LaTramun, bike racing heaven? This Girona based event has grown a reputation as the singletrack marathon, the course starts up a stinking great big road climb before continuing onto a steep gravel and rock ascent. From there the fun begins with a 60+ kilometre ribbon of singletrack, some trails you'd whoop for joy, others you'd weep for how challenging they were! Celebrating its 20th year anniversary the event organisers remain passionate and have already secured the race’s future to 2024 with grand plans ahead. As one of the final round of the 2019 UCI World Marathon Series the event attracts top riders looking for an overall series ranking, a top 20 for World Champs qualification or maybe a scoop of the healthy prize pot.
It's been a sensational year for me winning back the British Marathon title, finishing 27th at World Champs, collecting 2 UCI World Marathon Series podiums and much more. LaTramun would be the chequered flag on my 2019 season. I arrived in Girona pretty beaten up after a big crash on Tuesday so it was unlikely I'd be fit enough to race but I'd try and if not the plan was to just enjoy the trails.
8.15 in a cold Vall d'en Bas village high in the hills, the top marathon riders were announced to the crowd, national champions were plentiful. Ahead of the large number of participants lay a total of 72 kilometres and 2200 meters ascent, the fun lay in the fact that there was 2500 metres descending to complete between here and Girona. As the sun rose over the hills we were about to race through the start whistle blew.
The first climb saw a quick selection at the front with a large group forming, several riders pushing the pace including Russian champion Alexey Medvedev and myself. I felt strong and comfortable at the front as we approached the top of the tarmac and headed offroad. The race at the front was lively with people jostling for position as we neared the first singletrack. I followed one of the Wilier 7C riders into the descent, a 5km trail plummeting 500ms on a huge rock slab. A dropper seatpost would have been great here, bum behind the saddle, minimal front brake, let the bike move around underneath you, slide left, slide right, it was like skiing but without the soft snow powder to save you if you had a tumble. Onto the next climb and a group of 6 of us led the race, not long later we split into 2 groups of 3 with me happily in the second group and German champion Julian Schelb leading the front group.
My injuries left me with swollen hip and a dull dead leg feeling in my left quad which meant it was a struggle to put out power on steep high force climbs. The second climb saw me begin to struggle and I was riding over my limit to stay with my group. Eventually I was dispatched suffering pain from my injuries. After the front of the race rode away from me I was just happy to keep turning the pedals to the finish line so I could enjoy the singletrack and to have had the chance to ride this fantastic event for a third time. This event, the trails, the city of Girona are a highlight of my season regardless of racing success.
Back up front the pace remained high and trails kept coming. A descent from 1700m to 400m took riders to the half way point. A series of rock drops and switchback corners tested riders nerves and determination. From the mid-way point you climb back to 600 metres on a rocky step ladder. From here the trails begin to change to more flowing less rough terrain, this is my favourite part of the race and would ride this section every weekend if I lived locally. Up down, left right, swooping fun singletrack where you can only smile.
With about 10kms to go you're off the hill and begin a sprint for the finish. The singletrack ribbon continues with a few rocky sections mixed in to catch out any weary athletes. To win this race you need the muscular strength to ride the steep pitches, the fatigue resistance to finish the race strong, but ultimately this race is made for technically strong athletes. Julian Schelb and Blaza Pinteric proved they hold these strengths in the bucket load, both crossing the finish line victorious. In the men’s Tony Longo and Ole Hem both from the Wilier 7C team completed the podium. In the ladies Cladua Galucia Cotrina finished 2nd and Meritxell Figueres Garangou finished 3rd.
I spent the whole weekend with a huge smile on my race, travelling with 3 other Brits we had an absolute blast. Girona is a paradise for cycling and I completely understand why so many pro cyclists base themselves in this beautiful city. Whether you love cycling, historic architecture or beautiful landscapes this region should be on your list of places to visit. The gelato shop selection alone makes it worth the trip in my opinion! If you like technical fun singletrack I'll see you back here in 12 months time.