Winter riding in the mountains

A day in the Ötztal Alps, skiing?...no, cycling! As told by PR Manager for Team KATUSHA ALPECIN, Falk Nier.

A Tuesday in February 2017. I am on the way from Munich to Ötztal (Austria), more precisely to Sölden. The famous Alps destination is known as one of the most modern ski resorts in Europe, as well as for the Ski World Cup or as a spectacular shooting location for the James Bond movie "Spectre". However also for cycling. Every August, thousands of amateur cyclists meet in Sölden for the Ötztaler cycling marathon. It is a legendary amateur race over four high mountain passes, stretching over 238kms and 5,500 vertical meters to the finish line in Sölden. A tortour, which ultimately also makes for the fascination and charm of the race. Every year, more than 15,000 cyclists register, but for safety reasons, only 5,000 competitors can start. The Ötztaler cycling marathon is certainly one of the highlight events worldwide for amateur cyclists. And this year, the Ötztaler people have come up with something new: in 2017, the pro riders will start in a UCI 1.1. race the day before on the same route. Team KATUSHA ALPECIN will compete for the first time in the Ötztal Pro Classic.

It is a legendary amateur race over four high mountain passes, it goes over 238kms and 5,500 vertical meters to the finish line to Sölden. A tortour, which ultimately also makes the fascination and charm of the race.

After three hours drive I arrived in Sölden. My bike included. The weather report was so positive that I thought, "pack your bike"! Let's see how far I get up the Timmelsjoch. I am aware that I can not make it to the summit. In winter the Timmelsjoch pass, which is also the border between Austria and Italy, is closed. Having arrived at the Ötztal Tourist Office, I met Ernst Lorenzi. An original Ötztaler. Ernst is the organiser and "solu" of the cycling marathon. Together, we waited for Oliver Schwarz, CEO of Ötztal tourism, as well as an ambitious cyclist. He arrived 5 minutes later directly from the ski slope. In an absolute ski-mekka like Sölden, it is normal that the touristic chief also makes the most of the conditions of the slopes. After an hour-long meeting we went over to small talk and the question arose whether I would like to go skiing in the afternoon. "No" I replied. "I have my road bike with me and will climb up the Timmelsjoch. Let's see, at what altitude the winter break will start." Amazed faces looked at me. But the remark, "up to the toll station on 2100 meters the road is free".

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After a small lunch I changed my clothes. It was relatively warm for February. 8 degrees in the valley and absolute dream weather with blue sky. I decided on the WARM JERSEY LS, BASELAYER WINDBLOCK LS, and the SOFTSHELL BIB TIGHTS. The SOFTSHELL JACKET seemed too warm for me, because after 500 meters, a long climb starts. For the slightly colder descent I still took the 3L RAIN JACKET, as well as SOFTSHELL BOOTIES, SOFTSHELL GLOVES and an UNDER HELMET FLEECE with me.

After the first 5 k’s at nearly 10% gradient in average, my choice was confirmed! The Bib Tights were super breathable, but in shady sections kept me very warm. Also the Long Sleeve Jersey performed wonderfully and contributed to a very comfortable climb. After 8kms I reached another famous winter sports resort: Obergurgl. To be honest, it was a weird scenery for me. Far and wide, I was the only cyclist. Otherwise only winter sports people. The higher I rode, the more wonderful the winter mountain scenery became. Around me were mountain peaks of almost 3700 meters. The tarmac remained dry. Incredible conditions for the high Alps to cycle in mid February! After 45 minutes I reached the toll station at 2100 meters. Directly next the huge slopes of the ski area. After that, since long before the winter break... snow on the road.

it was a weird scenery for me. Far and wide, I was the only cyclist. Otherwise only winter sports people. The higher I rode, more wonderful the winter mountain scenery became. Around me were mountain peaks of almost 3700 meters.

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I enjoyed the sun and the fantastic mountain panorama before putting on my 3L RAIN JACKET. During the descent I realised it was again the perfect clothing choice. I've worn a lot of transportable rain jackets in my life. The 3L Rain Jacket had a warming effect, which I have not experienced from other jackets. On the other hand, the material was extremely elastic and ensured optimal comfort. After 15 minutes of downhill I arrived back in the valley. What a day to be on the bike! If the weather conditions are like this, I highly recommend cycling trips in winter on cleared high alpine roads.

F.N.