Control No.2 the familiar Stelvio Pass closed at 18:11 on Thursday evening after 3 days of operation. Of course the first rider to open it was no surprise to us by now, the domination of Kristof Allegaert over the second edition race was becoming obvious as riders approached the pass. What looked in greater doubt was whether or not he might actually reach the control before the control team. The tracker attached to the Control Car (or the “Brooks / Volvo V60 Control Car” to give its proper title) was still registering its location at the Supernova Designs office in Freiburg when Allegaert was making his start on Fluela Pass. The vehicle was some 6hrs from the pass, whilst the rider appeared to be a similar time away from the summit.
The team must thank Supernova for their services as a pit stop for the crew at the most unsociable hours as the team transferred from the Paris control over night. The Media Car duo of Sam and Matthias arrived at 2am to be rested and fed and the Control Car did not make it until morning for showers after sleeping in a motorway rest area. We must also thank them for taking delivery of Rider #12 Daniel Jessee bike and equipment which was recovered by the Control Car from a hospital near Combs La Ville. We regret to report that Daniel had a collision with a vehicle during heavy rain a few hours after he left Control 1 which left him with fractured ribs. We wish Daniel the best recovery possible.
A stealthy Media Car had been despatched two hours earlier and caught up with the first three riders en route to Control 2 in plenty of time, so in fact there was never any danger Kristof would arrive before the control was open, but it was fun to see if he would beat the red car.
As it happened when he reached the town of Prato Kristof’s tracker was turned off for around an hour and by the time the car arrived, he had only just appeared back on the map and was getting started on the climb. A missing seat pack solved the mystery his time in Prato. Kristof’s belongings were wet from the rains that had been falling all day and were drying at his accommodation for the evening whilst he made a return trip to Albergo Folgore.
Kristof reached the top at 20:45 and returned immediately to Prato allo Stelvio. Josh Ibbett and Richard Dunnett meanwhile had been riding together and stopped near Davos as storms closed in ahead of them. The rains had been persistant all day but Josh described a ‘wall of water’ ahead of them and the two retired early for fear of being caught in the storm.
When morning came Josh was much quicker off the mark and up early to climb over Fluelapass and Oftenpass and start up to Stelvio. He put the climb away in a very quick time and reached the summit at 10:28 but by now was 12 hours behind Allegaert. As Ibbett descended he passed Dunnett on the lower slopes. The time taken to ride the pass and descend can mean that riders with significant gaps between them may still see each other on the pass. Dunnett crested the climb 3.5hrs after Ibbett but confessed to not having his head in the race and having struggled to keep going. The four hours that seperated him from Josh by the time he descended from Control 2 could be attributed to procrastination and apathy. Josh was simply quicker out of bed and onto the pedals.
As Richard descended so he encountered Adrian O’Sullivan in 4th place half way up the pass and so the control was truly open for business with a steady stream of visitors. Adrian was possibly our most fortunate rider to get the best of the weather and avoid the storms on his approach. He took a Northerly route through Austria finding plenty of wet roads in front of him but not the offending precipitation. Of course we’re a big believer in ‘you make your own luck’ and taking a punt on a different route, spending a late night in the saddle stopping only for broken sleep is what put Adrian in such a position to be ‘lucky’.
Next in, number 14 Ishmael Burdeau was less fortunate and was the first of many riders to appear at Control 2 at 19:45 looking very wet indeed, he was also the first rider to decide that the Albergo Folgore was too comfortable to leave and booked in for dinner and a bed. Likewise Mark Collinson (#11) who arrived 40 minutes later also decided on an early am departure but the next two arrivals had other plans.
Steffan Streich (#89) and Matthias Muller (#50) arrived in quick succession just after 9pm. Streich had checked the weather forecast and decided morning or evening, he was going to get wet whatever, so he stayed a while to dry out by the fire before heading off back down the mountain. Muller’s hand was rather more forced however; he was the second rider to drop belongings at the top of the pass and set off up the pass with only a light jacket. Matthias raided the stores of the ever accommodating Albergo and dressed himself almost completely in a cling-film and newspaper laminate, complete with aerodynamic helmet wrap.
Sergei Konov woke the control up at 6:24 am on Wednesday, with a similar early morning start on the pass that he had in the 2013 race. The TCR veteran returned to the pass a full day ahead of his last year’s schedule however well inside the top ten. Gunther Desmedt finished off the top 10 and was resident over night in Prato allo Stelvio along with Konov but found his bike on the wrong side of a locked door in his hotel when he was due to depart. Desmedt hit control 2 just before 10 am as the Control Car was taking to the road for another 18 hr drive to control 3. The timing versus our unstoppable race leader was, of course, as always; tight.
Coming down the mountain we saw no less than ten riders starting a busy day on the Stelvio as the main pack started to come through. Among the first few was our ladies leader Pippa Handley with a great ride come through 13th to control 2. Our photographer Matthias Wjst stayed on the pass to capture those who came through and Control Operator Sam was joined by Fran Hollander, veteran of June’s Trans Am race to sign riders in and document their accommodation particulars.
Riders came through until 2am on the Wednesday night with Albergo owners staying up to welcome them with a warm fire and food and many of them taking refuge over night. The conditions worsened on the pass towards the afternoon and evening and temperatures dropped below zero Celsius. The TCR car made a trip down the pass to make sure that stationary dots were not still on the road and had stopped for reasons other than good judgement. The Alps were making this year’s race a cruel one, not just on the pass itself but the riders of course must get to the bottom of the climb in the first place and had by now spent more than 24hrs at the mercy of the weather.
Thursday and snow was forecast, the deteriorating weather was stretching and breaking the field all day with riders slowed and stopped by the onslaught. Among the heroes of the day however was George Michakis who was the only rider this year not to understand the repeated message that it must be an East side ascent of the pass to qualify for a stamp in one’s Brevet card. The Greek number 93 rider could scarcely believe it. In weather that none of the control crew would have liked to have experienced for more than 5 minutes, they had the uncomfortable task of delivering the news that he had climbed the wrong side of the mountain. After some soul searching he returned to them and said “I’m going back” and in only four hours he was back in front of them again.
Its one thing to go and correct a mistake that will win you a race when you can afford the time to do so in good weather. To do this in the middle of the last day of the control’s operation for personal endeavour however, just to get a stamp in one’s Brevet card and climbing one of the highest passes in the Alps against such inhospitable conditions. Well, what can we say about that? Courageous riding indeed. Bravo George.
CONTROL 2 Sign in, all time CET…
|28||91||Henri van Winkoop||19:45||13/8/2014|
|33||7||Nick ‘cornfield’ Dodd||21:23||13/8/2014|
|35||4||Mikko ‘off piste’ Mäkipaa||22:40||13/8/2014|
|45||3||Tom ‘Spooner’ Stone||8:00||14/8/2014|
|53||80||Willem van Zyl||12:29||14/8/2014|
|55||81||Vincenzo ‘yes’ Szannicando||14:51||14/8/2014|
|57||93||George ‘Hero’ Michakis||15:08||14/8/2014|
© All content Transcontinental Race Ltd / Matthias Wjst