Austria – Day Three … Release the Fun !

22 08 2008

After the rain clouds of recent days we were anxious when we woke, we needed some dry trails.  We met our guides, Andrea and Matus, briefly last night and a quick chat about the week’s expectations had the subliminal message that bad weather meant sketchy riding.  The sun was blazing and everything’d dried out nicely.  We were happy.

http://sussexma.fpic.co.uk/p52898350.html

Today was an ‘assessment’ day.  We were all wondering what this meant, would we get 10/10 or be put in the dunce class ?  No need to worry, it was just to see how much juice we had in our legs to tackle all the monty great climbs, which now the cloud had lifted, had become very apparent, and to see how we handled some loose, simple tracks.

After gaining a nice hole in my knee at 24/12 the stitches were due out tomorrow but the holiday meant they’d got to come out 3 days early with the warning that my wound could pop open again unannounced.  Nice !  I hadn’t pushed a pedal in 2 weeks so had no idea how I was going to be.  Only one way to test it, get on yer bike and ride.  I was anxious, my knee was stiff and tight.  The climb to follow up Maiskogel was approx. 900mtrs.  We warmed up via the cycle paths round Kaprun (keep to the right) taking in the spectacular views of this gorgeous valley and soaking up some ray.  Me assessing my knee as we went, if I couldn’t do the flat bit the rest of the week was sunbathing for me.

As it happened my knee held up, so we all started the climb proper.  We’d been warned to pace ourselves.  We might all be fit but living where we do there was no practice to be had for a constant climb up steep terrain of over 900mtrs, I mean Firle tops out at approx. 240 !!  Spin it to win it, the mantra was constantly going through my head.  Steep tarmac to start then onto fireroad the sun getting really hot and no shade to be had.  Funnily enough the Austrians classify mountainbiking as fireroad up (as humanly fast as possible) and the same fireroad down, they don’t really do singletrack like us.  That said some of their fireroads are so steep they’re impossible.  On this mountain the locals race it annually and the fastest ascent recorded 40 mins, we managed it in 3 1/2hrs!

Matus our Slovakian guide was an ex junior World Championship MTB rider with legs to die for and a level of fitness that seemed unhuman, he soon became nicknamed The Android.  He was spectacular both up and down the mountain on whatever terrain and set the bar very high.  He was fun too though and as we all meandered our way to the top he intermingled getting to know us all, chatting about our riding at home tempting us with what could be in store for the week.  All the time assessing us without us even knowing.

We eventually topped out at the mountain hut restaurant with an impressively clear view of Austria’s highest mountain, the Grossglockner (http://www.tourmycountry.com/austria/grossglockner.htm).  Snow capped from the recent rain it was truly a classic alpine view, pristinely beautiful and well worth the effort of the climb.  We scoffed lunch consisting various types of meat & potatoes and chilled out in the sunshine.  Down we had to eventually go though, unfortunately fireroad all the way.  The only other route was a grade 5 megga technical singletrack decent and not for today.  The fireroad decent was still sketchy, very loose and so easy to underestimate, passing the optional cable car as we went, half an hour later we were back in the valley.

My knee had held out but it was sore and I knew I was going to struggle on the climbs, this was the smallest one of the week, so I opted not to carry on and went back to Das Hut to chill out and have a shower.  The rest of our group went off to ride the UCI MTB WorldChampionship Course starting with another inhumanly steep grassy climb, up a fireroad for about another 300mtrs then back down via a nice water splash to finish.  It spat you out right by the front door of Das Hut so once back it was beers out and chill on the balcony taking in the spectacular views of the glacier.  Tomorrow will be Wildkogel….Lisa

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