After yesterday’s time trial it was questionable whether the legs would ever work again, that combined with my aches and bruises from Friday’s crash meant an uncomfortable first few minutes on the bike. After another extended warm up ride both Josh and myself were as prepared as we could be for another battle with these European mountain goats. Stage 4 started with a neutralised start like stage 1, we were lead out to the early climb, having learnt how sketchy and erratic these starts can be I elected to follow several riders who were riding along the pavement which proved far safer.
The early hills which were small sprints compared to the mountains we’d ridden on the previous days suited both Josh and myself meaning we didn’t loose so many places early in the stage unlike previous days. The day also included some singletrack which was littered with roots, this played again to our advantage and we found it easy to make up places as other riders struggled down the tight singletrack.
Approaching the only mountain climb of the day I’d made my way into a strong looking group with 2 Rocky Roads Orbea Team riders and a UCI Cube Nutswerk MTB Team pro rider. Other riders tried attacking early on the climb but we set a solid tempo and caught many riders who’d blown nearer the top of the mountain. Josh and myself found as the days passed the maximum heart rate we could maintain became more and more restricted. The days high 30 degree temperature scorched us as we rode our way up to the Milka mountain top arch, the organisers as I’d predicted provided a lovely steep kicker right at the top of the mountain just to sap the final energy from our legs.
On the descent I was stuck with a rider who was pretty slow so I lead the way down the slippery gravel fireroad, he insisted though on cutting me up on each corner, if he’d been English he would have received some choice selection of words! This spurred me on to take a few risks and gap the chasing riders, this gap only increased entered the next technical rooty singletrack section.
Up the final sprint climb riders were struggling and this presented the perfect opportunity to make up some final places before the last downhill. After a brief hike a bike section we entered the Schladming World Cup Downhill circuit again. The Fox Terralogic forks had worked perfectly all week but down over the huge braking bumps both Josh and myself suffered with huge arm pump. I was pretty nervous entering the last part of the descent where I’d crashed hard a few days earlier so took things steady.
Today’s stage was the most fun of the race but it felt odd to be finished in under 3 hours, the race was over but I wasn’t quite ready for it to finish. A time of 2 hours 33 meant I couldn’t quite match my start board number in the general classification but successfully beat many pro riders. Josh completed the day a short time later and successfully matched his start number in the GC.
Alexey Medvedev from Russia and Katrin Leumann from Switzerland took the overall general classification wins, the UCI points, and the prize money but at the finish line it was obvious that all the finishers were thrilled to have ridden this year’s event.
Photos from todays stage and previous days can be found here, make sure you check out photos of day 2 http://www.mtbfestival.at/index.php?id=46 Once back in the UK we’ll be uploading some video and photos.
We look forward to returning to the 2012 AlpenTour Trophy.