Read the Prologue and Stage One blog.
9hrs target time
12hrs maximum time
After the previous day the British riders are putting in some good performances:
Rickie Cotter is currently leading the womens competition by quite a bit
Andy Jones is 16th overall
Jonathan Harris is 21st overall
I think everyone else is still in the race!
The route for Stage 2 was similar to last year, except they had taken out a 1000m climb and a crazy descent that followed. Considering how long yesterday was it wasn’t that surprising but it certainly wasn’t going to be an easy day with a climb to the 3000m peak of Monte Bellino!
Last year for IronBike I had a 26” full suspension, this year I decided the best bike would be a Felt 29er hardtail. The main benefit is the extra grip from the rear wheel on the loose descents. The top 3 riders last year were all on 29” wheels so it is no surprise to see many more here this year. The climbs can be too steep and loose for a 26” wheels at times.
The day started with a gentle 15km climb on the road heading up the valley. It was a chance to spin the legs and get them ready for the onslaught that was about to follow. Starting from 900m above sea level the climb started steeply and it wasn’t long before I was pushing the bike. I remembered this from last year just how long it lasted so I was prepared. It took us to just over 1100m and from there it was a gravel road that twisted up the hillside, passing through the occasional tiny village. We had been set off in reverse order by the overall classification so I was starting to pass a few people but I also had the top 4 riders fly past me and I was not able to keep their pace. The gravel road continued until 1750m at which point it turned to singletrack that undulating for a while before turning into a steep climb that needed a bit of carrying/pushing to reach a ridge at 2000m.
A great little singletrack descent followed, it dropped us down 100m and then we started climbing again. A bit of singletrack at first then onto a rough jeep track. It soon went back above 2000m, which is the level that I start to feel the altitude affecting me. At first it isn’t too bad, but I can’t get my heart rate as high. The climb snaked through the mountains, loose in places and with no rest at all. Above 2500m I can really feel the thinner air, breathing is hard but my HR stays quite low. The temperature was dropping significantly as I climbed and I could see the peak above me was covered in snow. The snow line was around 2600m and the wind was starting to pick up making it feel really cold. Reaching a ridge at 2800m I stopped to put my dhb Turbulence Jacket on, although my hands were getting cold and I struggled to zip it up!
A muddy and loose traverse for a few hundred meters then turned 180 degrees and went uphill almost vertically! It was too steep and too loose to carry the bike, so I had to push it. Inch by inch, it seemed to take forever! Finally I reached the 3000m peak and could start heading down. Last year it was warmer and I stopped to take a picture, but not this year. My hands were so cold that I wouldn’t be able to use it anyway! The descent is epic and this year with snow near the top it was rather dicey as well. Muddy in places and covered in snow in others for the first kilometer I was glad to get to a point where I could start riding properly and hopefully enjoy the descent! My fingers were so cold I could barely feel them, I knew when I was braking but found it hard to keep a grip.
It went on and on, technical at times and fast and flowing at others it is one of the best downhills I’ve ever ridden, although far better when its not as cold! Eventually it ended and I have to say I was a little relieved to reach the feedstation and be able to warm my hands up! A bit of hot tea Italian style (Lipton warmed up!) did the trick along with quite a bit of food and I headed off again. 5Km of singletrack followed along with a few great little twisty bits through tiny mountain side villages.
After that we hit a road and rather unlike a usual IronBike stage we had a 15km cruise down a road to the next big town. Here there was another feed station and the start of the second big climb of the day. I remembered it from last year and I seemed to go quite well then so had high hopes. I set off just behind Elias who is high up in the overall but he slowly drifted away from me, a little later number 70, the leading vet shot past me his climbing speed was very impressive! The climb was mostly on the road, going from 900m to 1500m on tarmac at a fairly steep angle before turning to dirt track where the gradient lessened. I had forgotten about this section and it went on for quite a while, the final 200m vertical up to 1700m took ages!
The descent from the top I definitely remembered!! Fast and very rocky, starting off with fairly small rocks it was easy enough. Last year I was on a 26” full suspension and seemed to do well, this year on a Felt 29er HT I was expecting to be a bit slower. When the really big rocks started I was a little slower, mostly because you can’t pedal like you can with full suspension but the advantages outweigh it over the duration of the week. Low tyre pressures just above 20 psi helped, but I had to be careful not to hit big rocks and damage the rims. At times on the descent I couldn’t really see, my vision was blurred and the rocks were very painful to ride over. Forget Mega Avalanche, that is a peace of cake compared to this, my arms were pumped up my fingers were cramping. It went on and on and I was wishing it to end! The big rocks went on until we reached 1000m where I could finally stretch them out. A great bit of singletrack followed and it took us almost to the bottom, around 500m.
The final 15km were relatively easy. A few short climbs and some nice wooded trails then the final few kilometers on the road to Barge. Day 2 done in 7hrs 40min, relatively short compared to other days at IronBike, no doubt many people will be glad of it after yesterdays long one!
The top 4 riders were climbing significantly quicker than I was, although I go downhill faster than the guy in 4th I am never able to keep the gap close enough going up to catch him. I think I beat the guy from Holland who was in 5th and I am hoping I’ve moved up a position but the results are not out yet.