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2006 BIKE Transalp Challenge – Stages 1, 2, 3

July 17, 2006 – The 9th BIKE Transalp Challenge has started and here are mini reports from the first three stages provided by the organizer.

Stage 1

Gerben de Knegt and Richard Groenendaal from Team Rabobank knew why they started at BIKE Transalp Challenge 2006: “We want to win!” It was a task which they achieved succesfully. With a healthy margin of 1.34 minutes to Team Rocky Mountains Business Objects with Carsten Bresser and Karl Platt, they won the first stage from Füssen im Allgaeu to Imst. Within 3.07.24 hours Henry Raabe and Federico Ramirez from Costa Rica reached 3rd place. The twins Sandra and Peggy Klose crossed the finish-line more than eight minutes ahead of their competitors.

After 3.54.33 hours Adelheid Morath and Katrin Schwing also reached Füssen and deferred the Team Specialized Starlets with Jennifer O´Connor (NZL) and Kate Potter (AUS) in 3rd place. The Dutch Gerben de Knegt, who is also famous for his sucess in Bike-Cross , stated in an interview: “I hope I’m better than 2 years ago as I crashed badly in the 5th stage, wearing the yellow tricot with Bart Brentjens in my team.”

At the start the 571 Teams enjoyed the rich applause from the towns-people and the nice view on castle Neuschwanstein while crossing Füssen. They were guided by the Austrian Biathlon-hero of the Olympic Winter Games in Turin, triple gold winner Michael Greis, and the mayor of Füssen, Mr. Christian Gangl. The inventor and “grandfather” of BIKE Transalp Challenge, Uli Stanciu, proudly announced: “The toughest mountainbike race on earth has begun!”

At the masters-discipline last years winners Hansi Grasegger and Walter Platzgummer perfectly fulfilled their part as favourites and won the stage in only 3.12.07 hours. The 2nd placed Team KTM 1 with Ekkehard Dörschlag and Heinz Zörweg finished the race only two minutes later but with a healthy margin to their countrymen Branko Grah and Thomas Widhalm. The winning team was glad about their victory: “Normally we always have to attack, this time we can finally play some tactics.”

The favourites in the mixed discipline Jörg Scheiderbauer and Anna Baylis knew their business and won, 15 minutes ahead of Sabine Spitz and Ralf Schäuble. 3rd place gained the Canadian Marg Fedyna and the Czech Phillip Kobel in 3.46.06 hours.

The first stage of the BIKE Transalp Challenge wasn’t considered a warmup for the 1.143 starters, especially the winners de Knegt/Groenendaal, who could impress on the technically easy, but very fast track with an average speed of 30.6 km/h. The 2nd stage from Imst to Ischgl isn’t going to be that fast. Three passes and an overall altitude of 3.247 meters are going to work out the leg muscles pretty well.

At this year’s “Tour of Sufferings” of mountainbike sports, the bikers have to absolve 665.01 kilometers with an unbeliveable 22.572 metre altitude, before they can finally hurl themselfes into great lake Garda at Limone sul Garda. A new rule, which gives trophy money for the win of the day, has raised the attractiveness of this race. One thing that will always remain the same at this legendary race is the synthesis of high-performance-sport and nature-experience in one of Europe’s most beautiful mountain regions.

Stage 2

Last years winners take back the yellow jersey: Platt and Carsten Bresser (Rocky Mountain Business Objects) didn’t show any mercy at today’s stage with three passes finishing in Ischgl, famous for it’s rich wintersport possibilities. “You don’t win the Transalp on the first day, we turned the tables,” said lucky winner Karl Platt after reaching the finish within incredible fast 3.40.47 hours, which means he averaged a speed of 25.4 km/h.

Nearly eight minutes later the next team in the men’s discipline arrived: the Swiss Sandro Späth and Thomas Zahnd showed their true strengh after yesterday’s 5th place and crossed the finish-line as 2nd, updating their total result to 3rd place. After 3.52.29 hours, Germans, Frank Lehmann and Andre Rudiger could finally enjoy the rejoicings of the finish-line. But the surprise of the day was the Austrian KTM 1 with Heinz Zörweg and Ekkehard Dörschlag in the Masters discipline. With only 5 minutes after Platt/Bresser they reached Ischgl in 2nd, with a fabulous time of 3.45.54 hours and proved that they can easily keep up with their younger colleagues.

Hansi Grasegger and Walter Platzgummer couldn’t match the excellent form of the two Austrians and arrived 14 minutes later, losing their lead in the total results. Grah and Thomas Widhalm arranged themselves behind with 4.04.45 hours.

The second stage started strenously: after a short warmup the participants had to handle more than 1.200 vertical meters on a nine kilometers long ascent to the Venetalm. Many teams couldn’t counter the high tempo of the favourites, especially the winners of the 1st stage, Gerben de Knegt and Richard Groenendaal who couldn’t catch up with the off-dashing winners and fell back on 5th place, also losing their lead in the total results. “On the mountain we first checked what’s possible. As nobody could catch up, we gave them a good dressing down and later could even slow down a bit to enjoy the amazing panorama,” explained Karl Platt of his tactic, which brought victory to him and Bresser.

Last years winners in the mixed discipline, Anna Baylis-Scheiderbauer and Jörg Scheiderbauer, didn’ t seem to want to change this title. With their assured victory of 4.11.31 hours the could gain a nice nest egg for the total results, and now lead with nearly half an hour margin to Sabine Spitz and Ralf Schäuble, who finished todays race 12 minutes later.

Transalp-newbie Adelheid Morath and Kathrin Schwing showed a considerable performance by happily crossing the finish line after 4.32.13 hours snatching the lead from the Klose-twins in the total results. “Zwillingscraft” with Sandra and Peggy Klose placed themselves behind with nearly 10 minutes in arrears. The Specialized Starlets with Jennifer O´Connor and Kate Potter got 3rd in 5.05.36 hours.

Tomorrow’s stage is going to truly test our 1,143 mountain heros. The dreaded Idjoch, which also had to be traversed at BIKE Transalp Challenge 2004 is going to take it’s toll. Upside the hill directly after the start: 1.300 vertical meters, 11 kilometers ascent and ramps by 20% grade tell their own tale. The thin air on the second highest point of this years BIKE Transalp Challenge (2.753 meters) will even take the breath. “It’s nearly an execution,” says race director Uli Stanciu.

But those who obtain this endless ascent can take a deep breath. There will be another boost up to the Kobleralm for the Transalpinisti, but the rest of the track will be easy. In pictorial Scuol in Switzerland the cablecar-station Motta Nalouns and it’s pasta party is going to be a highlight for the exhausted bikers. At 2.100 altitude meters they can enjoy a breathtaking sunset behind the scenery of the alps and taste the swiss culinary specialties.

Stage 3

Hansi Grasegger and Walter Platzgummer are the winners of the Masters-discipline. A 3.20.33 hour winning time is only a little tribute for the two Austrians who showed a special class of racers with temperatures around the boiling point.

They didn’t only succeed in keeping the connection to the top-men-teams during the brutal ascent to the Idjoch, but also had the necessary speed in the last part of the track to make the top struggle. Exhausted Grasegger: “First I have to put my legs up, so that I can make my way to the camp.”

Behind the unleashed seniors the leaders of the men overall ranking, Karl Platt and Carsten Bresser tactically used the slip stream just as the follwing men-teams with de Knegt/Groenendaal and Späth/Zahnd. In the final sprint Platt / Bresser had the best trained legs and crossed the finishing line with 14 seonds margin to Knegt / Groenendaal (3.20.30 h). Especially Späth, just behind them was a bit disappointed: “It’s the only stage in Switzerland, so I really wanted to win!”

Together with the 4th placed men-team Bananos de Costa Rica the overall rankings leader in the masters category Heinz Zörweg and Ekkehard Dörschlag reached the finish (3.24.57 h) and now have 8 minutes total margin to their next chasers.

Not so well trained bikers really defined the word “pain” as they reached the top of the Idjoch at 2.738 altitude meters. Starting with the sound of “Highway to Hell” in the morning they actually should have known what was going to wait for them. An extraordinary muscle-blasting challenge, which was described as an “execution” by race-director Ulli Stanciu the day before.

Still no changes in the mixed-discipline: The winning series of Anna Baylis-Scheiderbauer and Jörg Scheiderbauer doesn’t stop and they won the race in 3.39.26 hours. 15 minutes later the German champion, Sabine Spitz arrived with her husband Ralf Schäuble in Scuol, who said: “She’s going her familiar speed and I always try to catch up.” With a healthy margin of 42 minutes, it’s going to be pretty hard to nearly impossible to catch up with the couple in the total results. Nothing new at the 3rd place which again gained the team Cow Bells / Bear Bells after 3.58.54 hours of racing-time.

Kathrin Schwing and Adelheid Morath are getting better and better: after yesterday’s victory they again dominated today’s ladies-discipline and won the stage in only 3.59.17 hours just before Sandra und Peggy Klose, who crossed the finish line only 3.42 minutes later. This performance may even surprise more, as they used the track at yesterday’s victory for interval-training, because the BIKE Transalp Challenge is also a training opportunity for the German national-team. Their trainer Frank Brückner checks their performance every day.

Tomorrow’s stage from Livigno to Scuol is again a tough piece of work: 3 passes and 2.717 vertical meters are already waiting for the Bikers. But all the endeavours are going to be worth the trouble. Unbelievable views from the Pass da Costainas and the Passo Alpisella will let the participants forget..

All information about the BIKE Transalp Challenge at www.transalpchallenge.com.

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