There was the usual 'neutralised' chaos heading out of town, but at least the first climb sorted everyone out. It started just out of town and didn't stop for 14km, until the top of the Hochwurzen mountain at 1848m, up a wide back country road, tuning to dirt track, alongside a raging river. Pretty spectacular. With the amount of recent rain you could feel the force of the water.
With clear, deep blue skies, you could try to take your mind of the constant climbing with the view across the Schladming valley below. Spectacular tall waterfalls further, momentarily, distracted from just how far there was to go. Brief sections of singletrack through the trees, around the edge of the mountain broke up the climb.
From the mass of riders at the bottom, everyone was hugely spread out, a few riders infront was all I could see, everyone finding their climbing rhythm, a long line of riders up the mountain trail.
The descent off the mountain was over too quickly! Fast, winding mountain tracks through the forest into a deep valley the other side, steep walls of rock both sides. A brief 4km of flat brought a few of us together as a group, making the kms tick by fast, firing along the tree lined tracks. Out the other side and the scenery ahead was stunning. In a bowl surrounded by snow covered peaks, out of which we had to climb!
Nothing steady about the gradient, as it switchbacked up the mountain side. A waterpoint was on a very welcome, but brief plateau outside a mountain hut from where the trail just got steeper!
Far from hikers giving us grief, they cheered us on, applauding our efforts (probably thinking we were crazy!). Gears turned over at a snail's pace, trying to keep the front end down and the back end gripping. It levelled off for brief moment from where we could see the final steep section up onto the snow.
There was no option but to portage over the deep. mushy snow and up onto the plateau. This was proper mountain biking. The lake was still partially frozen over and the trails wet from snow melt. Wouldn't want to be up here at 2000m with the weather from stage1! The boggy ground reduced riders to sections of hike a bike and a little sting in the tail of steep, rocky climb up and out of the plateau before the descent, down a rocky, singletrack hiking trail, not all of it rideable, unless on a 160mm travel bike and the skills to match!
Singletrack turned to super steep, bum right off the back of the bike, rocky track, before it levelled off a little. A glancing look at the amazing view beyond the trees was all you could afford, focus needed to be on the steep, winding track! We dropped 1000m quickly, back into lowland forest trails and out onto singletrack through mountain meadows, following the river down.
We had to wake the legs up for one final 200m climb to reach the top of the DH course and drop into the finish. The sun had dried the track out already, grip so much better, tyres biting round each berm!
I came back in 3rd in category, with Lloyd of Clee Cycles in 69th and Chris Taylor in 69th. Sharon Laws took 2nd in Elite women with Karla Boddy of the Drops Cycling team in 6th, after having a bad crash on the final descent.