New Pedals and New Confidence
By Jason Sumner
It’s amazing how a few long days in the saddle can alter perspective. After back-to-back-to-back-to-back 9-plus-hour days, Wednesday’s mere 7-hour and 19-minute jaunt seemed almost easy. So it goes here at the 8-day TransPyr mountain bike stage race, where survival has become job one and the five-day total is now in excess of 45 hours for Team Mountain Flyer/Correio da Manhã.
The nuts and bolts of stage 5 was a 99km slog from Ainsa to Jaca that included 1,910 meters of climbing. Nearly all of the ascending was doled out in a steady 61km grind that started on a paved road that meandered up a scenic slot canyon.
From there the route transitioned to dirt, as we wound our way past ancient-looking buildings, grinded up a seemingly endless rocky jeep road, and finally topped out on a nearly-treeless 1,780-meter summit. Fortunately the pitch mostly hovered around 6-7 percent, making all that climbing palatable even for your author’s truly smashed legs.
It also didn’t hurt that this was some of the prettiest scenery we’ve encountered so far. Expansive views of distant Pyrenean peaks served as backdrop for a landscape plucked straight from a Dr. Suess book, where endless meadows of billowy soft greenery was covered in small yellow flowers.
Once over the top, it was nearly all downhill or flat into the finish in Jaca. Most of that time was spent on rocky fire road, but there was one extended stretch of superb cross-country trail that apparently has been given the IMBA stamp of approval based on the signage, which included the trail advocacy group’s logo.
The day’s stage winner’s were new to the top of the podium, as Joan Compte and Jaume Guardia (Team Camprodon) led a trio of teams across the finish in a blazing 5 hours, 10 minutes. No change at the top of the standings, as Emilio Vivian and Daniel Martinez of the Alberto Contador Federation continue to lead, owning more than an hour cushion over the next closest team.
It’s also worth mentioning that it turns the Buff International team that had previously won three stages in a row was actually only signed up for the race’s lite version and have now moved on to other pursuits.
As for teammate Nuno and I, it was a solid if unspectacular day that included replacement pedals for me, increasing descending confidence for Nuno, a comfortable pace up a climb that essentially lasted 4.5 hours, and a safe descent down the backside. It all added up to a 108th place finish and legs that might have actually gotten a little rest. We’ll know more in the morning.
As for tomorrow, it could get a little ugly for the non-technically inclined. Organizers are calling the trip from Jaca to Isaba the most technical of the event, or as one said during the nightly safety briefing, “Loose stones are very characteristic of this region.” It’s also not going to help that there’s rain in the forecast. Fortunately it’s only 88km. Unfortunately that includes 2,485 meters of climbing spread out over six very punchy looking ascents. Time for bed…