This post comes to you at about 100kph and somewhere in the middle of Austria. Specifically, or as specifically as I can be, I’m bumping along in the back of the team camper – thanks to not placidly smooth asphalt in combination with what feels to me like shot struts – en route to stage 5 of the Tour of Austria. This is no standard pre-race commute; unlike the previous 3km-40km transfers from days one through four, today offers 210km from hotel to race start. However, everyone seems to be in a pleasantly chipper mood, despite the early morning, most likely because of the vividly blue, cloudless sky overhead. It is simply amazing how the peloton’s collective mood is heightened when the sun’s shining – as opposed to everyone being white-knucked and on edge while navigating knife-edge cliffs on slick wet roads at 80kph (a la Tour of Austria 2009, or the first half of 2010 stage two).
The photo above is from our hotel for the past two days. Doubling up on hotels is a rarity at this race, but last night was excellent since the accommodations were exquisite – right on par with the view. Check out that building up on the right. Talk about isolated. That was one of the chalets we passed while summiting yesterday’s stage four 20km finishing climb, along with our hotel, thousands of people, a few mountain goats, and Heidi singing away in the bucolic alpine countryside.
We have Austrian native Stefan Denifl leading the best Austrian classification and holding down a top-10 overall. Best Austrian is rewarded with a coffee maker every day and a handsome white and blue jersey, although I think a cow bell and some nice clogs with cleat adapters would be more apt. I guess that’s why I’m not a race organizer… yet. The lame part of the coffee maker prize is that they only work with specific pods found only in Austria. I suppose that’s to lure the Best Austrian awardee into staying at home and not to be lured into ex-pat status while training outside of Austrian boundaries. Or not.
The next few days drop to “normal” altitudes (unlike yesterdays’ 2500+m summit), which will open up opportunities for the rest of the team who enjoy breathing and don’t share lineage with billy goats. But for sure moving Stefan up on GC is a high priority with four stages remaining.