We've read about brilliant women taking on amazing feats of strength, travelling the World on two wheels, and we often think, "I want to do that".
Whether it's a solo ride through all 50 US states, or conquering a long endurance race, women are rising up and pushing the boundaries of adventure, and we love it.
One such woman is Hannah Attenburrow, an avid mountain biker, who was inspired to take on the gruelling Trans Alp multi-day endurance event. Accompanied by her training and riding partner, Michelle, these two women are preparing to take on their biggest challenge yet.
Preparing for the Trans Alp Event
Words by Hannah Attenburrow
In 2012 I was inspired by the Olympics to try cross-country mountain bike racing. At the time I had no expectations of what I could achieve, I just wanted to get out and enjoy it. I was soon hooked and my life changed as cycling became a big focus. It was around this time I saw the Cape Epic (South African mountain bike stage race) and thought, "wow, one day I’d love to be able to line up at the start of a stage race". Four years on and I’m two months away from doing just that!
The Trans Alp is a 7 day stage race from Imst in Austria, finishing at Lake Garda, Italy. The 700km journey will climb over 17,000m, twice the height of Everest. The terrain for the race will be really varied with lung busting climbs, fast single track, bike portages and some epic views!
I have never done anything like this before. I had never even ridden my bike hard for more than two consecutive days before entering, so this will be a huge challenge for me.
The Trans Alp is a pair’s race, and I am really excited about sharing this adventure with Michelle Reed, who I met when she got in touch with Pedal 2 Pedal (my coaching business) about women’s coaching weekends. At the time I did not have any booked in, so we agreed to meet up and go for a ride. We got chatting about racing and the Trans Alp came up as on our "dream race" lists, the rest is history. Michelle is 21 and from South Africa, but is over in the UK studying Nutritional Science.
Michelle and I have spent lots of time training together in the Surrey Hills, South Downs and Wales. It is great having a training partner who understands the demands of what we are about to take on. We support each other when one of us is finding it hard, and Michelle even pushed me home once when I had a major mechanical and couldn’t pedal!
Our aim for the Trans Alp is to encourage and inspire other women to get out on their bikes and find adventure
Our aim for the Trans Alp is to encourage and inspire other women to get out on their bikes and find adventure, push their limits and above all have a good time outdoors.
Training for a stage race is like nothing I have ever done before, it’s gruelling both physically and mentally and there have been times when I’ve questioned why I am doing it!
I changed to endurance racing in 2015 and had only completed a couple of true endurance events before. Over the winter I have been building up hours on the bike starting with 2hr fast rides and now hitting around 5 to 6 hours. My change to long distance events has not just been physically demanding but also requires a lot of social compromise, thankfully my boyfriend; Martyn is ace and supports me fully. The mental challenge of staying focused for hours on end, adds yet another dimension and something I have had to really work on.
My Tips for Staying Focused
- Set out with a planned route or goal in mind for example, today I’m going to ride 100km in 4 hours 55 minutes. It is essential to make it an achievable goal! Smart targets - specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
- Have enough water and snacks for the whole session (If you cannot carry enough water which is likely then know where you can get some on route from a friendly pub or shop)
- Practice eating different snacks on shorter rides first. I have found I could manage some things better than others as it’s not easy to eat, digest and ride! Use your favourites for those long sessions. Remember as a quick guide - the more you have to chew the longer it will take to get the energy into your system. A banana takes about 30 minutes, I believe, to get its sugars into your blood stream.
- My top snacks are bananas, Peanut butter sandwiches, dates, salted peanuts and malt loaf.
- Only focus on the hour ahead, this is especially important if the weather is bad or your feeling tired. Chunk it up and enjoy the ride!!
As well as being physically and mentally prepared Michelle and I will need to be totally self-sufficient so I am off for some mechanics lessons with one of our sponsors, "Bike Fixers" in Portsmouth.
For the Trans Alp having a light responsive and comfortable bike is important. I am so thankful to Specialized UK for giving me the opportunity to race and ride the new Era Carbon Comp. The Era is a brilliant bike for long distance mountain bike racing because the full suspension allows the bike to keep excellent traction and provides a comfortable ride, whilst the 9mm FACT carbon frame is light and means that the bike is agile. The rear shock uses’ Fox/Specialized Brain technology which means the bike understands and adapts to the ground underneath it, it knows if the shock is coming from the terrain or from me and adjusts itself accordingly. Pretty cool stuff!
Thanks to Box My Wheels for lending me a bike box to ensure my bike can travel safely!
For the Alps it is crucial I can carry enough water so I have been testing a reverse rack device which attaches to my saddle and carries my pump and water bottle cage for a second bottle. So far so good.
I am now two months away from travelling to the race and I am getting very excited and a little nervous to be ‘looking down the barrel’ at my first multi-day race. My training is also now stepping up to long multi-day rides. I am about to fly out to Spain to spend some time riding and relaxing in the sun and can’t wait to test the Era on some Spanish trails.
My Dad’s favourite quote is: ‘Happy are those that dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true’. I am sure the Trans Alp race will be a mixture of dreams and nightmares!! Let the journey begin. Whatever happens, it’s going to be an amazing experience for Michelle and myself. Let’s Go!
It's brilliant to see these two dedicated riders take on a huge multi-day event, and we wish them the very best of luck. Follow Hannah and Michelle on Twitter for live updates of their training and Trans Alp adventure.
Grab a friends and seek out your own adventure this year!
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