By Jason Sumner
You havenít lived until youíve carried (yes, carried) your bike across a lumpy, high alpine Pyrenean field occupied by dozens cows and sheep. I can now say, Iíve lived.
But Iím getting ahead of myself. Stage 2 of the 2012 TransPyr mountain bike stage race was another beast of a day. The raw numbers including 114km between the start town of Camprodon and the finish in La Seu díUrgell, 2,180 meters of total climbing (though my GPS put the total closer to 2,600), and a midday rain shower that turned the later third of the course into a mucky mess.
The dayís fastest finishers were the Buff International team duo of Arnau Cano and Pau Perez, who stopped the clock in 6 hours, 2 minutes, less than 3 minutes ahead of stage 1 winner Emilio Vasquez and Daniel Jimenez, who ride for the Alberto Contador Federation squad. The Contadors, as Iím dubbing them, remain on top of the overall standings with a two-day time of 12:40. The Buffs are 35 minutes behind.
Back in bike journalist land, myself and Portuguese teammate Nuno Luz slipped a bit, lumbering home in 155th, stopping the clock in a pedestrian 9:39, bringing our two-day total to 19 hours and four minutes. Based on this pace, weíll be logging about 65-70 hours by the time this thing wraps up with stage 8 on July 7.
I canít point to one specific reason for our plummet from the low to mid 100s in this 213-rider field, save for lack of genetic talent and loss of motivation when itís starts pissing rain around hour No. 8 of your bike ride. It also doesnít help that my climbing legs seemed to have stayed home in Colorado, and Nuno does the majority of his training on a trainer, which doesnít exactly lend itself to descending acumen.
Anyway, thatís not to say the day was all bad. Right after the second aid station in La Molina, there was a ripping section of fast, steep and very buff singletrack. It was the kind of trail you can scare the shit out of yourself you can get going so fast.
Other notable stage 2 happenings included about a third of the field missing the official start at 8 a.m. because they went to the wrong place, a soul-crushing paved climb at the start of the stage that took at least an hour and had multiple ramps above 12-percent, and the aforementioned cow-sheep field. Truth be told parts of it were actually rideable, and kind of fun. There just wasnít really a trail so you had to choose your own adventure freeride style, being cautious not to stuff your front wheel in deep hoof hole. I saw one guy who failed and went over his bars, and heard reports of another who did the same and ended up with a snapped collarbone. Lots of people just walked.
As for maÒana, it looks to be more of the same. Total distance: 128km. Total climbing: 3,045 meters. Expected suffering: immeasurableÖ
One of the biggest differences between TransPyr and MTB stage race cousins such as TransAlps, Cape Epic, and La Ruta is that there is very little course marking along our route through the Pyrenees. Instead, navigation is done by GPS using pre-loaded tracks provided by the organizers.
Their rationale is that all that brightly-colored course marking tape would negatively impact oneís ability to enjoy nature at its fullest. But obviously the prospect of marking these routes is daunting. And fact of the matter is that, despite a few wrong turns here and there, for the most part the system works.
Each rider is required to have a working GPS, meaning you have two sets of eyes to keep an eye on things. And most of the racers are using rented GPS systems provided by event sponsor TwoNav. I brought my Garmin Edge 800 over, but have also opted to use a test TwoNav set-up because the screen is twice the size, which is a big help when youíre railing down a rocky fire road and need to look down for a second to figure out if your next turn will be a right or left.