Yesterday, our hopes of a "top 80%" finish were dashed by MOB's
"mechanical" – the broken spoke on his Ultegra rear wheel. We were
given the max time (11 hrs!!) and pushed way back among other teams
which had suffered a similar fate at least one day this week (not such
a small group, but not 20%)..
Today, another day. We rode at a good pace. the first 37 km –
gradually ascending from 540m to almost 1000m elev. I performed my
usual "domestique" role, asking "what would Jerome do?". "Pull!". So I
did, sometimes a group of 50+ riders, and even up one hill.
I felt that effort on the early part of the climb, but after the
feeding point (1550m elev) I felt strong and climbed well all the way
to the pass (2750m), with only a few very short stops for
photos/energy bars. Spectacular views, and I am stronger than in 2009.
I was a bit disappointed in MOB's equipment selection – how could he
come to Transalp w an Ultegra wheel he knew was problematic? Why
didn't he test his transalp wheels for months, conclude that they were
bombproof, or at least reliablen and set them aside (as I did),,
instead of taking them to a race in Berlin where the rear rim was
destroyed? Was he really giving Transalp the proper priority this
year, or is he more interested in building up classic bikes from
These were some of my thoughts as I descended the Stelvio … only to
suffer my own broken spoke as I approached Bormio. My wheel likewise
was unrideable, and the mechanical help was nowhere near. Karma?
But, I recalled a trick — my Rolf Prima wheels have paired spokes.
If I could just break the other one in the pair, at least the wheel
rim should be straight, as long as it does not collapse … I finally
managed to break the spoke after minutes of struggling (why do they
break while riding if they are so tough?) … only to realize that my
tire had deformed and was pretty well shredded from the heat, rubbing
against my frame as I slowed from 50kph to a stop on the downhill.
But the tire and tube still held air. And I could ride with a slight
bump and a "womp, womp" sound.
Still, on the bright side, most of the remainder of the day was …
another long climb (900+m up) from Bormio over Passo Foscagno then a
short descent and climb (200+m up) to Passo d'Eira and down into
Livigno. The bump was not so bad at slow climbing speed, and I passed
lots of stragglers on this climb. MOB and I reconnoitered at the 2nd
feed point, then I went ahead onto these last climbs — worried about
whether my equipment would make it.
At the finish, I endured a long wait to get a "loaner" wheel for the
next 3 days, and enjoyed some pasta, a trip for steak to our favorite
Livigno steak house (and pizzeria), and went off to bed. Other high
points are: hot water in the showers! And a compact transalp camp
layout and parrticularly good placement for MOB and me – within 15
meters of the door (route to the bathroom etc), plus a slight
partition (as if we were flying business class) and I am sleeping with
my mat immediately adjacent to the "Schwalbe girls" team – two
charming (but not very fast) mid-20s German women riders sponsored by
the tire company.