Sonntag, 27. Mai 2018

Trans Portugal MTB Stage Race 5.-13.5.18 (English)

How does it come to find myself on the startlist of  MTB stage race through Portugal? Susanne a friend of mine told me that Markus her boyfriend would have registered together with his friend Reto for the Trans Portugal MTB stage race and that this event would certainly be something for Philippe and me. Inspired by our friends we registered ourselves for this race without having studied every detail. The MTB Trans Portugal stage race goes in eight following stages over 920km and 16'00hm from Chaves in the North to Sagres in the South. There are no signposts marking the way. The race ist selfguided and the daily tracks are loaded on the participants GPS. After studying the regulations more seriously we found out that Philippe and I couldn't start together in the mornings since depending upon age and sex there will be a time bonification. The older men and the women would according to this handicap have to start earlier. The winner of the stage and finally the race would not be the fastest racer but the one who reaches the finish line first. Two weeks before the race I began to worry seriously when the racebooklet was sent to the participants. There all details were published time limits for each stage included. Time limits? I thought I could race till the sun goes down but it was not like that. Besides that the longest stage would have 188km and 2000hm with start for the first racers shortly before 7:00 a.m. and closing time at 20:30 p.m. On the shorter stages there will be less time available.
Photo: Felix Peyer
On Thursday evening 3th of May our journey to Portugal started. Because of a medical emergency our flight to Lisbon got a delay of 2 1/2 hours. We had to wait 4 hours for our takeoff at Zurich. Our trip only could get better an thanks god it was like that. At the airport in Lisbon we were picked up by Fred the race director.Hhe drove us to the hotel. On Friday we had some time left for Sightseeing. We visited Torre de Belém and enjoyed a few Pastéis de Belém in the nearby cake shop. For dinner Fred recommended to us a delicious restaurant near the hotel. We enjoyed fish and beer there together with Markus and Reto. In the meantime other racers arrived at the hotel inclusive Kathi und Felix from Zurich. There were 88 participants from 19 nations, only 7 women and only 12 younger the 40 years old. Beside the Portuguese the South Africans formed the second largest participant field. In addition there were racers from Austria, Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, Switzerland, Sweden, The Netherlands, USA, Norway, United Kingdom and New Zealand.
On Saturday morning we were driven to Chaves in the North of Portugal by autocar. There we had to put together our bikes and to pack the suitcases which we received from the organizer. Before dinner there was a longer briefing about the details of the race itself and after dinner there was the daily short race briefing for the upcoming stage. Tiago the other race director informed about the specific details of the stage, for example about technical passages, steep climbs and where to find watertaps and coffee shops. Although there remained not much time for coffee two or three times we enjoyed a cold Coke on the way.
Photo: Felix Peyer
I soon noticed this race is organised with a lot of passion. Beside the participants there were about 30 staffs serveral of them on duty for this race since years. Eyery person has its responsability. From the two race directors, medical staff, masseurs, bike mechanics, resonsible persons for time keeping, transportation and catering to the journalist for the daily reports and pictures. It was already the 16th edition of this race and always it was optimized. The participants were equipped with trackers. This year trackers were used the first time not only for security reasons but also for race control and classifications. To receive the finishershirt one has to finish every stage within the time limit and the racers are not allowed to leave the track more than 100m. Otherwise one has to return to the point where the track has been left. 
Photo: Philippe Egger
On Sunday morning 6th of May the race started with the older participants and the women first. I was in in the third starting group together with three women and three men. The others of my group were faster so after 5km I didn't see them anymore. I was very nervous since I had to drive alone accoring to the black line of the GPS. But the selfguiding went better than I supposed. Sometimes I came off route for a couple of meters but always I realised it very soon though that I could turn and take the right way. Only once  after 10km the GPS had all of a sudden a black display. After two hardresets I got to work the GPS finally again. After approximately 1 1/2h I saw Kathi who started 15 minutes earlier and after about 2 hours I was cought by Philippe, Markus and Reto. Markus and Reto passed and moved on while the plan of Philippe and me was to ride to the finish line together. Also Kathi and Felix did it like this. The time limit was already a challenge on the first day. It had some steep offroad ramps where I had to walk and some particular places washed out by the rain which I couldn't ride through. I also felt off the bike on the first day because i didn't get out of the cleats and got some abraisons on the knee. The last 20km went down on an earlier railway path however with some headwind. We were rather shaken thoroughly on this path with our hardtail bikes. Finally we reached the finish line about 25 minutes before the cut-off. Near the finish line there was always a wide range of food supply. One could find everything from potato and tomato salad, bread, cheese, recovery shakes, coke, beer to fruit salad and some sweets. 
Photo: Philippe Egger
I was happy that I could do the first stage within time timit. From now on I took it day by day. I would not have dared to dream of finishing all stages within the time limit. I was in particular feared of the third stage with over 3000hm and the fifth stage with a distance of 188km. On the last stage I got panic if we could finish before the cut-off time. We had to walk along a beach for 700m. As the the tide was rising I was unfortunately caught by a wave and got wet from head to toe. There were still 30km to the finish line and only two more hours of time left. Fortunately the last 25km were no more techically demanding. Nevertheless I came off the bike once more in a place with deep sand and felt to the same knee which already had some abrasions from the first fall. Finally we managed to reach the finish line once more before cut-off time.
Conclusion: For me it was very intensive and physically demanding experience, maybe the physically most demanding experience which I made so far in my life. From the hilly North to the the South by the sea the landscape was always changing and very impressive. I met many lovely people and got to know a beautiful country. During these days I was in another world. I don't want to miss this adventure also my body has not yet replaced every calory burnt. After two weeks I am still always hungry.

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