Words – Jason Miles // Pics – Sportograf
The Salzkammergut Trophy is a funny old race. The main event – the 211 kilometre ‘A’ route – is too hard to be approached in any way other than Very Seriously (if you want to beat the strict time cut-off and/or not end up bery broken indeed) and a lot of the distance is made up of forest roads and minor trails that are ridden twice and in some cases, three times over. There are some technical sections, the majority of them downhill, but generally what happens there is that the vast majority of competitors dismount and walk/run (barge!) down those or attempt to ride them and immediately crash (and then walk).
This year the conditions were wet and muddy so the downhill mincing was even more prevalent this time.
Gravelly forest roads. The Salzkammergut region of Austria has got loads of them and the Austrians will happily make you ride up and down them all day long. They love gravelly fireroads. Many Austrians (and Germans it would seem) have got awesome Riding Down Gravelly Fireroads skills.
To be perfectly honest I find them rather dull, especially if I’m riding them all day long. As long as there’s a view (and you’re actually looking up) then there’s a way of telling one from the other, but mostly they’re pretty much the same as each other.
Debbie and I arrived on the day before the race, a bit frazzled because we’d driven the 1000 miles across Europe from Manchester. Driving there via the Channel Tunnel with two bikes and assorted gubbins is still a lot easier and cheaper than negotiating airports, baggage carousels and hire cars though, plus we were able to stock up on Belgian waffles on the way back.
My start time was 5am. How unpleasant. I had just about enough time (after finding the campsite and signing in) for 4 hours sleep, after getting completely ripped off by the Bad Goisern campsite, located at the football club. 36 Euro for ONE NIGHT in a 2 man pop-up tent. This would have been easier to stomach had it not been for the Token Noisy Woman on the campsite. So make that two hours’ sleep. Cheers Token Noisy Woman. Here’s hoping your next poo is a pineapple.
Stuffing sweet cakey treats down my neck on the start line I once again noticed that a couple of hundred riders had snuck in between me and the start line. I reminded myself that I wasn’t actually here to ‘race’, only to get around the course more quickly than I did last year….besides, I couldn’t be arsed to push my way forward cos I don’t know how to say “shift over mate” in German. After the gun, I worked my way through the pack as best I could on the first road section and when we reached the first climb I picked my way through the various rolling roadblocks of granny ring-dwelling riders.
It was going ok for a few hours – I reached the heady heights of 90th place according to the splits in the results from starting in 230th position. I stopped at feed stations only when I needed to (and when they didn’t have The Scorpions blasting out at full volume) and generally felt good. A nice 16mph average speed was much faster than last time…..but maybe it was a bit too fast….
After 5 hours or so my legs started to fall off. It was a shame really because I wasn’t even halfway around the route at this point. I attempted to recover and back off the pace for an hour or so, making full use of the long, smooth fireroad descents and the occasional entertaining (hilarious) tricky bit. A few freezing cold rain showers didn’t help matters, shivering, I quickly pulled on a jacket…took it off….pulled it back on….took it off….
I never really recovered and just got slower. Maybe an 18 hour drive the day before a hard bike ride wasn’t a good idea after all – who knew!?!
Meanwhile, Debbie was starting her 40k ride at 12pm. I was worried because I knew that she was worried and to be perfectly honest I knew she’d give 100%, but would she really be ok? Would she make the cut-off?
I continued to ride through rain showers, grovelled up more big climbs and started to lose my sense of humour. A stopped for a couple of minutes to talk about Brexit (of all things) to some Dutch lads in fancy dress at the top of The Steepest Road In The Universe. They offered me beer and cigs. I was tempted but I carried on – ‘not too far now’ I thought….
The last few kilometres are a bit dragged out and slightly ‘down the back of the garages’ but eventually I arrived back in the centre of Bad Goisern, found Debbie and almost cried with relief when she told me she finished her race, wasn’t last and clearly hadn’t had any problems at all.
In spite of the long periods of fireroad riding and the distance from home, the Salzkammergut Trophy has a certain allure – maybe it’s just the insane amount of climbing, maybe it’s the sheer size of the event (Bad Goisern IS the Salzkammergut Trophy for one weekend a year, you really have to see it to believe it), or perhaps it’s the incredible (INCREDIBLE) scenery in this part of the world that are the actual attractions. Whatever the pros and cons, it’s a stupidly hard race and you really can’t wing it.
Next up for me is a ride to the south of Spain, disappointingly Debbie has opted to fly there instead……