The last weeks were so busy for us, traveling from one event to another to make nice pictures of the participants or to join the event ourselves. We’ve been in the most beautiful areas in Germany, Austria and Italy. For now I want to share my experiences with you, so I made this top three of events held in both Austrian and Italian Tyrol – 3 different disciplines, my personal favorites because of the beauty of the area the events were held in.
Let’s kick off with number 3.
3. Zillertal Bike Challenge (mountain bike)
The Zillertal Bike Challenge is a three day mountain bike race in Austria’s Zillertal area. We had the chance to ride the last (and I think the most epic) day, the stage from Mayrhofen to the Hintertux glacier. A cruel 32K ride with 1200 meters of vertical climbing.
What’s so cool about this race? Well, you can choose between three categories: Kings & Queens, Prince and Princess or Lord and Lady. The first category is for the real die-hards, all the vertical climbs must be covered by bike – a mountain bike that is. For the other two categories a few cable cars lower the amount of vertical meters, and that’s cool because it makes the race more accessible for a larger audience. But believe me, even if you choose to start in the lightest Lord and Lady category, the ascents are still a big challenge. And one thing is for sure – there will be parts you have to walk!
The Zillertal area is beautiful with it’s high mountain peaks, nice little villages and a scenery from the top of the mountain that is worth bringing your camera. You have to capture this. Clear blue lakes, snow covered mountain peaks and weather that can change from clear blue to cloudy dark grey and back right before your eyes.
The trails are not too hard, and maybe that’s a shame. I – but that’s my personal opinion – love to ride more technical terrain but I can imagine it’s a no go if you want to organize a race. So wide paths, tarmac and some single trail will be the chosen path during the three days of the event. It does give you quite a good impression about what this area has to offer.
The catering during and after the race are more then okay, so no worries about what to bring as everything is covered for you.
After ascending the first vertical meters by cable car we had to conquer a 300 altimeter climb with a very steep part in it (23%). I managed to stay in the saddle for the biggest part of this climb, and to be honest it gave me a boost when I looked over my shoulder and saw many people push their bike. After this climb a wide gravel path brought us back down quickly and via the asphalt road the trip to Hinterlux began. This part it’s also mostly uphill, but not too steep so you can recover a bit to gain back strength for the last part.
After the second cable car brought us to 2050 meters the painful part began. Pedal till you can pedal no more with almost no parts to recover. And yes, another 23% part to make things even worse. I have never seen so many people pushing their bikes as I did on this part of the race, even the well trained athletes exceeded their limits here.
And then, finally, after 600 meters of climbing the finish area was nearby. A guy shouted at us that it would be the last serious climb before the finish, so it gave me a boost and I didn’t have to get off my bike. But at the end the last 10 meters are killing. One last climb, one last part of the trail where you have to give everything, or even more. People are actually yelling you to the finish line, I didn’t want to get of my bike so I pushed really hard and made it to the finish line on my bike! It was awful, but oh so satisfying.
I’m glad we made it, it was a hell of a job, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Let me know what your experience was after you completed the Zillertal Bike Challenge!
2. Brixen Marathon (running)
When I heard we had to cover the Brixen Marathon I didn’t have any expectations except the fact that I had to photograph athletes running 42K. Nothing special about that. Okay, I respect all the people who start (and finish) a marathon, because it’s so hard for your body and my farthest distance is not even half.
This could get very interesting! Not only the 42K, but also a 2340 meters altitude difference, all uphill! Add a mountain area covered with lots of single trails and you know it’s gonna be hard, very hard, but also very beautiful. I saw some very fit athletes at the start and the one who finished 1st after about 3 and a half hours didn’t look exhausted at all.
The race starts from the town center of Brixen, a village with about 21.000 residents. The city center is very beautiful with lots of tiny streets in which you can get lost deliciously, cosy little plazas and of course great Italian pastas and pizzas. And don’t forget your morning coffee, sipping Italian style while standing at the bar.
On race day you have to get out of bed early, as the race starts around 7.30 for the solo runners and 8.00 for the team relay (4 people running about 10K’s each).
After leaving the town of Brixen it’s almost one straight line to the top of the Plose mountain giving you a wide variety of trails. From grass meadows to sandy single trails and rocky paths. And the view gets better and better as you’re approaching the summit.
Spectacular scenes guaranteed during this race.
1. Maratona dles Dolomites (road bike)
The Maratona dles Dolomites is my favorite one! Why? Everything is just so impressive.
Imagine: 9000(!) road cyclist, a 138K track, 4190 meters of vertical climbing and all of this in one of the worlds most beautiful areas – the Sella Massive area.
I was really stoked when I was asked to cover this event. After reading a lot about this race in magazines and studying the pictures accompanying the articles I knew I would join this event one day.
A few years ago Lindy and I went to Selva, or Wolkenstein in German. The area was quite impressive and we did some mountain bike riding there as well. We decided we would return one day. And that day would be June 29th 2013, one day before the race.
On our way to the campground we passed Selva again, and the surroundings were as impressive as I remembered. But when we got closer to our campground we drove through an area totally new for us and it was even better than I could imagine.
The Sella massive, a large grey rock formation, stands out against the rest of the scenery – straight up and completely bald. It’s view constantly changes as you travel trough the area, getting better with every traveled kilometer. It’s hard to describe the beauty of this area, but if you look at the picture you’ll get a slight idea of what to expect.
On race day the alarm clock went off very early, and our campground was already filled with bikers from many nations.
Our first spot was within 5k’s from the start on a nice curved climb. What happened then was just too ridiculous. All 9000 participants passed us within an hour, but for us it seemed like forever. We kept on shooting and everywhere we looked there where bikers, they just kept on coming and coming. To be a part of that group can only give a big rush.
After the entire group had passed us we had to hurry to our second spot, Passo Gardena or Grödner Joch. We drove full speed on the empty streets to get there on time, because the riders of the shortest route would arrive very early.
This second spot was just too cool. We could see the bikers from afar, pedaling up the winding roads and pushing their bodies to conquer the last ‘Passo’ before the finish.
This is the race I would recommend to everyone who loves to ride a bike (it doesn’t matter if you prefer a roadbike or a mountainbike, we actually even saw some single speeds)! With such a great scenery the Maratona dles Dolomites should be marked red in your agenda. It is in mine…