The Race Across the Alps is the toughest one-day bike race in the world. For about two years it has been the declared perspective goal to end this race in order to set the record as the youngest finisher. Many of the best ultracycling athletes in the world are at the start and the field is international. The five-person support team is the best Fritz Geers team to date - ultra athletes and well prepared for the upcoming challenge.
The project is financed by long-term sponsors, the support vehicle is rented on site from Klausis Autovermietung. The journey to the starting point in Nauders is full of traffic jams and still reached on time because of a good calculation. The briefing is dedicated to ultracycling with live calls to Race Across America. Accommodation for the night before the race is a quiet farmhouse in a real mountain village. The team vehicle has to park outside because the alleys are too narrow. The tension before the start is great, there are still many small problems to be solved and as much sleep as possible to collect.
It starts. 540 kilometers are nothing, but 14,500 meters in altitude is an indescribable task. As you can read in all available reports, the pace is high after the start on the Reschenpass and as the weather forecast predicts, the heat in the valleys. The first pass of the Race Across the Alps is the Stelvio, also known as the Stilfser Joch or the second highest pass in the Alps, the highest pass in Italy and a tourist hotspot par excellence. This is where the race starts and a pace is increased as if there was no more tomorrow. The ascent begins after a third at an altitude of 600 meters with its 48 bends, poor road surface and high temperatures. It is going well and the support team is doing their first job in the race after having mastered the way to the start in the best possible way.
At an altitude of 2757 meters, the pass has been overcome and the first dangerous descent is imminent. In order to be able to make the dimensions clear, you have to have seen the massive mountain range yourself or you have to drive downhill for half an hour yourself. The Gavia Pass is the next pass. The Race Across the Alps is the toughest one-day bike race in the world. Back, hands and feet hurt from the last descent, the heat is unbearable, the road is full of cracks or holes and the incline is uneven.
After sudden rain falls at the top of the pass, at some point after hours of struggle, highly concentrated, it goes downhill again on a narrow broken road on the abyss. Potholes accumulate in dark, wet tunnels and galleries and the entire descent could be declared as a hazard in Germany. It's damn hard and it's damn exhausting. The next Aprica Pass is a nice piece of work if you only think of the next pass, which stands like a sharp spike in the elevation profile. The 193 kilometers covered with constant extreme changes in air pressure, temperature and altitude are irrelevant. It gets dark soon. The Race Across the Alps is the toughest one-day bike race in the world. The radio message in the team vehicle says that the Mortirolo Pass will be hell. It goes in the Italian evening heat from 400 meters above sea level to almost 1900 meters above sea level - on only 11 kilometers without having stopped once. The legs burn, the head is highly concentrated, the supervisory team wide awake and the slope extreme, felt endlessly long and uneven. Some starters can be overtaken non-stop, but it still takes almost one and a half hours to reach the top of the pass in deep darkness. The wish for a first stop comes true here, the team does a perfect job and after half a minute, with the lupine light now attached, jacket on and oiled chain on, down the narrow forest run. The Aprica Pass is a nice piece of work for the second time, considering that the next ascent to the Bernina is the longest of the race with almost 2000 meters of altitude. The contact with the team car is one-sided, because it is so exhausting that it is hardly possible to speak. The ascent to the Bernina Pass takes so long that the sun is almost rising and tiredness strikes. The 37-kilometer ascent in the Swiss part of the route is a constant one. The Race Across the Alps is the toughest one-day bike race in the world.
It is an incredible challenge that cannot be met and should at least only be given up at the Albula or Flüela Pass. The descent from the Bernina Pass is relatively short and disproportionately cold. The handlebars wobble from the cold and there is thick fog in the valley that a short time later you should leave the Albula Pass. The Albula Pass is beautifully landscaped, but unfortunately just a steep narrow road in the dark, but not quite as broken as the previous steep narrow roads. The pass height at 2312 meters has been reached in an unspectacular manner and a long descent with technically demanding curves begins. It's cold, so it's not going well at all. Microsleep sets in and as soon as the team car has caught up at the foot of the next ascent, the long-awaited wish for a one-minute power nap has to come true put on the right clothing. A clean work of the team. We continue directly to the Flüela Pass. It takes an unexpectedly long time until the pass road is even reached after a slight ascent of around 30 kilometers and also a tunnel with a length of 2.7 kilometers is significantly longer than expected at the entrance.
In the Flüela Pass, tiredness attacks again Hallucinations and in retrospect it is alleged that wavy lines in oncoming traffic were the reason for repeated warnings of cars on the road. The Race Across the Alps is the toughest one-day bike race in the world. It starts to rain, a thirty second power nap is needed and the 2383 meter high pass has not yet been reached. At the top there is no way around the next short stop for the rain pants and if there is a lack of sleep, it goes into the wet descent, which runs along the abyss without guard rails. Around 20 minutes later, in a blazing heat, the rainwear can be safely and confidently taken off again in a matter of seconds and devoted to the part of the race that was previously unthinkable.
The tiredness is bearable again and the work of the team is really picking up speed. After a slight descent, it goes sharply to the right. The Umbrail Pass is approaching with a high mileage, which ends with a descent of what feels like two meters of altitude in the ascent to the Stelvio Pass, in order to reach its pass for the second time in the race. The Race Across the Alps is the toughest one-day bike race in the world. It goes uphill for a long time, it is steep and it is a large trek meeting, which at the same time mixes the remaining air in the height with exhaust gases. Until the 2757 meter high pass of the Stelvio Pass is reached, it is a long, hard and excruciating constant struggle, which the now following descent can nevertheless top, which is as long as it is excruciating. When there is a lot of traffic, there is total anarchy between bicycles, motorcycles, tractors and sports cars, on the right there is a small wall before it goes into the abyss and the bad road hurts hands, neck and feet so much that a break has been taken on the descent would have been if there hadn't been so many stupid looking bike tourists. The Race across the Alps is the toughest one-day bike race in the world.
The heat is glowing. After driving more than 500 kilometers, a short stop is necessary because it is hardly possible to take liquids and liquid food while driving. At the same time, cold towels are placed on the right parts of the body to cool down, because, as in the Gavia Pass, the heat causes extreme headaches.
The Reschenpass is the last ascent to the destination and there is a strong tailwind, which sounds positive to the ears of all cyclists at first. A huge thunderstorm front drifts with the beautiful wind, so that shortly before the end of the ascent it starts to pour and the air gets 25 degrees colder, everything is oozing with moisture and the crank is hard to get around after the last strength has been exhausted. It is bitterly cold. In a rigid posture, you can somehow roll the last few kilometers without a break for a rain jacket to the finish in Nauders, which collapsed due to the thunderstorm.
The supervisors in the locker room of a sports shop peel the dripping calmly and speechlessly Remove clothes over sunburns and blistered areas and serve tea, warm blankets and dry clothes. Out of 37 internationally strong starters, just 23 made it to the finish line and, as the youngest starter in racing history, the finisher trophy with a time of 26:20 hours at the award ceremony is 12th alongside models of ultracycling. Thanks to all sponsors, supporters and the incredibly efficient team. The Race Across the Alps is the toughest one-day bike race in the world. Not a lie.