Reward for hard work of the past three years
Just to get the invitation to an event of this level is in the world of professional cycling rather unusual for a Continental team. So it was a surprise and a great honor at the same time that the organizers of the first Tour of the Alps decided to award one of only three wildcards for this prestigious race to the rather "small team" from Germany (the Race has been known for decades as "Giro del Trentino"). The absolute best riders of the world are takig this race in the Alps, to prepare finally for the Grio d'Italia and now BIKE AID is in the middle. According to the organizers, the invitation is also directly linked to the enourmous success of the social project and the charity of BIKE AID, and takes account of the sporting development of the team over recent years.
At the beginning stands the feasibility study
How should the guys from team BIKE AID now manage to follow the world's best climbers among them former winners of the Giro, Tour de France, etc.? Especially for the African riders, this task would be a huge experience, but also a huge challenge, as they have not yet raced on this incredibly high level. Nevertheless, the unanimous opinion was "we can do it!" And true to the motto of our chancellor Angela Merkel, the planned preparation for the tour began already in February and culminated in successful stage races in Gabon and Cameroon, where both the riding, the team spirit and also the general evolution of the rider's shape went on the right track for a good participation at the Tour of the Alps.
goals? - just do not start dreaming!
But what are the goals for an event, which is only so spiked by such riders. This makes it very difficult to have the right degree of optimism, but also realism. Targets are supposed to motivate, but also be finally attainable, otherwise one speaks rather of dreams. And how would you be able to compare the successes achieved so far and derive what they would mean for the Tour of the Alps? These questions were answered relatively quick in various meetings with the team directors: "to be active, to fight, to get through and perhaps to get a brilliant day," thus was the task for the riders for the tour.
Race analysis and preparation
The goals are set and now it is to determine what all is necessary to achieve these goals and how the competition will be set up. In the case of climbing parties of this kind, physiological aspects point to a very strong "threshold power" in relation to the weight of the riders. This means that a maximum wattage of about one hour can be achieved with the lowest possible weight. The best in the world (many of the participants in the Tour of the Alps) bring about 6.1 to 6.3 watts / kg "on the pedal" - that means a 70 kg rider can do about 434 watts over an hour. Conversely, if a rider can produce less power, he should weigh less in proportion. In comparison, the values of the guys from BIKE AID, who started for the Tour of the Alps varies between 5.3 and 5.7 watts / kg. Apparently not too much difference one could still mean - it's only 0.4 watts / kg. But then in proportion we speak again over 6.5 to 8 percent, which at such a level is then rather a "bigger" difference. The so-called ability to maintain a high wattage over long time also plays an enormous role - that is, the ability to constantly repeat the potential power over the duration of the race. And there is the advantage also clearly on the side of the "World Tour - boys", who are doing often stage races over many days at such a high basic level.
Bikes? - Advantage BIKE AID!
So if you seem to be physically a little disadvantaged compared to the best, you have to make sure that you won't be disadvantaged with the used equipment. That would make the whole thing even more difficult. The most important aspect is the bicycle, and the focus should be on the weight and the aerodynamic aspects.
With our new partner BENOTTI Bikes we can rely on an incredible support. With the frames manufactured by ax-lightness, the bikes are already very light. But not enough, Bernd Nolte, owner of BENOTTI Bikes, completed the set-up with megaleightweight and at the same time aerodynamic wheels from ax-lightness so that the teambikes including the powermeter and other accessories just reached the 6.8 kg weight limit of the UCI.
We are ready - let's go to Kufstein to the team presentation
Preparations were completed, riders all on board - even if it was again a whole mess to get the visas for the African riders (details would blow the boundaries here) - and so the boat rolled out of 8 riders and 7 Staff members to the starting point of the tour Kufstein, on the border to Germany. Despite many participations in high-class races so far, one could note the tension and excitement of each individual, because that was a very special race. And the start list was more like a World Tour race than a race of the category HC (hors categorie) of the UCI. And so was the picture on arrival in Kufstein: parking lots full of big coaches, 3-axle truck,s and a whole bunch of beautifully painted team vehicles. Imposing this picture and BIKE AID in the middle.
The race - 5 days of climbing festival and cold weather
The winter hit again. In large parts of Europe, during the Easter week, the weather changed and in the Alps it looked like that: snow, cold to -7 degrees on some passes and enormous wind. On the first day of the race it should be very unpleasant with 2 degrees and constant rain. As it might not have been worse, because it is not so easy to adapt to these conditions - especially in the case of constant uphill and downhill. Especially the long descents from the mountain passes let the riders freeze very quickly and whoever has experienced this, knows that this is a condition that one would not like to experience.
The first two stages should be the "easiest" following the race profile, although the hills were also between 4 and 8 kilometers, including the 5 kilometer mountain climb in Innsbruck. And since the Russian team "Gazprom" rode from the start to take the KOM jersey, both stages were characterized by an unusually high pace, which should not change during the whole race. Only the mountain passes got longer.
Mendelpass, alpe Rodengo with 15 kilometers and a 12 percent average climb, or Monte Bondone with 25 kilometers of climbing, everything on the program and some riders went day by day through hell and back. For the guys from Africa, the weather was a kind of a shock, because they had never seen this cold or even saw snow in their lives. But they all held out and went with the best. In the finals the favorites then went away and distanced the guys from BIKE AID, but all reached the final stage.
Reward at the end in Trento - 20 degrees, sun and a teenager from Eritrea "on fire"
The boys went to the start line with joy, knowing that Trento would now have good 20 degrees. But before that, there were still 199 heavy kilometers and the stage should also bring the decision in the overall classification. This was the start of a hellish pace - the first 24 kilometers in 23 minutes - which corresponds to an average of 60 km / h - not downhill! But it came, as it had come and in the front of the bunch a heavy crash happened in that also Salim Kipkemboi from Kenya was involved and that forced him with a swollen face to abandon the race. On the last climb of the day - the Monte Bondone - then the surprise: 7 men were in front. Names like Thibaut Pinot (3rd Tour de France 2014), Geraint Thomas (Team captain Sky for Giro d'Italia), or Michele Scarponi (winner Giro d'Italia 2011).
Ok, that was not a surprise, but what happened behind it 2 minutes back was for sure!
A young man, named Awet Habtom, crossed Bondone 's summit in the pursuer group with only 2 minutes behind - and he' s only 19 years old and wearing the BIKE AID jersey. What a performance, if one times his still lacking experience and also the missing skills in the descent, which took him during the entire 5 days enormous amount of energy. So Awet finished the last stage on 37th in the front field of the race after losing some time downhill. What a brilliant performance!
Satisfied with the team? - But yes!
Despite a little bad luck on the last day, the entire team is satisfied with the performance at the "Tour of the Alps". Of course you might have hoped for one or the other, but realisticly, already the participation and in the end the solid performance of the whole team is a success. We were there, with the best riders in the world and a very high class peloton. We could discover the talents of the riders but also their weaknesses. With this experience in their legs and mind, the guys can head very confident towards the furture challenges of this season.
A big thanks to all who made this happen and helped during the race. All the Staff members who worked around the clock and gave it all to let the riders focus on racing, you made it comfortable for our boys!