Transpyr Passes The Midway Point
"I've raced the world over, and I've seen nothing"
Stages 2, 3 & 4 of the Transpyr
by Scott Penzarella
Craig Lewis, friend and former professional cyclist, once shared this quote with me and I didn’t quite understand the veracity of his statement. I now do. Stage 2, 3 and now Stage 4 of the Transpyr 7-day mountain bike stage race have been epic, traversing from the Mediterranean Sea to nearly the halfway point here in Ainsa, a town nestled quaintly in the heart of the Spanish Pyrenees.
Coming off my “win” on Stage 1 meant I was pretty tired and my Belgian friend and closest competitor (at least I thought) battled our way through the two timed sections on Stage 2, with little change in the overall standings. We now understood the format and were prepared for the day ahead. I was sitting in 3rd and Johann was well positioned in 4th, with two other racers who took Stage 1 (in the timed sections). By the end of Day 3, however, Johan did what most Belgians do best; he rode off the front of the peloton with an elite, yet tiny group, and crossed the line in 3rd, in the 80 km section of the day, gaining huge time on nearly every ride in the category. I, on the other hand, had what you hear often on the Tour de France TV coverage as a “bad leg day.” Day 1, in particular, and Day 2, took their toll and I literally rode the up hills, timed sections at sub threshold in hopes to make up time in the descent. And I did, but not nearly enough. And worse, I had a very swollen knee from the first two day’s efforts and I was concerned about 5 more days of racing.
After climbing straight up to 1895 meters, from 500 meters, we had a vicious and technical descent to the end of the timed section. Johann probably put an hour on me in the climb and I took back nearly 30 minutes on the descent. The Pivot 429SL proved the right machine today. Dozens of racers with flats and other mechanical issues lined the trailside, and some racers had to walk their bikes in sections. Conversely, I opened up the rear shox and pointed the nose downhill. It was a fast, single-track and very technical descent and the bike shined. Fortunately for me, I also passed the two other closest top 5 racers and took 2nd for the day. Stage 3, despite a painful 50 km start, became a turning point for me.
That same night, however, severe knee pain, which started on Stage 2 from simply pushing way too hard on Stage 1, looked to be the end of my 7-day event. Fortunately, I sought immediate attention. I first stopped at a Farmacia where one can easily buy prescription-strength Ibuprofen (600 mg each), then picked up some ice at the local bar, and later got lucky to get a message appointment by one of the best masseuses to ever touch my legs. By the morning of Day 4, the inflammation and pain were majorly reduced and I made my way to the start line.
To my dismay, however, the dream bike had a flat tire and it was already 7:45am. I rushed over to the mechanic tent and had my valve changed, as it was plugged up with sealant. Unfortunately, I missed the “call up” and found myself at the very back of the peloton at the start (that’s 400 racers deep and not ideal for a race start in mountain bike racing). The bigger issue was the fact that today’s stage (Stage 4) had two timed sections, the first of which started at the “gun.” It took me nearly 30 minutes to make my way to the lead group that fortunately had been slowed by the “neutral” start moto who keep the groups relatively intact. Johan and I set off with a group of 15 riders, most of who were battling for the top 5 positions in the team competition. The current leaders, last year’s winners, were already off and away so it was a chase by the rest of us to win the first of two timed sections. At the end of an incredibly difficult climb, which topped out at 1640 meters and climbed over 750 meters ended with a sprint finish with the Belgium and me. Is that not the most ridiculous thing you can image, me sprinting against a 34-year old Belgium? What it really meant, however is that the gloves were off and every minute counted.
Content by my returned fitness and confidence, we began a long, technical descent to town, where the aid station was set up and just 1km before the next timed section, another 1000 meter climb. I set off before Johan, hoping to catch the leaders of the Masters category on the climb, but unfortunately I did my self a major disservice. Johan started 5 minutes later (so he told me later) and used me as the carrot up the road. A bit more than halfway up the climb, he caught me and gained another 5 minutes on the overall. Amazing. This guy is a rare breed and he was motivated. 6’3, 165 pounds and a true climber. I was in admiration. I stayed on his wheel until the last 500 meters where he pulled away and gained another minute. Nonetheless, I was pleased. I put a solid 10 minutes or more, on the other Top 5 riders in the Individual Category and sat firmly in 2nd.
At the end of day, I was wrecked, utterly and totally exhausted. I quickly sought massage and then food, probably a move I will regret. In multi-day bike races, it is critical to eat first, straight after the race then seek massage. With severe knee swelling and pain, however, I wanted to ensure I could get a spot with the magicians before they filled up. In the end, it was another amazing day and I am still in the race.. The hard work is paying off.