The Devil Is In The Details
- Stage 1 of the Transpyr-
by Scott Penzarella
The original article title of this story changed shortly after Stage 1 of the Transpyr, the 7-day mountain bike stage race that traverses the Spanish Pyrenees, starting in the seaside town of Roses, on the med, and finishing seven days later in HondaRibia, a small town just north of the breathtaking city San Sebastian. At the completion of Stage 1, a 117 km route with 6700’ of climbing from point-to-point, I was sitting third, out of over 400 riders and first in the individual category where 78 other racers competed. I couldn’t believe it.
The plan never included racing hard on day 1. I knew it was important to have a strong stage and perhaps stay near the front of the pack for as long as I could, never did I think I would come across the line with just one 2-man team ahead of me. Not any 2-man team either; it was the winners of last year’s event!
At 30 kilometers into the race, I found myself sitting with an elite group of 20 or so riders, a collection of younger guys from Spain, France, Estonia, and beyond. We had yet to hit any major climbs so the tempo felt appropriate. By km 50, however, things got hard and I should have listened to my instincts. Unbeknownst to me and several other riders in the group, the Transpyr is a 7-day stage race with what we know as Strava segments thrown in at most major climbs each day. These climbs, in fact, make up the leaders board and are the only segments that matter in the general and category classifications. Big bummer.
As I topped out of the 20km climb, it was a fast, hard pace to the final stretch of the race. The winners of the stage, who understood the rules well, drilled it on the climb at a pace that was, to me, unsustainable. I joined two guys from Estonia as we road away from our group. A bit later in the stage, however, a motor-like Belgian, at 34 years old, bridged back up to us. I knew he was my main competition as he too was racing in the Individual category. With my sights set on a stage win, something I never figured possible at this elite racing level, I knew I had to drop the Belgian to get the win. Clearly, I didn’t want to go to the line with this guy, whom I knew could put out some power on the flats.
By the time we crested the final hill, a tough 10km section of sticky mud and technical single track, I had put a few minutes on my competitor. Descending into Campradon, a town we visit often on our Girona trip, I could taste the finish. I never looked back and rolled into town completing Stage 1 in less than 5 hours, arriving just minutes after the 2-man race leaders. I could not have been more stoked. The “stage” was mine and the thoughts of standing atop of the podium with the rest of the day’s winners (male/female team; the 80+ combined age team, the pro winners; etc) filled my heart with joy.
Oh, did my joy and excitement end quickly. To my dismay, neither my timing chip recorded my result (which meant I wasn’t even posted on the General Classification) or was I denoted on the Individual Category leader position. To further my disappointment, at the time of the award ceremony, post “pasty party,” I was told that the spirit of the Transpyr is a teamed event and while over 78 of 400 riders came out for the Individual Category, they don’t celebrate or recognize the winners of each stage for this group. I couldn’t think, as one of the few Americans here, how Un-America that is… :) All in all it was and incredible day. As Johann, the Belgian who came in second, said so graciously “we both know who won the day.”
By the time we hit the sack, I’ll be wrecked, leaving everything on the trail today and for which I will pay the price tomorrow. In the end, I had no business racing so hard against a young Belgian and so many other racers today, as this is a 7-day race and burying yourself on day 1 will come at a price. Let’s hope that price is not too high.