Alpenbrevet – Gold

After I had ridden the first cycling marathon with the Ötztaler in 2016, I had set myself the goal of an Alpine Brevet in 2017. Unlike the Ötztaler, there are different routes to choose from with the Swiss counterpart. The silver, gold and platinum tracks are available as round courses. The latter is even harder than the Ötztaler with five passes, well over 200 kilometres and around 7000 metres of altitude difference. The Goldstrecke has about the same altitude difference as the Ötztaler Radmarathon. Less kilometres but four steep passes, so that a group ride like at the Brenner in the Ötztaler is not possible. The platinum track seemed a bit too hard for me, so that I signed up for the gold track, where I booked the change option, so that I could have decided on the platinum track at short notice. But since the weather forecast was clearly on “thunderstorm danger” in the late afternoon, this option was out of the question for me. And I can anticipate that the platinum participants were actually hit by heavy thunderstorms on the last passes.

Start was in Meiringen in Switzerland. We had our accommodation a little outside, since the accommodations in the place were completely sold out and had therefore in the morning with the car to one of the designated parking lots. After a check of the bikes, we rolled directly to the start in Meiringen. At this point it should be said that for the following year the route was changed. Since the Alpenbrevet is not an official race but a brevet, there is also no road closure for motor traffic. For the most part traffic is not a problem, but there is a stretch between Andermatt and Wassen, which is heavily frequented and where timekeeping was suspended in the neutralized zone in order to relieve the pressure from the drivers. I do not know the reasons for the changes in the following year, but I suspect that there is a connection. After the starting signal, the riders rolled directly into a small climb before entering the first pass after a flat section, the Grimselpass up to 2164 meters above zero. My Powermeter had already produced very strange values the weeks before and had dropped out again and again. Already the first meters I noticed that the watt display was much too low and the Stages were defective. Damn! And that exactly to the competition. A good friend from the BMW cycling club said to me before the Alpine Brevet: “Lisa, you’ve been cycling long enough. If the Powermeter doesn’t work, then rely on your feeling.” Something else was not left to me either. Although my heart rate values are very reliable and correlate very well with the tidal range, the values at such a distance mix first with the excitement and later with the fatigue. So I tried to concentrate on my feeling and to find the right pace. The gradients of the pass were quite moderate and I had some conversations in the crowded field. Many of the participants were repeat offenders, who completed the Brevet annually, whereby they changed the course length every now and then. I found the flat gradient with the rapidly changing gradients exhausting, as I couldn’t find any rhythm and had to change gears constantly to maintain the intensity. Some riders told me that the next pass, the Nufenen pass with a pass height of 2478 meters would be horrible, because it was very steep and would cost strength. So I prepared myself mentally for it.

In between there was light rain. The sky was cloudy and loosened more and more. My stomach was a bit strange that day and I was sick. At the first refreshment station I had to be careful to keep the gel inside me. The departures were a bit more difficult than at the Ötztaler, because there was always oncoming traffic and some drivers were driving at snail’s pace in the middle of the road. Therefore my appeal was again and again with overtaking: please keep right! Against all fears I enjoyed the ascent to the Nufenen Pass. Even if it was steep and my Garmin spit out constant double-digit gradients, it was STEADY steep. Somehow was not my day. My stomach was overacidified and I found driving incredibly tiring. Already at the Grimselpass I was in a bad mood. It felt so exhausting, although I was rested and full of energy. There were still three passes waiting. Only at the Gotthard pass did the ice gradually break and it ran more smoothly. The cobblestones were still cruel and exhausted the power of the drivers. Shortly before the Passan height (2180 meters) I overtook a driver, who was bursting his collar and he complained to me that the cobblestone was to blame that his strength was diminishing and that already much weaker drivers had overtaken him and I would overtake him now. I found it remarkable how some people see themselves. I didn’t comment any further and went down to Andermatt.

The descent to Andermatt was very fast. Traffic on cars and motorcycles increased. Between Andermatt and Wassen the neutralized zone waited for us. I remember with horror this further departure. The traffic volume was enormous and there was traffic jam and stagnating traffic downhill. But overtaking was almost unthinkable because the road was not wide. Again and again there were tunnels. Beside passenger cars some trucks and camper vans cavorted on the distance. Unbelievable exhaust fumes came on top. I was very happy when I arrived in Wassen and it became calmer with the beginning of the Sustenpass (2224 meters). Now I finally ran really warm and I felt good and ready for the last big climb. But also the temperatures had warmed up in the meantime. The sun was shining from the blue sky. I underestimated the weather and left out the food station in the lower part of the pass, as I thought that a bottle of Iso would still reach the summit. A fatal mistake! The sun burned relentlessly and I sweated and lost a lot of water. I became incredibly thirsty and slower. I could only think of water. I don’t know when I had ever been so thirsty in my life. It was indescribable. Constantly I stared up, where I thought the end of the pass. Nevertheless I could still marvel at the beauty of the indescribable landscape. In the lower part some riders had overtaken me, but some that I remembered, I caught up despite my thirst and the declining performance. And like the Ötztaler at Timmelsjoch, you could see many riders standing or pushing their bikes. If only this thirst would stop. The last hairpin bends were an unspeakable torture. But they also came to an end and I quenched my thirst at the food station above. I felt really good now. The last descent was a hell of a lot of fun and in the lower part with flatter pieces I could catch up to a well harmonizing group with which I drove in the last small final ascent. Interestingly enough, I was in such a good shape that I was able to really step on the gas again and overtake almost all the riders on the last climb at a good pace. My heart rate even climbed into the threshold area without any delay, which showed me that I hadn’t overdrawn at all when I felt I was pacing. Shortly before the finish a barrier stopped me and then it was done.

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