The race would begin on September 1 at 10 pm, in Bilbao.
The “briefing” is the day before in the afternoon, with an “impromptu” dinner included. Time to share impressions, nerves, and make yourself known. Put faces to the different numbers.
The mixture of sensations before a test of this style is something strange, as well as the fortuitous encounter between several runners in the city the day before it. And the thing is that even though there are not many participants, they all follow a similar routine and the bicycles equipped to face the 3,500km of the test give them away. They are easy to recognize.
Ahead, 3,500kms and 8 checkpoints before returning to Bilbao:
1. Col de la Pierre de St. Martin (FR)
3. Cabo de Gata
4. Peak Veleta
5. Parcours Ronda – Puerto de las Palomas – Zahara de la Sierra
6. Albufeira (PT)
7. Sanctuary of Graça (PT)
8. Cain de Valdeón
The departure is from the Puppy, at the door of the Gughengheim in Bilbao, the day threatened rain and it does not disappoint, Txirimiri. Added to the nerves of the start and the uncertainty of shooting the first night of the pull is added the handicap of the rain. It will be tough from kilometer 1, with extra wear.
Most of the runners go along the coast, although some adventurous dares to deal with the deep Gipuzkoa with the intention of avoiding the border crossing of Irún and cutting a few kilometers.
Ulrich -cap # 28- would impose his rhythm from the start, arriving first at CP1, Col de la Pierre de St Martin, with a little more than 4h of advantage and after a very cold and humid night, with 4C. First 240km and 4,800m in less than 11h. His decision, strength and lightness in the set-up of the bike, made it more than 1 hour faster than any other just up the Col.
The two Finns Kim Heikkinen and Sami Martiskanen would be second and third respectively, crowning with just 5min of difference and showing very solid. From behind the thing would be close, with many participants in less than 15min. On the descent to Spain, the Sun awaited them.
On the way to Javalambre, different alternatives are seen again, to the point of seeing runners “in pairs” dissolving on both sides of the Yesa reservoir.
Most would take the reference of Zaragoza and Teruel to focus on Javalambre with its last two kilometers on the track.
Although many of them would cross the mountain to descend through the Pico del Buitre observatory, or continue by track to Torrijas, even at night, and despite the fact that these alternatives had 8 and 20 extra gravel kilometers.
The second day begins with Ulrich crowning Javalambre even without sunrise and already with more than 10 hours of advantage over his pursuers, Bruno Ferraro and Sami … and that he stopped to sleep more than 4 hours on the outskirts of Teruel next to a gas station after 620kms in 32h, precisely to face those last meters of the ascent – technically more complicated – with daylight.
Until Cabo de Gata almost everyone would take a similar route, through the interior, although some of them deviated to Valencia and would travel almost the entire coast, why not.
Again in the morning and after having rested for a few hours in San José, Ulrich passes CP # 3 Cabo de Gata Natural Park, with the first rays of the sun. A 10km stretch of gravel next to some of the most beautiful beaches in Spain, where more than one rider took the opportunity to take a little bath. Ulrich manages to extend his rent until 28h on Bruno and Sami, who barely take 15min and who would end up coinciding in the middle of the afternoon getting supplies in the town of Cabo de Gata.
The natural path to CP # 4 Pico Veleta is to skirt the Sierra Nevada to the north, on the way to Guadix and Granada.
Despite everything, again many would take different alternatives, such as climbing the port of the Catalans, the Port of Ragua or skirting the Sierra Nevada and La Alpujarra along the coast.
Ulrich would still leave at night from Hotel el Guerra to the top of Veleta, which would crown at dawn with only 4C. An impressive effort, with already more than 1,400km on his legs.
On this terrain, Bruno would keep him at a disadvantage of 28h, although Sami would hang a bit and lose almost an hour in the climb of more than 40kms to Veleta.
Javier García, who was 4th in Cabo de Gata just over 2 hours behind his predecessors, would lose some ground when diverting through the Port of Ragua and have navigation problems near Guadix, distancing himself in almost 8 hours. And it is that the final part of Veleta was very hard, having to walk up the last 8km, between a thick fog and with the last hours of light.
Meanwhile Ulrich would already be in Ronda, more than 300km away, in the middle of the test. Kilometer 1,750, and with an average of more than 400km / day
The day would end in Zahara de la Sierra, the end of the CP # 5 Parcours, and after crowning Puerto de las Palomas.
After having crossed the border between Spain and Portugal by boat, Ulrich would arrive at CP # 6 Albufeira, 44 hours ahead with Bruno and 48 hours with Sami, almost nothing. Managing the advantage with great determination, despite the great open differences, and with an almost perfect strategy both in navigation and planning, dealing very well with the ferry schedules -which does not sail at night time- and saving the most complicated sections of day. I don’t know how motivated he is to stay after 5 days at an average of almost 400km / day, but it is overwhelming.
Behind, things are still interesting despite the distance of the head, with a block of 5 runners quite close to each other: Hippy, Javier García, André Alves, Luis Carvalho and Kim Heikkinen in just 7h. With more than 1,200km to go, there are still possibilities of seeing big changes, although the podium seems difficult for them.
While Ulrich grapples with the Portuguese roads heading north, his closest pursuers do so to pass the ferry to Portugal. With a lot of emotion when making a cut between the group of pursuers.
From behind the riders would suffer the fury of strong storms in the vicinity of the top of the Veleta making their ascent difficult and forcing many of them to a forced stop in the middle of the ascent, several coinciding in the base camp at more than 2,400m altitude in the last hostel available, where the road access ends.
Different route alternatives are seen among the pursuers, some going further along the coast -and encountering an unusual headwind-, others through the interior and others lost on secondary roads.
Almost everyone would have navigation problems. Bruno sits even further in second place, increasing the gap with a Sami who seems to be starting to register the kilometers, already riding more than 150kms -about 7h- from Bruno.
Ulrich crowns CP # 7 Monte Farinha, while Bruno has an incident with a stray dog that bites him on the leg. This would happen near Visau, in the vicinity of a gas station and in the face of the inaction of the locals. In fear of contracting a disease, he seeks to get vaccinated against tetanus and rabies. He goes to the nearest outpatient clinic, where he meets a Doctor – who happened to be following the race – and sends him by ambulance to a nearby hospital to be cured, vaccinated and brought back, so as not to be further affected by the incident. . All in all, he loses just over 5 hours.
Ulrich is already more than 68h ahead. Sami cuts a lot of ground, staying just 50km from Bruno, who comes out of his forced break with enough energy, regaining the advantage with Sami and crowning CP # 7 with just over 4h of advantage.
Behind the differences remain despite the possible advantage of the locals, who do not seem to benefit.
Ulrich heads to León riding at night in the Sanabria area with temperatures around 2-3C, which has just finished off his knees, already punished by the kilometers. This forces him to stop in Benavente in search of a physiotherapist and rest. I would lose practically 24 hours.
Behind, Bruno would take a bad alternative to Spain, making more meters and on worse roads than Sami, losing almost 2h of rent.
Without getting up too early, Ulrich continues towards the Picos de Europa, at a somewhat slower pace than we are used to and trying to conserve his strength and especially his knees.
Ahead, heavy rains await him, which he manages to free partly. In the morning they were terrible, leaving more than 120l / m in the Cain gorge – last Checkpoint – and causing a small landslide that left the town incommunicado for a few hours. Ulrich would arrive in heavy rain and would just be the first to open the route back to Cain, dodging the machinery still working, the loose stones and a large quagmire that flooded the road.
Despite the day lost in Benavente, he still had more than 50h of advantage with Bruno, who was stalked by a Sami who was already shooting just 30min away.
Leaving at dawn and with great force from the depths of Cain, Ulrich took the last stretch to the finish line with determination. I wanted to finish the pull and get off the 10 days: 340kms ahead and more than 5600m.
Possible but not easy. Although she had an extra motivation, the bride waiting at the finish line and an engagement ring in her jersey pocket for her.
Panderruedas would raise it in time to top10 on Strava, and San Glorio without detracting. It would continue along the coast, but it would avoid the national road for a good stretch, going through the deep Cantabria and some unnamed ports before leaving for Cabezón de la Sal and facing the last 160kms and yes by the N634 direct to Bilbao.
With hardly any stops, determined and convinced that he was arriving for 7.30 pm, like clockwork or rather like a real locomotive, he traveled the coast, not without steep slopes to the finish line, the expected Puppy, and the hug of his girlfriend. That she received in her arms an exhausted but happy boyfriend who would propose to her before such a scenario and the gazes of journalists and passers-by.
Bruno and Sami would continue fighting for second place, spending the night – to say the least – in Caín. But for them there would be no rest, since the differences between them were minimal, such as the distance to the goal. They must continue.
The balance seemed to play in Bruno’s favor, somewhat faster on the bike and a few minutes ahead of Sami, but at this point it’s more about sheer endurance and lack of sleep after more than 3,000km in 11 days on the bike.
To add more excitement, Bruno would follow in Ulrich’s footsteps, while Sami, still a few minutes behind, would turn south to continue on the plateau. Many doubts between which of the two options would be the best.
A priori the coast seems a better route, Ulrich’s numbers seem to attest to it, however the inland option has some advantages, such as a very favorable last 60kms and a probable downwind.
The tension would continue until the finish line, since both accessed the capital by different roads.
So small was the margin that they took that at the finish line we did not know who was going to appear first due to the delay in the refresh time of the trackers.
Until Sami did. Just 3 minutes away, Bruno would arrive, with the same uncertainty until a few meters from the finish line he could see Sami and celebrate with him the victory of having concluded such a feat, with a handshake and a hug.
Probably the best image of the second edition of this exciting Transibérica 2019.