Our man in the Alps

Hackney GT team rider and all round good guy Shane Maher just recently completed the epic Trans Alp MTB stage race.  He has written us a little blog and supplied us with some great pics.  This event really is a bucket list contender :-)

Dramatic,Epic,fun,dangerous,exciting,this years Trans Alp was slightly unexpected compared to previous years of just riding gravel roads. This time they upped the game with free ride bike parks included with some very steep 30km downhills. It was pretty much an XC Enduro race on a epic scale. Living in London nothing prepares you for hours of climbing and descending which is I guess why you go to experience something totally different, testing and mind blowing. Epping forrest has great trails and the recent two day Gritfest in Wales was great training but the Trans Alp really is the bomb. My pics tell a better story. 

For the race,I was hoping to get the third stage out of the way after the long 1st and 2nd stages. Stage 3 had the highest climb of the race at 3000 metres from 1600metres at the beginning with some hike n bike near the top.I may have pushed a little too hard at first but it was my main goal of the entire race.The altitude is something else that can’t be prepared for,after this I learned to take it nice and easy at higher altitudes. Then when we got back to the finish after a short day I recovered fairly quickly then everything seem to fall into place from that day on. From getting up at 6am for breakfast to dropping our bags at hotel reception for organisers to pick up to deliver to our next hotel. It also started to feel completely at one sitting on the bike. 

The overall organisation was great . Feed stations were in the perfect spots. Like the Gritfest, they had fruit,cake but best of all was the potatoe and salt dips. You will sweat in the 31c heat and these were just brilliant for replacing your salts and avoiding cramp. Ask for their hot soup too. There was a new option this year to take up their service at the end of each stage. It really helps too at an extra 200euro that you can drop the bike off and forget it. Just make sure you tell them what may or may not be working or they may miss it. You do get a nice clean bike back in the morning. There is a great expo at the end of each race and lots of energy bars and Maxxis stand among others.So pack light.
Equipment wise I went with a full suss 100mm xc Pivot with Maxxis Ardent race and Ikon tyres.The bike was perfect for the 1st 2 stages.I had thought I could have done these on my cross bike.The later stages were very different and I could have done with deeper tyres for later stages especially when we had thunder storms. Our friends who had done Transalp and Cape Epic before had recommended we bring Enduro race equipment like dropper posts and enduro shoes for extra grip. My team mate and I weren’t sure at first but we eventually decided to attach droppers to our xc machines and we were glad we did. Our experienced friends had full enduro race machines with 150mm shocks up front. The Scott Genius only comes in at 12kilos with all that suspension and a dropper. As for the pros?…….superlight 100mm hardtails. But as for us flatlanders, any bike with a higher stack and an upright position helped heaps on the long descents and I regretted not bringing enduro shoes due to the amount of hike n bike we had to do up and at times down ski slopes and goat trails.
Overall the adventure really is dramatic. When you look back down into the valleys and say to yourself, 'I just rode up that’?? it truly makes it worth while and what you come for and fortunately those moments were fairly often. I would suggest that if get a chance to do it then do take time to take some photos, after all its an expensive race and its why we decide to ride the TA primarily. Would I do it again? Yes but on a different set up with my eye on those downhills. I’m no pro who can throw a light hardtail around and I’m reaching the wrong side of my 40’s to risk anything but it would have been a lot more fun on an enduro style bike.

 Well my next box ticking is the Yak Attack in Nepal of November next year. So maybe another Transalp would be good for training. Lets see :)