German border guards. They consist of cement slabs that are about 10 feet long and 3 to 4 feet wide, have four rows of slots that are 8 inches long and 2.8 wide. This means you have a path that is littered with pot holes, kind of like a wash boarded road. So the idea behind the re-route was to eliminate most of the worse sections of the “Plattenweg” as they’re called in German. There is still quite a bit though because they are part of the experience.
I parked the car at 835 meters; this meant that I’d have to climb back up later in the day. Scouting an area for rideable dirt and gravel roads sounds easy but it’s not. I went down three dead ends before I found a good dirt road that didn’t end in nirvana. The morning temps were a bit cool but I had enough warm clothes to wear. The gradually warmed up and I shed layers as the day progressed.
One of the places I was suppose to take my track through was the Statue Park outside of the little town of Eussenhausen. Interesting memorial.
Then I found some single track, barely rideable with a fully loaded bike. That will keep the other GST’ers on their toes!
I fineally ended my days scouting in the Bavarian town of Melchstadt. Then I had to ride back to the car, only 30 km but a 400 meter climb at the end. It wasn’t too bad though, I had my mtb with gears. On a fully loaded singlespeed it would have been a pusher.
Stats for the day; 100 km, 1600 vert. meters.
Ok, this is the final post of our Via Claudia trans alp trip. It’s been over two months since we got back, so I’m pretty late in getting this in. But..
After leaving that shit hole for a hotel in Cles, we made our way towards Lake Garda, It was to be our last day on the road. Susanne was a bit shelled after the big climb the day before and she mentioned not wanting to do any big climbs, so I looked at the map and decided that we needed to get back into the Adige river valley and follow the “Via Claudia” bike path. It took longer than I expected and we had a few “bonus” miles and vertical because of an error in navigation on my part
Once on the bike path we made good time, stopping only once for a well needed lunch at a café bar in Trento. After the lunch the rain started up, only as a slight drizzle though. The temps were in the mid 70’s so at least it wasn’t cold.
The few miles we had a minor climb and then downhill to the lake. Reaching Torbole was a great feeling for us both and we stayed there for two days before getting shuttled back to our car in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The time went by so fast that before I knew it we were back in Germany. We both had a great time and want to go back for another Alp-X trip next summer.
Nothing like waking up in the morning with the whole day ahead of to ride your bike to some unknown destination. Today was totally new country for me so I was excited about what the day would bring. I was also curious as to how Susanne would handle the big climb of the day; 1150 meters and approx. 30 km.
First off, in the next town, the one we had to go through to get to the pass, was a religious procession going on. After asking a policeman we push our bikes past.
The frist hour or so of the climb went well, with Susanne riding her own pace and I think enjoying it. We stopped and had a snack and relaxed for a few minutes and then continued on. Then Susanne started to get frustrated at the climb, and I had to coax her into riding farther and not stopping. We reached a restaurant about 5 km’s from the top and had a second break. The last few km’s were a breeze and soon we were going downhill, after more than three hours of grinding our way up to the top of the Gampen Pass. The rest of the afternoon was mostly downhill to the town of Cles. A pretty Italian town in the midst of mountains. We weren’t so lucky in finding a decent room for the night but what the heck, it’s just one night. We had a great dinner though at a nice family
60 km and 1570 meters was what we rode that day.
Day 3 dawned cloudy and cold. The snow level had dipped down to 1800 meters, Nauders luckily sits at 1500. We could see the sugary powder coating of snow on the mountains surrounding the town when the clouds allowed.
After another good breakfast we made our way towards the Austria-Itay border, nothing more than a sign now. The wind was at our backs so we had a little push to up the rest of the Rechen Pass. At the top there is a reservoir; Rechensee, where a got flooded in the making of it. Only the Church tower peeks above the waterline.
The rest of the day was spent going mostly downhill. It started to rain sometime in the morning and hung with us for a couple of hours. But not so bad as the day before. We followed the Via Claudia bike route through the Vinschgau Valley. Miles and miles of Apple Orchards. Very pretty.
We arrived at our destination in Lana, near Meran, at 6:30 PM and found another good small hotel. There was agreat restaurant in the town too, can’t remember the name but we had an awesome meal. The days numbers; 98 km and 350 vertical meters.
We awoke on day 2 to grey sky’s and rain. We knew it was coming from the forecast the day before, now it was a reality. Not wanting to get out in it too fast, we took our time getting ready and having breakfast. You can only sit so long and drink coffee, at least I can, so we donned our rain gear and headed out into the rain. Todays route would be mostly bike paths through river valleys; fairly flat and mostly paved. Which was ok since the weather was so crappy.
We quickly figured out the best way was to enjoy the scenery and pedal. Even though that the mountains were covered in clouds, it was still pretty. We were basically the only people out on bikes that day. I took a wrong turn and found some single track, yeah! Too bad it was so wet and slippery. Was still fun anyways!
We made 2 breaks that day; one for a cappuccino and sweet roll and another for a bowl of hot soup and a coke. Our last task for the day was to climb up the Rechen Pass, a 500 meter climb or so, not too bad. I missed a turn somewhere and we ended up on the pass road where all the cars and trucks drive up. It was a nightmare! Especially the tunnels. Susanne kind of freaked out at one point and I had to “coax” her gently into continuing. We finely made it to Nauders, wet and cold but happy to have made so far, Susanne did great and didn’t complain the whole day. We found a nice B&B by the name of “Via Claudia”. In all 80 km and 1000 vert. meters. in 7:10 riding time.
In September Susanne and I rode our bikes from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany to Nago-Torbole, Italy on the north shore of Lake Garda. I wanted Susanne to have a good time and not get frustrated so I chose the Via Claudia route. If she had fun on this trip then we could always do a harder one later in the future.
We left after a good breakfast from our Hotel in Garmisch. riding out-of-town and into the countryside was nice and mellow warm up.
The Weather was ok, a little cloudy and humid but at least no rain. Thundershowers were forecasted for the late afternoon, by then I hoped we’d be close to our first days destination.
Leaving the paved bike path we started climbing up a fairly steep gravel road. The views of the surrounding mountains were spectacular!
The first climb of the trip was a about 500 vertical meters, mostly on gravel roads with a bit of rooty rocky sections, not really single track more like a multi-track. We even had a short hike a bike. We passed by a hut where a few people were sitting on the deck enjoying the sunshine and drinking coffee. I wanted to keep going to avoid the rain that was coming.. We still had to climb another pass of about the same length and height as the first.
The downhill into Ehrwald, Austria was fun and we were able to cover some ground fast. The route took us through a beautiful Larch forest, I took a few pictures but they just don’t do it any justice. It was like in a fairy tale.
Once we got up to the top of Fern Pass it started to sprinkle. The downhill into Nasereith was more fun than the first and a lot more technical, Susanne had to get off a few times and push. We came to this cool wooden bridge that took around the side of a rock cliff.
We decided to call it a day in the town of Nasereith, Austria. It took a few minutes of riding around but we finely found a nice small hotel to spend the night.
Went out for a winter ride today with Susanne. Was one of the coldest days this winter, 0° C.
We even got into a little bit of snow.
Looking forward to some more miles in the dirt with this rig. The Geax Saguaro tires are great, even in the snow.