TransAlp 2015

Favorite descent, towards Sillian, Austria

Where have I been!?!  It’s hard to believe that not long ago, I was at my perch in Manhattan working on healthy recipe development and sharing on a regular basis.  I’ve missed posting since life as I’ve known it was upended 7/8 weeks ago.  Ultimately in a good way, I think… since mid-June, we have moved across the country from New York City to San Francisco, selling our former home and just as quickly finding a new one.  When Paul got a job offer in SF that was a tailor made match with his skill set, it was an obvious if heartbreaking choice.  For me anyway, since I love New York and the NorthEast so.  And it’s funny because while there seems to be some truth to the adage ‘If you can make it here [in New York, NY], you can make it anywhere’ the one thing I did not seem to pick up from my time in the Big Apple was how to easily leave something I love.  (The most plausible explanation for my delay in addressing our move here.)  For the most part, the weeks have been so busy as to mask the true challenges of such a big change.  More on that later possibly, but for now, it’s time for a fun intra-move update and to resume regular work!   Diving in immediately…

Amid our transition, we jetted off to Munich, Germany earlier this month for a long- planned trip during which Paul completed the Craft Bike TransAlp Race.  A stage race that is exactly what it sounds like, TransAlp participants pedal over Germany, Austria and Italy via the steepest and deepest trails in the land.  The race by design creates a wonderfully off-the-beaten-path itinerary, moving from one alpine town to the next, with the finish line at the end of one day acting as the starting line the next.   For my part, I packed my road bike and alternated between road riding and logistics coordinator/finish like fan for Paul’s team.  A pictorial overview and details follow, which are meant to be presented from the standpoint of a fan and team manager of sorts, with the idea that actual race description and details should be left to the participants!

TransAlp 2015 – Logistics:

While all trips require at least some advanced planning, this was by far the most logistics-heavy trip I’ve done.  Being that the race stopped in a new location nightly over the course of a week, and because for several of the nights our lodging was 10-20 km away from the start/finish line, I built a comprehensive binder to manage the details.

The binder opened with an event overview sheet:

  • July 18th: Arrivals
  • July 19th: TransAlp Start from Ruhpolding, Germany to Finish in Saalfelden, Austria
  • July 20th: Stage 2 Start from Saalfelden, Germany to Finish in Mittersill, Austria
  • July 21st: Stage 3 Start from Mittersill, Austria to Finish in Sillian, Austria
  • July 22nd: Stage 4 Start from Sillan, Austria to Finish in Alleghe, Italy
  • July 23rd: Stage 5 Start from Alleghe, Italy to Finish in San Martino di Castrozza, Italy
  • July 24th: Stage 6 Start from San Martino di Castrozza, Italy to Finish in Levico Terme, Italy
  • July 25th: Stage 7 Start from Levico Terme, Italy to Finish in Riva del Garda, Italy

which I used as a springboard to create the daily breakdowns of the start/finish location, the hotels where we’d begin and end each day, directions between hotels, and when necessary, directions between the hotel and start/finish line.  I used transparent binder inserts to create a system of spreads, roughly one for each day.

Below are two examples with routing between hotels and details re start/finish areas creating each daily spread:

TransAlp Logistics BinderTransAlp Logistics Binder

The advanced planning was what made the entire event enjoyable vs an endless panic, in that I knew where to be and when, as well as what to expect for drive times, which helped highlight the best opportunities for my own riding.  The binder was also helpful in that anyone in our crew could open it to a given day and know right where we’d be during any stage, especially where our hotel was relative to a start/finish line.  Because everyone was busy before the race, a mass e-mail with all encompassing details wasn’t necessarily going to do much good.  However having the details at our fingertips was really helpful, and we even used the trick of taking a photo of the pre-printed directions to the hotel before a given stage.

Highlights in terms of my own riding were sprinkled throughout the trip.  A ride on our second day, starting in Leogang, Austria, was a delight in that I realized how biking-friendly the Alps are, with more bike tracks than I could count and almost every intersection including a meant-for-bikers milage marker to the next small village.  I also explored what felt like endless backroads and alternate routes between villages, on roads that saw few cars:

Riding near Leogang, Austria

My favorite day came mid-way through the trip, in Mittersill, Austria.  Perched over Mittersill and connected to neighboring villages via paved, bike-dedicated paths, our hotel Schloss Mittersill provided the perfect road-riding base.  After fantastic climbs and descents through the opposing valley, I treated myself to a dip in the hotel pool before driving to TransAlp stage finish for the day.

The final stages brought one last great ride through the Italian National Park Paneveggio Naturale, just north of the town of San Martino di Castrozza.  The town and park are adjacent, and the ride began with a beautiful climb of the Rolle Pass, at the top of which I saw an intersection of the Stage route and the road over the pass.  After completing an out and back through the park, I returned to the top of Rolle Pass and was able to meet up with Paul as he approached the intersection of road.  This short but unexpected stretch was such a fun surprise for both of us!  It was a quick descent back to the finish line in San Martino di Castrozza and we managed to make it under shelter just before the one soaking downpour (and hailstorm) of the trip.

Heavier logistics took over after this ride and as we wound down towards the TransAlp finish, I also spent a little more time at the start and finish of the stages.  Here is the Pro-Start of Stage 7, in Levico Terme, Italy.

The race ended in Riva del Garda, Italy.   I got the sense that the final stage delivered a bit more of a challenge than was expected, but the setting may have made up for it:

In spending a bit more time around the accomplished mountain bikers, by chatting with those in our group and through personal experience, I’ve gathered a bit of intel in terms of a helpful first aid kit for TransAlp or any endurance biking event.  So while our trip actually ended a few days after Riva del Garda, I wanted to close this post by sharing the following list in hopes that it may be helpful to anyone packing for such a trip!

Recommended Packing List (for stuff you may not have thought of) for TransAlp or a Long Cycling Trip:

Skincare:

I have noticed that during any type of endurance-based trip, skincare management is paramount.  Proper skin management can make or break the enjoyment of the experience.  I have learned the benefits preparedness in this department first hand, the hard way.

Cycling skin care seems to fall into two categories: mitigating and managing saddle sores, and treating cuts and scrapes due to falls and crashes.  The following list is meant to provide packing tips for skin care for both kinds of skin injury, with the items below packing into a small kit.  You don’t need to pack a pharmacy’s worth.

There may be squeamish bits when it comes to saddle sores but the fact of the matter is that the skin under our shorts can be easily irritated when cycling over time.  Few if any cyclists have never had to confront saddle sores of some kind and there is nothing to be embarrassed about.  I hope the following is helpful!

  1. Non-Chafing Garments, namely, bibs or shorts with flat seams.  And/or, pre-tested  garments that are reliable for you personally.
  2. Baby Powder: To keep undercarriage dry while out of kit, esp sleeping, to mitigate itchiness & discomfort of skin and further spread of bacteria (by keeping the area dry).  Powder is excellent for skin that is very red from rubbing or a rash.
  3. Neosporin / Anti-Bacterial Ointment: If skin is torn from saddle sores or any other injury, these products are invaluable.  Conventional wisdom re wound care has changed some recently, namely in that the ‘let it dry out’ approach has been replaced by a cover and cook approach.  In other words, wounds should be cleaned as always but then covered throughly to let the body act as it’s own oven to heal the wound.  Practicing this approach after years of letting cuts and scrapes air out feels counterintuitive at first, but some experience has proven to me that it in fact works.  And since learning about cover and cook (from Columbia Orthopaedics Sports Therapy) I have noticed that when it is *not* followed, scabs linger longer and skin does not heal as evenly.
  4. Q-Tips, so that small areas with deeper sores or embedded dirt/gravel may be cleaned as throughly yet gently as possible.
  5. Hydrogen Peroxide, to address any open wounds before treating with Anti-Bacterial cream and covering.  (Put some from the big bottle into a travel sized bottle.)
  6. Cotton balls or small Cotton Pads:  If small areas collect dead white blood cells (aka pus) they should be extracted if possible and wiped clean.  Watery blisters larger than dime-sized should be extracted as well.  The absorbency of the cotton helps minimize the nastiness of said procedures.
  7. Second Skin:  More or less a gelatinous, sterile band-aid.  If skin is very very raw or has a deep road rash, second skin is cooling and protective.  It will require additional tape or wrapping to stay in place.
  8. Tegaderm: A thin but strong transparent bandage that may be left on the skin for several days.  It is more streamlined than pads and medical tape, and can be excellent for large areas of road rash that are sensitive to air exposure and at risk of infection.  Clean and dry the area, then cover lightly with anti-bacterial ointment before covering.
  9. Vagisil Wipes:  Whaaattt?  Yes, and think about it.  The wipes are anit-bacterial and anit-itch, plus come individually wrapped, making them excellent for travel.   I came across this unexpected tip a few years ago and was impressed to see that the suggestion was made by the male coach of a UK-based cycling team.  In practice, treating reddened nether regions with a wipe followed by powder before sleeping has worked wonders from both condition improvement and pain management perspectives.  They can also be helpful for travel time between stages or on long flights when reddened skin feels uncomfortable.  Fear not.
  10. A Small Zippered Bag to tote all this stuff discretely.

Apart from our time in the mountains of Central Europe, we got to visit Munich, Germany, for a day on either end of TransAlp.  Highlights will be shared via a separate post shortly!

Regular posting to resume this week – kitchen ideas plus food as usual to follow as we settle into our new home.  Thanks for your patience everyone, I am really glad to be back!!!

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