From June 16 to 23, we spent a week near the German – Austrian border, where I cycled a bit in the Berchtesgadener and Salzburger mountains.
This Gran Fondo was starting in Mühlbach am Hochkönig, basically around the corner from there.
And when I studied the route for that event, I realized that we would pass through Bruck an der Grossglocknerstrasse at the base of the climb up the Hochalpenstrasse by that name.
A climb I had done in 2009 and which I’d always wanted to revisit as well – I could tell I was in for a busy week.
But first, here’s my report on the Marmotte…
To avoid arriving last minute at the ‘main event’ we had a stop over for the night on our trip there.
As before, we were pleasantly surprised by the accommodation we had chosen, Zum Blauen Hecht in a very quiet little village off the highway.
Friendly reception and a spacious room – we had a very good dinner and an equally good breakfast there as well.
The following morning, it was ‘only’ three more hours to our apartment (pension Wielandner) in Sankt Johann im Pongau.
About an hour before we arrived there, it started to rain – the forecast for Saturday was not much better.
While there, I learned that there would not be more than 400 participants.
Which is peanuts compared to the ‘big’ Marmotte in the Alps, for which the 7,500 available spots are usually gone within an hour.
For this Marmotte Hochkönig, you could even register on the day itself…
I did a little reconnaissance of the climbs up the Dientner Sattel and Filzensattel, as well as the finish on the Arthurhaus.
They looked as bad as I had figured out from gathering information about them on the internet, but I was glad I had ‘checked them out’ anyway.
It was still drizzling on and off when we went down, but when we got back to Sankt Johann, I decided to get on the bike for my ‘Taper Friday’ ride. And it didn’t rain during that ride 🙂
The next morning we drove by car to the start, although I considered getting on the bike somewhere before that.
But as it was all uphill from Bischofshofen, I decided it would be better to save the energy for the official ride, which was an uphill start right away too.
As I had asked the day before about when my time would start to run, I didn’t hurry much – the clock would start once I crossed the sensors on the line.
So, I took some pictures of the bunch leaving at 7:30 sharp, made my final preparations and got on my bike around 7:40.
Apparently, you are supposed to start in the bunch though…
After all, it is an UCI official event and not some tour, but fuck if I knew that.
Anyway, I therefor did not get an official start time, but they assured me they would enter it manually, no problem.
I started off easy, but after some three or four kilometers into the climb up Dientner Sattel, I started to catch up with the ones left behind from the start.
This continued throughout the day, but all in all – since there were so relatively few participants – I didn’t overtake more than around 100 people, while some of those passed me again on the final climb.
Anyway, I was focused on staying on schedule, as calculated by Best Bike Split.
Unfortunately, the wind was more annoying than factored in for the ride, but I managed quite well.
I took short breaks at the rest stops, because I was ‘ahead’ of schedule, but by the time my usual physical problems started to bother me, I was rapidly losing time.
However, I was already close to the 100 kilometer mark when that started, so I was still confident I would make it (in time).
I took some pain killers and strapped on the ‘hernia belt’ which helped.
I was not really prepared for the climb labeled ‘Embach’ – I hadn’t been able to find a lot of info about it, but the sign at the start was reassuring: 8,300 meters at 3.7% average and 18% max.
This turned out to be a ‘double summit’ climb – some 3 kilometers up at 10 – 12%, an short equally steep downhill and passage through the valley, followed by 3 kilometers up at 10 – 12% again.
The following irregular climb up the 16 kilometer long Dientner Sattel – with lots of stretches at 10+ grades – was at least offering a tail wind in the final 2 or 3 kilometers in the open fields near the summit.
I then maximized the relative rest during the descend back to Mühlbach after that, to conserve as much energy as I could for the final climb up to the Arthurhaus.
Those 7.7 kilometers (avg. 9%) took me over an hour including a couple of breaks to try and ease the pain…
Nevertheless, I was still ahead of schedule and I crossed the finish line after 8:20 – moving time was somewhere around 7:20.
As I needed 9:05 for a ‘gold certificate’ according to the listing on the website – which I had based my BBS effort / calculation on – I was quite happy.
So, I was a little disappointed when I pulled my certificate from the website on Monday, as it was ‘bronze’.
I asked the organizers and they replied back that unfortunately, the information on the website was wrong and they (now) received the official UCI regulation for the certificates.
I would have had to finish within 6:20 for a gold and 6:40 for silver…
To be honest, I thought that 9:05 was generous, but if that’s what it says for 6 months, why doubt it.
And while I created my battle plan to stay within that time and I could have done better than I did, but within 6:20 was never going to be possible.
Perhaps if I would have followed a plan created by a (professional) coach, I might have been able to improve that to silver, but given my injury related limitations, I doubt that, let alone the gold.
However, it was a great experience and I’m proud of having done it 🙂
While the route was not as ‘scenic’ and quiet as I would have liked – busy secondary roads most of the day – the views were spectacular, the climbs long and hard.
Plus, we had no rain to speak of all day and Paula’s support was invaluable and precious as always.